What Happened to the African Renaissance?

Publié le par hort

 

http://zeleza. com/blogging/ african-affairs/ what-happened- african-renaissa nce-challenges- development- 21st-century- 0

What Happened to the African Renaissance? The Challenges of Development in the 21st Century

by PTZeleza in African Affairs
November 20th, 2008


Public Lecture presented as part of the the Killam Lectures, "The Future of Africa Considered," Dalhousie University, Halifax, N.S., Canada, November 21, 2008

Few trips have given me as much pleasure as this one.
Exactly thirty years ago, I enrolled here at Dalhousie University as a Ph.D. student. That is memorable enough. The fact that my doctoral education was funded by a Killam scholarship, in whose name this lecture series is named, brings me even more joy. Not surprisingly, when I was contacted last winter to participate in this year's Killam Lectures on the Future of Africa, I immediately agreed. I would like to express my deepest thanks to Professor Philip Zachernuk for extending the invitation and to all those involved in organizing the lecture series. Coming back to Dal and Halifax brings back fond memories of the years I spent here, years of a rich personal and intellectual life that set me well for the future. I marvel at how much the university and the city have changed, and yet how pleasantly familiar they look and feel.

Every so often African leaders and thinkers rediscover and reaffirm the future. It is invoked by all sorts of names, this future, names of hope and redemption: the African revolution, reawakening, reconstruction, rebirth, regeneration, renewal, resurrection, revival, and renaissance. These proclamations are part political propaganda, part cultural puffery, part collective prayer for new beginnings, for Africa's modern cruel history to pause and change course. They express a long, recurrent yearning for a usable future aching deep in the consciousness of a people with painful memories of suffering, struggle and survival, simultaneously a cry of anguish and a call to arms, a declaration of both panic and purpose, a desperate and determined battle to reclaim Africa's history and humanity so cruelly seized by Europe through slavery, colonialism, and neocolonialism, a will to sustainable development, to viable African modernities.

Each generation articulates this powerful, perpetual dream in its own way, reflecting no doubt the weight of the historical moment as manifested in the prevailing social and spatial dynamics of the dominant challenges and possibilities. Today, the dreams and discourses of the African renaissance are driven as much by Afro-optimism as by Afro-pessimism, by both the positive and negative political and economic changes that have taken place in postcolonial African history. On the one hand they represent a celebration of the decolonization of the 1960s, the democratization of the 1990s, and intermittent development strides. On the other they reflect the enduring deprecation of Africa in the Euroamerican imaginary rooted in the racisms of slavery and colonialism, as well as concern and censure by Africa's dispirited friends and delirious foes pretending to be friends of the continent's recurrent economic, political, and social crises.

It was the revered icon of the South African "miracle", the transition from apartheid to a multiracial democracy, Nelson Mandela, who first gave the concept of the African Renaissance its resonance when he used it in 1994 at a summit of the OAU in Tunisia, which he elaborated on three years later in a splendid lecture at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies. But it was his deputy, Thabo Mbeki, who succeeded him as president in 1999, who became identified as the architect of the idea of the African Renaissance because he spoke so frequently and eloquently about it.

No sooner had the idea caught on than cold water was poured on it. In May 2000, The Economist, the haughty British magazine published a notorious cover story which contemptuously called Africa "the hopeless continent." This was followed by an avalanche of bad history, discredited anthropology, questionable sociology, sterile economics, and vulgar political science about Africa's inhospitable environments, endemic ¡tribalism', vacuous states, ferocious tyrants, deformed psyches, and beneficent but misguided donors. The story provoked widespread outrage in the Pan-African world.

This is what I would like to discuss in this presentation, the trajectory of the African renaissance as an idea and a project, a discourse and a process, which in essence entails examining Africa's postcolonial development paradigms, performances, and prospects. I trust that you will understand that as a historian, who is trained to dissect the messy past, I am not comfortable crystal gazing into the unpredictable future. Indeed, since the future is such a very long time that will continue after our presence turns into dusts of memory I find it inadvisable to prognosticate much about Africa's development challenges and possibilities even for our new century which is only eight years old.

My presentation is divided into four parts. I begin with a brief survey of the idea of the African renaissance, its history and resurgence in the 1990s. Then I examine Africa's complex and contradictory inheritances of colonialism and nationalism out of which postcolonial Africa was molded. This is followed by a brief analysis of Africa's development ideologies and experiences since independence. I conclude by trying to capture the current challenges of Africa's renaissance and development as the new century unfolds.

Africa's Search and Struggle for a Renaissance

The notion of the African renaissance caught the African and world imaginations from the mid-1990s in the aftermath of the demise of apartheid in South Africa. The end of the nightmare of racial tyranny, without the bloodshed feared by both its friends and foes, marked an incredible moment that unleashed, even if fleetingly for a world mired in cynicism and despair, relief and hope that the future could be freed from the clutches of history, that Africa could be uplifted from its abyss. Not surprisingly, it was in South Africa that the African renaissance captured passionate discussion and debate among politicians, journalists, academics, and other members of the chattering classes.

The idea of an African renaissance had a much older pedigree going back to the founders of Pan-Africanist thought in the late 19th century, such as Blyden. In South Africa itself it was mooted as early as 1905 by the Seme, one of the founders of the African National Congress, who advocated for "The Regeneration of Africa" in an essay, and the Nigerian nationalist, Azikiwe who published Renascent Africa in 1937 in which he called for a "New Africa" based on five pillars: spiritual balance, social regeneration, economic determination, mental emancipation, and national self-determination. After the Second World War, as nationalism gathered momentum and seemed poised for victory, the idea of an African renaissance captured the imaginations of Africa's leading scholars and nationalists.

