African Politics in Sub-Saharan Africa Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

In addition to these external factors, Thomson (202) notes two colonial and post-colonial economic policies and developmental strategies that proved to be erroneous in the long-term, having an ultimately damaging effect upon the ability of African countries to make sound, profitable investments. The first of these is that African governments focused excessively upon import substitution, while the second is that too much revenue was invested in the expansion of state institutions. This paradigm emerges from the success of European and other Western economic developments. However, such strategies were far from suitable for the African continent, as it resulted in a lack of investment in Africa's richest resources: agricultural and mineral development.

Maponga and Maxwell (97) mention the concentration of national economies as a further factor that may lead a lack of concomitant growth for countries (and in particular African countries) that are rich in natural resources. In addition to the above factors, the authors hold that African countries tend to also invest excessively in the development of a single export commodity such as mineral or fuel, and thus create excessive dependence upon this commodity while neglecting other equally rich resources.

The reason the authors cite for this is that policy makers tend to excessively favor the highest-yielding investments while neglecting the development of other equally important aspects of the economy. This is particularly true of food production and manufacturing, which declined with the rise of the 1970s petroleum industry in Nigeria, for example (Maponga & Maxwell 98).

The authors also mention post-colonial political factors as contributing to the crisis of accumulation. The paradigm of post-colonial one-government systems for example often leads to civil conflict, with rival groups fighting for control of natural resources. The wealth generated from these is then applied towards funding military effort rather than general economic growth for the country as a whole. Another aspect of this is that governments retain control of resources, increasing their own wealth and further applying this towards suppressing opposition groups. In both cases, the economy of the country does not benefit, as resources are tied up into the personal and political interests of individual groups.

In addition to these political and social problems, the basis of the post-colonial development policy for Africa was to diversify the economy away from primary production towards secondary manufacturing. The ideal was that this would stimulate self-reliance and diminish the continent's dependence upon imported manufactured goods. While this strategy worked well for the west, it was a problem that import substitution projects were not sufficient to carry the growth that was necessary for wealth creation within the continent (Thomson 202). Specifically, import substitution operations in themselves became unsustainable, as Africans were unable to afford the goods they produced. There was little demand, and many of the operations failed as a result, taking significant investments with them. According to Thomson, these investments would have been much more profitable in food production. The neglect of the food industry in turn has resulted not only in abject poverty for many African countries, but also in the growing hunger crisis.

In addition to heavy taxes, rural capital was furthermore used for the expansion of the public sector (Thomson 203). These also expanded excessively towards the detriment of an already strangled rural economy. Furthermore, well-paying and elitist state institutions attracted many away from the rural sector, which proved to be increasingly unviable as a means of income. The post-colonial paradigm of civil service and military employment became the driving force behind the economic well-being of many individuals. While the African economy and politics are showing signs of recovery, the continent has still has many shortcomings in terms of management and growth. With the correct paradigms in place, the continent could yet experience the "renaissance" hailed years ago by South African President Thabo Mbeki.


Maponga, Oliver & Maxwell, Philip. Are Abundant Mineral and Energy Resources a Catalyst for African Development?…

Sources Used in Document:


Maponga, Oliver & Maxwell, Philip. Are Abundant Mineral and Energy Resources a Catalyst for African Development? (Issue 6). Minerals and Energy, 2001.

Thomson, Alex. An Introduction to African Politics. London & New York: Routledge, 2004.

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