International Development, Community, and Environment

Title

Alternatives to anarchy: Africa's transition from agricultural to industrial societies

Document Type

Editorial

Abstract

Policy makers, development assistance agencies, and the media paint a grim picture for Africa's twenty-first century. Famine, chaos, overpopulation, resource degradation, and anarchy are oft-cited buzzwords that have, in recent years, encouraged donors to abandon the continent. Africa is in trouble. But the buzzwords that precipitate donor withdrawal are symptoms, not causes. Africa is in trouble because the institutions of governance and management that external agencies have prescribed and national politicians embraced do not match the need. Colonial regimes in the early 20th century and development agencies in the later decades have imposed institutions of centralized decision-making at a time when most African states are navigating the treacherous shoals of transitions from agricultural to industrial societies. Central rule has enabled small and powerful elites to gain control of political and economic institutions and impose arbitrary and self-serving policies. Fragmented agricultural societies lack national institutions of accountability; many of Africa's people have therefore endured capricious rule with little opportunity for recourse. Alternatives exist to African anarchy. Poverty can be reduced, livelihoods improved, and resource degradation reversed. Eight brief case examples suggest how local planning and action, rooted in community based-institutions compatible with Africa's transition, have enabled village organizations to mobilize internal resources, link with external agencies, and implement action plans of their own design. Lessons learned suggest that structured and systematic tools that engage local people in decision-making can ease the agricultural-to-industrial transition, build local institutional capabilities, and strengthen the accountability that many Africa countries currently lack. © 2001 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.

Publication Title

Progress in Planning

Publication Date

1-1-2001

Volume

56

Issue

2

First Page

61

Last Page

120

ISSN

0305-9006

DOI

10.1016/S0305-9006(01)00003-4

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