In 1948, the renowned Senegalese historian, Cheikh Anta Diop, wrote an essay "When Can We Talk of an African Renaissance, " in which he argued that Africa was poised for "a renaissance. " His compatriot, the poet and later president, Leopold Senghor, saw the negritude movement, which he helped found as essential for an African cultural renaissance, not as an end in itself, but as a necessary stage in the dialectical process of constructing a universal civilization. From Ghana came the visionary injunctions of Kwame Nkrumah for the creation of a new African Personality forged through consciencism, an intellectual and cultural synthesis and reconstitution of Africa's triple heritage of traditional, western, and Islamic cultures, guided by socialism and Pan-Africanism.

Alongside the proclamations of Africa's revolutionary thinkers, in the 1950s and 1960s some of Africa's Euroamerican friends evoked the possibilities of an African renaissance. Among them were the indefatigable British Africanist historian and publicist, Basil Davidson, who published The African Awakening in 1955, celebrating the rise of African nationalism. In 1961 the radical socialist, Roger Woddis, published Africa, the Lion Awakes which hailed the vanguard role of African trade unions in the nationalist struggle and the solidarity shown by international communist trade unions. At the end of the decade, Leonard Barnes's African Renaissance was published, in which he argued that beneath the apparent political disorder, economic dislocations, and social despair trumpeted by casual observers and the continent's eternal detractors, a new Africa was germinating.

It is revealing that over half a century ago it was the struggle for independence from colonial rule, whose brightest prospects were then concentrated in West Africa that inspired visions of the African reawakening. In the 1990s it was the struggle for development in a globalized capitalist world, whose best chances appeared to be centered in South Africa, which stirred hopes of Africa's reconstruction. Besides the liberation of South Africa from apartheid, Mandela pointed to the wave of democratization sweeping across the continent, rising economic growth rates, and consolidation of regional economic associations as clear signs of the continent's renewal. The African renaissance was critical, he argued, to the construction of a new world order, one that was more equitable and secure. This renaissance was quite unlike the earlier renaissance of Western Europe whose ambitions of global expansion and domination resulted in the ravages of colonization in Africa and elsewhere in the world. For Mandela, the African renaissance entailed the recovery of Africa's historical initiative in the reconstruction of the continent itself and the creation of a new world order.

Mbeki identified four conditions that heralded Africa's renaissance: first, the completion of the decolonization project with the liberation of South Africa; second, the recognition among the African masses and middle classes of the bankruptcy of neo-colonialism; third, the end of the Cold War and major power rivalries over global hegemony; fourth, the acceleration of the process of globalization. United by their traumatic histories of slavery, imperialism and neo-colonialism, and the postcolonial experiences of political repression and instability, the formation of predatory elites, mounting indebtedness, and declining living standards, African countries were united in their desires for renewal and an end to the marginalization of the continent in world affairs.

Specifically, the agenda of the African renaissance was to promote democratization and political accountability, peace and stability, sustainable economic development, resolving the scourges of indebtedness and HIV/AIDS, ensuring the emancipation of women, promoting cultural creativity, and strengthening the independence of African countries and the continent in their relations with the major powers. Mbeki predicted it would be a complex struggle opposed by reactionary forces from both within and without the continent and that progress would be accompanied by occasional setbacks. But with commitment and leadership and drawing upon the great struggles and victories of the past the renaissance would eventually be achieved in the 21st century, which would be an African century.

It was an electrifying message that was seized with alacrity by other African leaders anxious for a new millennial mission and to burnish their visionary credentials in a reactionary age, from newly minted democrats, such as President Obasanjo of Nigeria to discredited despots, such as President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. The heads of continental and international agencies such as the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) soon joined the palaver. In the ebullient vision of Kingsley Y. Amoaka, "Overall, in the decades ahead we will live in a predominantly urban Africa, an Africa of business, media and science. An Africa where governance is more localized and more shared with civil society." He argued vigorously that turning the renaissance into reality required "harnessing our storehouse of intellectual talent and expertise, be it on the continent or in the Diaspora."

Not to be left behind the World Bank, Africa's eternal overseer, also pledged its commitment to the African renaissance and to helping Africa claim the 21st century. In a series of speeches Callisto Madavo, the World Bank's Vice-President for Africa, lauded Africa's turnaround from stagnation to growth and dictatorship to democracy. The World Bank weighed in with its collective institutional verdict in June 2000 in a glossy report entitled Can Africa Claim the 21st Century? Its answer was a qualified: "Yes, Africa can claim the new century." Africa, the report enthused, "has been experiencing its own Renaissance, in the true sense of a rebirth of thought on governance and development policies, particularly in the context of an increasingly globalized and competitive world." Predictably, the Bank itself and its "donor" friends saw themselves as partners of Africa's development and not as perpetrators of its underdevelopment.

By the late 1990s and early 2000s the African renaissance had, indeed, become an academic growth industry, the subject of numerous conferences and publications. Many of the studies, even when they were being extremely critical of the conception and feasibility of the renaissance, took it seriously. The scholarly literature exhibited three tendencies. First, there were those who sought to trace the historical origins and development of the concept. Second, some studies attempted to raise fundamental questions about the nature, desirability and possibilities of the renaissance. Finally, there were empirical and prescriptive analyses of the renaissance covering specific sectors and institutions.

Many writers conceived the African renaissance broadly, not as a depiction of a past epoch, as in the historiography of the European renaissance, but a future one. One describes history already made, the other history to be made or in the making. The South African historical anthropologist Ben Magubane saw parallels between the European and African renaissance in so far as both were responses to profound crises. In the case of Europe from the 14th century the region was rocked by political turmoil and conflicts and natural disasters, including the Black Death of 1348-1350, which wiped out a third of the population, and its economies were tottering from the instabilities of the feudal system, recurrent famines, and peasant revolts. Africa, he suggested was emerging from its own deep crises engendered by the histories of slavery, colonialism, and capitalist underdevelopment.

Implied in much of the analyses of the African renaissance was the injunction that the African renaissance must transcend the social and historical limitations and contradictions of the European renaissance, which nourished the spirit of inquiry among European men while bringing misery to multitudes elsewhere. It gave the European bourgeoisie the freedom to loot, plunder and dehumanize the rest of the world in the name of a perverted humanism. The African renaissance must extend the boundaries of human freedom, equality, justice, and development. One overriding theme runs through the literature is the modernization imperative, that Africa needs sustainable development.

The iconoclastic Kenyan intellectual, Ali Mazrui, argued in his inimitable eclectic and provocative style, that the African renaissance needed three major revolutions in skills, values, and gender relations. In an increasingly knowledge based global economy, the power of skills is self-evident. The cultural question is also central to dependency, which for him entails the processes of indigenization, domestication, diversification, and regionalism within Africa and between Africa and the global South, and counterpenentration of the global North. He postulated that Southern Africa anchored around South Africa would probably lead the Pan-Africanism of economic integration, East Africa the Pan-Africanism of lingo-cultural integration because of the existence of a Swahili, North Africa the Pan-Africanism of political integration because of the region's shared religion, language, culture and history, and West Africa the Pan-Africanism of military integration because of the precedent set by ECOMOG under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States.

The topics discussed in the literature on the African renaissance are diverse, indeed, ranging from economic development, constitutionalism, theology, and genetics, to regional integration, and African foreign policies, just to mention a few. Political reform and economic development are widely seen as key to the African renaissance. It is not surprising that it is in South Africa that intense popular interest in the idea was expressed. But even in South Africa the range of popular opinion run the gamut from the dismissive and cynical to the supportive and enthusiastic, mirroring the divergent social, cultural, ideological, class, gender and racial dispositions and divisions in a society undergoing a difficult transition. Outside of South Africa, attitudes to the African renaissance have been conditioned by popular attitudes towards South Africa and the national mood.

Certainly, until late 1990s the term renaissance was not part of the vocabulary of most Nigerians, preoccupied as they were with struggles to free themselves from Abacha's unprecedented reign of terror and kleptocracy. To Wole Soyinka, Nigeria's great man of letters, there could be no renaissance amidst the slaughter ravaging various parts of the continent. For Nigerians willing to dream of a renaissance, they saw it, as was the case in South Africa, Nigeria's arch rival for continental leadership, as a three-pronged process involving the revitalization of Nigeria itself, its regional grouping ECOWAS, and of the continent as a whole. An interesting dimension of the Nigerian media discourse on the African renaissance that was less well developed in South Africa was the focus on the indispensable role that the African diaspora can play. And in the northern end of the continent, people were more likely to speak of an Islamic, rather than an African
renaissance.

Reading the African press from the 1990s I was struck by the easy substitution of hope and despair, optimism and pessimism according to the vagaries of daily news, which speaks to the deep concerns and investment Africans have in the current state and future of their communities, countries, and continent. In Kenya, the African renaissance was largely dismissed because of distrust of South Africa and despair with Kenya's own political situation. But a historic renaissance cannot be measured by the tracking poll of daily events. A longer view is needed, a deeper probe is required to unravel and mold the new social energies and visions emerging from the violent shakeout of Africa's current order.

For a moment in the mid-1990s, some sections of the Western press were caught in the frenzy of the African renaissance and lifted their age-old blinkers and saw "Africa Rising," to quote the lead story in the American weekly magazine Time of March 30, 1998. After the usual litany of Africa's traumas and tribulations, the story affirmed: "academics, diplomats and bankers who do business there talk seriously these days about an African renaissance. A grand word, it turns out, for the slow, fragile, difficult changes that are giving the continent a second chance. But the description fits. Out of sight of our narrow focus on disaster, another Africa is rising, an Africa that works."

But Afro-pessimism is an insidious cancer that sooner or later repels hope or good news from Africa. In October 2000, the New York Times announced that Africa was "Back to Despair." The message was repeated at greater length and with savage glee in May 2000 by The Economist, which contemptuously called Africa "the hopeless continent." Angry responses were swift both in cyberspace and in print. Many censured the magazine for its wild generalizations. One wondered how a reputable magazine could "arbitrarily condemn the 54 countries of Africa and their 800 million inhabitants as ¡hopeless'." The London-based New African magazine published a special cover story on "Reporting Africa" in which it condemned western media coverage of Africa for their selectivity, sensationalism, stereotyping, and the use of special denigrating vocabulary.

Eight years later, in October 2008, in a lead article entitled, "There is Hope," The Economist recanted: "Once described by this newspaper, perhaps with undue harshness, as "the hopeless continent", it [Africa] could yet confound its legion of gloomsters and show that its oft-heralded renaissance is not just another false dawn prompted by the passing windfall of booming commodity prices, but the start of something solid and sustainable. Despite its manifold and persistent problems of lousy governments and erratic climates, Africa has a chance of rising." But old habits die hard. Upon its return to Africa, The Economist found hope amidst the continent's alleged continuing marginality. The narrative of marginality confuses Africa's lack of benefits from its global engagements to lack of engagement itself: Africa has been deeply integrated into the world economy since slavery and colonialism, out of which the global economy was molded from the 16th century.

Clearly, the African renaissance as a project and a process, an idea and an injunction, has posed challenges that are both political and philosophical, concrete and conceptual, about renewal in economic and epistemic terms and of social and structural conditions, about the development and democratization of African institutions in an increasingly globalized world that rewards technological and scientific progress and economic productivity and competitiveness. At heart, then, the African renaissance is about Africa's development, a question that has preoccupied Africa's leaders and intellectuals since the continent's tragic encounter with Europe in modern times.

The Inheritance of Colonialism and Nationalism

Contemporary Africa is simply incomprehensible without understanding the complex, complimentary, and combative histories of colonialism and nationalism. Colonialism restructured African economies, polities, societies, and cultures with varied degrees of intensity. Economically, it left behind underdeveloped economies characterized by high levels of internal disarticulation, uneven development, and external dependency. The newly independent countries faced the challenge of rectifying these structural deformities, of promoting national development: how to build national economies without colonial despotism, and how to realize the Pan-African dreams of regional integration as part of a strategy of increasing the leverage of balkanized Africa and engaging the world economy on stronger and more favorable terms.

Politically, colonialism bequeathed autocratic states without nations, state-nations that needed to be turned into nation-states. Thus, one of the primary challenges for the new postcolonial states was nation-building: how to turn the divided multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious, and multi-racial cartographic contraptions of colonialism into coherent nation states. Another was the democratization of state power and politics: how to wean the state from its deeply entrenched colonial authoritarian propensities and practices. In short, the political class and intelligentsia faced pressures to create new cultures and economies of politics, production, and participation. There were of course no easy blueprints from either the precolonial past or the immediate colonial present; the future had to be invented. And the neocolonial and neoliberal order proved exceedingly difficult for the postcolonial leviathan to manage, let alone reshape in the demanding dreams of nationalism.

African nationalism sought economic and political renewal, liberation from the debilitations of colonialism that had shackled Africa's historical and humanistic agency. Nationalism is one of the great intellectual and ideological forces which gave rise to postcolonial African states as they are currently configured and the imperatives for self-determination and development that have driven African political cultures and imaginaries. In the course of the 20th century African nationalism encompassed, at various stages, struggles to retain existing African sovereignties, to reform colonialism, to remove colonialism, and to recreate independence. It stands to reason that the timing, trajectories, and facilitating factors of these phases differed from colony to colony, as did the identities of the main actors, their strategies, and languages and weapons of combat change over time.

It is possible to argue that amidst all its complexities and diversities, African nationalism was a project that sought to achieve five historic and humanistic tasks: decolonization, nation-building, development, democracy, and regional integration. In short, in spatial terms African nationalism was a territorial, regional, and transnational nationalism; in social terms, a democratic and developmentalist nationalism. The achievement of the first goal, began with Egypt's limited independence in 1922 was finally achieved with the demise of apartheid in 1994. Decolonization was undoubtedly a great achievement for colonized peoples, for anti-colonial nationalism, one of the monumental events of the 20th century.

What about the other four agendas: nation-building, development, democracy, and regional integration? On these, as the populist saying goes, the struggles continue, indeed. I do not propose to do any accounting of the disparate fates of these agendas certainly for reasons of time. More importantly, such stock taking entails an inventory of the last half century of African history. Suffice it to say, the record of performance is extremely complex and uneven across postcolonial periods, countries and regions, social classes, economic sectors, genders and generations, which fit neither into the unrelenting gloom of the Afropessimists or the unyielding hopes of the Afroptimists both of whom carelessly homogenize this incredibly diverse and complex continent.

What can be said with certainty is that postcolonial Africa has undergone profound transformations in some areas and not in others. Nation building continues to pose challenges. While the majority of African countries have retained the integrity of their colonial boundaries, many have had difficulties in forging nations out of them. Several have even been wracked by conflicts and wars. The project of turning colonial state-nations into independent nation-states exhibits palpable contradictions: both state and ethnic nationalisms are probably both stronger than at independence. These identities and the struggles over them eclipse the Pan-African nationalisms within the continent and with the diaspora, although the latter are experiencing renewal in the thickening circuits of regional mobility and integration schemes, transnational migrations and globalization including the emergence of new African diasporas. Thus the dreams of regional integration have been compromised on the stakes of nation-building, but are currently stirring more vigorously than before.

Development remains elusive amidst the rapid growth of the early post-independence era, the debilitating recessions of the lost structural adjustment decades, and the recoveries of more recent years. The African population is much bigger than at independence, currently stampeding towards a billion despite all the continent's trials and tribulations; it is more educated, more socially differentiated, and more youthful than ever; it is better informed thanks to the recent explosion of the media and the information technologies of the internet and especially mobile phones, a market in which Africa currently boasts the world's fastest growth rates, indeed double that of the rest of the world. And democracy is cautiously emerging on the backs of expanding and energized civil societies and popular struggles for the ¡second independence' from the suffocating tentacles of one party state and military authoritarianisms, notwithstanding the blockages, reversals, and the chicaneries of Africa's wily dictators adorning ill-fitting democratic garbs.

Development Paradigms since Independence

Given the sheer size and diversity of African countries, it is difficult to map out general patterns of development patterns and trajectories since independence. The differences in development ideologies and performance can be accounted for by variations among the continent's 54 countries in terms of their processes of decolonization, the size and state of the inherited colonial economy with regard to levels of development and resource bases, the dynamics of class and gender and other social constructs, regional and geo-political locations and standing, and the nature of their leadership and ideological proclivities.

Nevertheless, it is possible to identify broad trends in Africa's development paradigms since independence. Let me hasten to add that these paradigms are not unique to Africa. In fact, they reflect broader global trends with specific African inflections and implications. I distinguish between three broad periods: first, the era of authoritarian developmentalism 1960-1980; second, the period of neo-liberal authoritarianism from 1980-2000; and third, the current moment of possible democratic developmentalism.

During the era of authoritarian developmentalism African countries experienced the intensification of statism (the growth of state power) and developmentalism (the pursuit of development at all costs). The escalation of statism after independence was accentuated by the underdeveloped nature of the indigenous capitalist class and the weak material base of the new rulers. The state became their instrument of accumulation. It is also important to remember that the legitimacy of the postcolonial state lay in meeting the huge developmental backlog of colonialism, in providing more schools, hospitals, jobs and other services and opportunities to the expectant masses. So after independence the postcolonial state was under enormous pressure to mediate between national capital, foreign capital, and the increasingly differentiated populace. It was a juggler's nightmare, and the leviathan often tripped. The multiple contradictions and frustrations of the neo-colonial order built on limited sovereignty, political posturing without economic power, and Africanization without genuine indigenization, made the enterprise of state onerous.

State intervention in the organization of the economic, social, cultural, and political process intensified as the contradictions deepened and became more open. The monopolization of politics by the state was justified in the glorious name of development. In Joseph Ki-Zerbo's inimitable phrase African populations were admonished: ¡Silence, Development in Progress!' Economic development became the raison d'etre of the state as well as its Achilles heel. As the crisis of growth and accumulation intensified globally from the 1970s, the postcolonial state assumed a progressively more precarious and openly repressive character, with frequent coups and rearrangement of ruling cliques, endless constitutional revisions and human rights violations, and suppression of democratic freedoms. The authoritarian posture of the state in the 1970s can in part be explained by the fact that Africa's capitalist classes were the least able to resolve the crisis on their own or export the costs of crisis being the weakest in the capitalist world system.

To be sure, until the mid-1970s African countries experienced relatively rapid rates of economic growth and development. Altogether, between 1960 and 1980 African economies grew by 4.8%, a rate that hides wide divergences between high growth, medium growth, and low growth economies. This was also a period characterized by wide ideological divergences and disputes between states and regimes within states pursuing the capitalist and socialist paths of development, or muddling through mixed economies. The different development models were often inspired, or justified, in the names of modernization, dependency, and Marxist theories, which saw development in terms of following western stages of growth, the transformation of the international division of labor, and restructuring of internal social relations of production, respectively. The differences in development paradigms were often more rhetorical than real, more apparent in public proclamations than in actual practice. Certainly, no model held a monopoly on rates of economic growth, and all states prayed at the altar of developmentalism and fetishized development planning.

The structural and ideological underpinnings of authoritarian developmentalism were reinforced by the onset of neo-liberalism at the turn of the 1980s, which ushered Africa's ¡lost decades' of the 1980s and 1990s. The era of structural adjustment programs (SAPs), threatened to undo the developmental promises and achievements of independence, to dismantle the postcolonial social contract, to abort the nationalist project of Africa's renewal. The rise of SAPs reflected the global ascendancy of neo-liberalism which emerged as an ideological response to the world economic crisis of the late 1960s and early 1970s that ended the postwar boom. Neo-liberalism marked the collapse of ¡Keynesian consensus' and political coalitions that had sustained it, and the rise to power of conservative, ¡free' market-oriented governments in the leading industrial economies from Thatcher in Britain, Reagan in the United States, Kohl in Germany, and Mulroney in Canada.

SAPs were pursued with missionary zeal by the international financial institutions, principally the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and western governments, and imposed on the developing countries experiencing difficulties with their balance of payments. Many African countries found themselves in that boat as their external accounts deteriorated thanks to the oil shocks of the 1970s, declining terms of trade, and mounting internal problems of accumulation. The SAPs called for currency devaluation, interest and exchange rate deregulation, liberalization of trade, privatization of state enterprises, and withdrawal of public subsidies, and retrenchment of the public service; in short for a minimalist state and extension of the market logic to all spheres of economic activity.

The introduction of SAPs reflected the conjunction of interests between fractions of the national bourgeoisie that had outgrown state patronage and global capital that sought to dismantle the post-war fetters of Keynesian capitalist regulation. This is to qualify conventional analyses of SAPs in Africa as conspiracies against the continent: SAPs were welcomed by fractions of the African capitalist class and were applied in the core capitalist countries themselves. The relatively harsher consequences of SAPs for Africa and other countries in the global South reflected the enduring reality that economically weaker countries and the poorer classes always pay the highest prices for capitalist restructuring.

The results were disastrous for African economies. Structural adjustment failed to stem the tide of stagnation or even decline, and stabilize and return these economies to the path of growth and transform their structures. If anything, structural adjustment became part and parcel of the dynamic of decline in African economies. Initially, the Fund and the Bank dismissed the difficulties that were evident as temporary. As the problems persisted, the blame was shifted to African governments and the behavior of their supposedly corrupt, rent-seeking elites who were allegedly reluctant to reform and give up their ¡illicit' privileges accumulated under the old interventionist model of development that encouraged the flowering of growth-retarding patronage and clientelist systems.

By the 1990s it had become clear that SAPs were deeply flawed in conception and execution, and they had little to show, that it made little sense to apply the same lethal medicine on countries of vastly different economic experiences and ailments. SAPs created the conditions, unintended by the architects of these programs of course notwithstanding their retrospective claims to the contrary, for the resurgence of struggles for the ¡second independence' -for democratization.

The ascendancy of neo-liberalism turned into triumphalism following the collapse of socialism in Central and Eastern Europe. This was best encapsulated in Francis Fukuyama's delirious declaration about the end of history-the closure of global systemic options to liberalism and capitalism. In this brave new world of market fundamentalism, the development industry ironically discovered the regulatory fixes of stringent and short-leash conditionalities and development studies succumbed to the paralysis of post-development discourse. The post-development turn in development studies reflected the intellectual crisis of orthodox development theories, the perceived failures of development practice inspired by those theories, and the rise of the ¡posts'-postmodernis m and postcolonialism in the academy. They laid bare the disciplining and depoliticizing nature of development models, the production, circulation and consumption of hegemonic development theories as universalizing and homogenizing discourses, as representational systems that allowed the development industry to stereotype societies in the global South and intervene in real people's lives with often disastrous consequences. But they failed to produce alternative visions of development, wedded as they were to the erasures of the ¡metanarratives' of class, nation, and gender, and development itself, which turned them into part of the ideological apparatus that undermined understandings and demobilized struggles against global capitalism and the construction of alternative futures beyond the romance with the local.

In the meantime, among African leaders and thinkers a new urgency emerged in their development thinking and practice as the corrosive effects of SAPs became more evident in rising levels of poverty and social dislocation including rising levels of emigration of its skilled professionals- the brain drain of popular folklore-that robbed the continent of its human capital built at great costs since independence. From the 1980s not only did economic issues and resolutions dominate the summits of African leaders, new development programs were adopted with desperate rapidity beginning with the Lagos Plan of Action in 1981 that set out a comprehensive short- and long-term development agenda for the continent. Hardly was the ink dry on the LPA when the World Bank issued its infamous Berg Report, Accelerated Development in Sub-Saharan Africa, which laid the basis for SAPs.

Undeterred African leaders sought to retrieve the developmentalist dreams of the nationalist project in a series of declarations that called for both African self-reliance and partnership with donors to overcome the crises of growth and development. These included the United Nations Declaration of the Critical Economic Situation in Africa (1984), Africa's Priority Position on Economic Recovery (1985), the United Nations Program of Action for African Economic Recovery and Development (1986), African Common Position on Africa's External Debt (1987), African Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment Programs (1989), African Charter for Popular Participation in Development and Transformation (1990), the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s (1991), Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (1991), Relaunching Africa's Economic and Social Development: The Cairo Agenda for Action (1995), and the New Partnership for
Africa's Development (2001).

What these documents show is that Africa's problem is less about the absence of development policies and strategies, of which there has been too much so that a moratorium on devising ever more elaborate development programs and prescriptions would perhaps be advisable, but the lack of resources and political will for implementation. Also, evident is the premium placed on partnership with so-called donors. From the 1990s popular participation and democracy entered the development agenda, although in reality development projects and policies continued to be designed with little public consultation, as is the case with the much celebrated NEPAD. The rhetorical homage to popular participation was in part a product of the rising tide of struggles against the devastating socioeconomic and political effects SAPs that gravely undermined the nationalist project.

Conclusion: The Challenges of Democratic Developmentalism

The road to democracy in Africa has proved long and arduous. In 1990, all but five of Africa's 54 countries were dictatorships, either civilian or military. By 2000, the majority of these countries had introduced political reforms and had become either democratic or were in the process of becoming so. The African transitions to democracy from the late 1980s were quite varied and characterized by progress, blockages, and reversals. The actual mechanisms and modalities of transition from dictatorship to democracy took three broad paths.

First, there were countries in which opposition parties were legalized and multiparty elections authorized through amendments to the existing constitutions by the incumbent regime. This pattern was followed mainly in one-party states in which the opposition forces were too weak or fragmented to force national regime capitulation and the regimes still enjoyed considerable repressive resources and hegemonic capacities. Second, there were countries where the transition to democracy was effected through national conferences in which members of the political class and the elites of civil society came together to forge a new political and constitutional order. Finally, there was the path of managed transition pursued by military regimes, which tried to oversee and tightly control the process and pace of political reform.

Debate on Africa's democratization processes and prospects has centered on four interrelated issues, i.e., the relative roles of (1) internal/endogenous or external/exogenous factors; (2) historical and contemporary dynamics; (3) structural and contingent forces; and (4) economic and political dimensions. Suffice it to say, a comprehensive understanding of democratization in Africa would have to transcend these dichotomous analyses. Clearly, the struggles for democracy in the 1980s and 1990s represented the latest moment of accelerated change in a long history of struggles for freedom, an exceptionally complex moment often driven by unpredictable events and new social movements and visions, anchored in the specific histories, social structures, and conditions of each country, in which national, regional, and international forces converged unevenly and inconsistently, and economic and political crises reinforced each other, altering the terrain of state-civil society relationships, the structures of governance, and the claims of citizenship.

Fundamental to the question of democracy in Africa have been different conceptions and visions of what democracy means and entails. Again, this need not detain us here, except to point out that the views range from minimalist conceptions of liberal democracy, emphasizing competitive electoral processes and respect for civil and political rights, to maximalist notions of social democracy embracing material development, equality and empowerment, and respect for the so-called three generations of rights: civil and political, social and economic, and development or solidarity rights.

Five prescriptive models can be identified in the writings of African political thinkers and leaders, what I call the nativist, liberal, popular democratic, theocratic, and transnational models. The first, seeks to anchor democracy in traditional institutions of governance; the second limits democracy to multiparty politics and periodic electoral contests to promote the trinity of good governance-efficien cy, accountability, and transparency; the third, advocates basing both the political and economic domains on democratic principles; the fourth, invokes religious visions and discourses about political transformation and organization; the fifth, offers seeks the reconstitution of African states through their regionalization to meet the challenges of both colonial balkanization and contemporary globalization.

The new dispensation brought revived and reformulated discourses on rights based development and the construction of democratic developmental states. The seductive pairing of development and human rights is fraught with analytical and practical challenges. Conceptually, there are strains in the logics of development and human rights, and concretely there have been discrepancies in the histories of development and human rights. Examples of the mismatch between development and human rights abound. The rise of Euroamerican industrial capitalism occurred on the backs of the ghastly barbarisms of slavery, genocide, and colonial conquests, and the growth of Soviet and Chinese industrial socialism was achieved on the graves of tens of millions of victims of collectivization and terror. Indeed, until recently it was commonplace to dissociate development and human rights, to regard human rights as an inconvenience that could be traded off to achieve rapid economic development. The popular but dangerous association between levels of development and regimes of human rights was used both by racist western commentators and Africa's own dictators to dismiss the prospects or justify the abuse of human rights across the continent. But the failure of authoritarianism to bring about development in much of Africa disproved the efficacy of despotism for development.

Clearly, both human rights and development, singly and jointly remain works in progress. If in some countries development has historically occurred without human rights, in many others it has failed because of the absence of human rights and the staggering wastages of repression. Similarly, the contemporary historical moment provides conditions that are both favorable and inimical to the interdependent pursuit of human rights and development. This is because the two dominant forces of our age, democratization and globalization, facilitate and forestall the productive convergence of development and human rights. Democracies do not always protect the human rights of marginal or minority groups. Also, repression may actually increase in new democracies because of lagging repressive tendencies from the past and the propensity for protest behavior to increase at such times.

Equally contradictory have been the consequences of globalization on development and human rights. Globalization generally refers to growing and deepening transnational flows among continents, countries and communities of materials, practices, peoples, ideas and symbols, from commodities to capital, images to information, labor to leisure, rights to reflexivities, and viruses to visions. It has different dimensions-technolo gical, economic, political, and cultural-each of which has its own internal particularities and propensities. In so far as globalization represents an increase in the power of capital over other social classes, it contributes to the shrinkage of the spaces for democracy and human rights. As is quite evident in Africa, the austerities of structural adjustment programs not only increased poverty, inequality, and social conflict, but also required authoritarian governance.

Despite these incongruities, since the end of the Cold War development and human rights, indeed the triumvirate of development, democracy and human rights, have attained the status of "hegemonic political ideals" used by states to establish or enhance national and international legitimacy. It is the Cold War that introduced the unproductive separation of human rights into the hierarchical enclosures of civil and political rights on the one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights on the other. The incorporation of the right to development in international human rights discourse and instruments has not only unified civil and political rights with economic, social and cultural rights, thereby returning human rights discourse to the holistic tendencies of the pre-Cold war era, but represents major advances in human rights thought and practice.

But this has not of course stopped debate about the foundational basis, content, justiciability, and implementation of this right. The right to development is a human right because it is now recognized in national and international instruments. It refers to both the right to the process of development and to the outcomes of development based on equity and justice. The right to development entails a participatory development process nationally and internationally; it is about social and human development that expands people's capabilities and substantive freedoms. It is, in a sense, a metaright or a vector of all rights and freedoms, for it embodies and involves the realization of all civil, political, economic, social, cultural, and solidarity rights. The primary responsibilities for respecting, protecting and promoting the right to development lie with states, while the principal beneficiaries are individuals.

In recent years, the possibilities of instituting human rights driven development agendas have been raised, but remain unfulfilled, with the establishment of several initiatives and instruments by the African Union and the United Nations such as NEPAD and the Millennium Development Goals, which represents the most ambitious initiative in international development. Focusing on eight limited, measurable, time-bound goals (extreme poverty, primary education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, environment, and global partnership) , the MDGs provide an important test case of the relationship between development and human rights in theory and practice. To some the MDGs and human rights are consistent or potentially complimentary with one another, to others they are incompatible and contradictory.

Rights based development discourses have brought the state back into development. Debates about the role of the state in development are quite old and have featured among all industrializing nations following Britain's initial industrialization. In contemporary Africa, the question of constructing democratic developmental states centers on some of the following issues: (1) Can African states be both democratic and developmental; (2) What are the indicators and mechanisms for democratic developmentalism? ; (3) What are the prerequisites and prospects for establishing democratic developmental states in Africa?

A democratic developmental state is one that embodies the principles of electoral democracy, ensures citizens' participation in the development and governance processes, and fosters growth and development. The democratic developmental state is defined by its objectives and its institutional characteristics including the ¡autonomy' of state institutions that enable it to define and promote its strategic developmental goals, and its ¡embeddedness" , i.e., its ability to form alliances with key social groups in society that help it to achieve its developmental goals. In short, autonomy entails the ability of the state to behave as a coherent collective actor that is able to identify and implement developmental goals while embeddedness implies accountability and engagement with civil society. A democratic developmental state is characterized by institutional autonomy and coherence and inclusive embeddedness operating in a democratic order marked by competitive and accountable electoral systems and has the capacity to promote development and growth.

The construction of democratic developmental states requires Africa to confront and control several sets of challenges and opportunities. At the domestic level there is need to revitalize the nationalist project by reconstructing the state, rebuilding citizenship, renewing the social contract, reconstructing society, and rejuvenating integrated and inclusive economies; in short, to manage the state-market- civil society nexus as effectively as possible. At the regional level the challenge is to promote more broad based integration projects that encompass dense political, economic, and cultural exchanges and networks and incorporate both elites and ordinary people, as well as productively include Africa's historic and new diasporas. The latter already constitute Africa's biggest donor, remitting in 2006 about $40 billion, more than all so-called foreign ¡aid'-read loans and investment-to Africa combined, notwithstanding the glib claims of the mercy industrial complex fronted by celebrities who seek moral and public gravitas from African commiseration.

Africa's new diasporas constitute more than a remittance pipeline. Among the most educated people in the global North-certainly the most educated group in the United States-they also possess an enormous stock of social capital-skills, knowledge, networks, civic awareness, cultural experience and cosmopolitanism- that can provide not only access to global markets and investment and stimulate technological innovation, but also invigorate democracy, strengthen civil society and encourage the growth of new philanthropic cultures. Moreover, they can be crucial intermediaries between Africa and foreign governments and international development agencies. The election of Barack Obama, son of a Kenyan student, as the next U.S. President clearly shows the political profile of the new diaspora is also rising.

This brings us to the global challenges and opportunities facing contemporary Africa. I have already made reference to globalization. Let me add that as a historical process globalization is not new, what has been different over the last three decades is its ideological configuration; in other words, what we have had is neo-liberal globalization. Let me conclude with two observations that have enormous implications for African development and the realization of the dreams of the African renaissance. First, the possible collapse of neo-liberalism, and second the shifting terrain of global economic power from Euroamerica to Asia with the exponential rise of China and India following the earlier ascendancy of Japan.

The economic tsunami that started on Wall Street last September and is now ravaging economies around the world has swept into oblivion the fantasies of free market infallibility, of neo-liberalism that bestrode the globe with impunity. As the major Euro-American economies teeter on the brink of a prolonged recession, the dangers for many economies in the global South, especially Africa, rise as primary commodity prices plummet and foreign investment dries up. Africa's spectacular average growth rates of about 6% over the last few years, the highest since the early 1970s, are likely to slow down.

But there may be new opportunities. African commentators cannot help but note the hypocrisy exhibited by western governments who used to lecture them against state intervention as they rush to intervene to save their economies through massive nationalizations. This opens invaluable space for policy alternatives. In the history of global capitalism, moments of crisis have often created the space for peripheral economies to restructure their economies away from the prying restrains of hegemonic powers preoccupied with their own recovery. This was the case during the Great Depression which saw the drive towards industrialization in parts of Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

The Asian dimension of the current financial crisis is quite intriguing. A flood of cheap goods and money from Asia lulled the United States into a false sense of economic prosperity, in which Chinese and Japanese reserves and Arab petrodollars financed rising deficits and debt-driven consumption most evident in the housing bubble. While the crisis puts strains on the model of export-led growth that has fueled China's unprecedented growth and the appeal of American capitalism, it opens new possibilities, in the eyes of some analysts, to develop Asian capitalisms freed from the suffocating grip of the reckless neo-liberal American brand. For others, still, it offers a rare opportunity to restructure the global economy and bring to an end the era of Euroamerican hegemony that has lasted over the last few centuries and accelerate the dawn of the new Asian century or centuries.

While it may be premature to see the current crisis as signaling the end of neo-liberalism let alone as a symptom of declining American global supremacy, we may be witnessing what Fareed Zakaria calls "the rise of the rest" in his book, The Post American World. Over the last few years Africa's relationship with Asia has expanded as evident from the frequent summits between African countries and China, India, and Japan, and the explosive growth in trade. For example, China's trade with Africa jumped from $1.7 billion in 1990 to $10 billion in 2000 to $73.5 billion in 2007 and is projected to rise to more $100 billion in 2010, when China will overtake the U.S. as Africa's largest trading partner.

So what happened to the African renaissance? That is the question I was asked to address. My simple answer is that this is a long project which entails the renewal of African societies internally, building broad-based regional integration, and promoting more beneficial participation in t

he global economy. On all three terrains-the national, regional, and global-changes are taking place, complex and contradictory to be sure, but farreaching changes nonetheless. We would do ourselves a lot of good as scholars and students of Africa to spend more time trying to understand the nature and implications of these changes than in offering more prescriptions, of which Africa has received in overabundance and is no better for it. We need, in short, to think of the long duree. Thank you.

Publié dans contemporary africa

Commenter cet article