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close this bookMaldevelopment - Anatomy of a Global Failure (United Nations University)
close this folder2. The decade of drift: 1975-1985
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe excitement of the Bandung plan (1955-73)2
View the documentThe battle for a new international economic order (NIEO): 1974-1980
View the documentStructural costs; the stakes; the struggle for the NIEO
View the documentAfrica: from the Lagos plan (1980) to the world bank plan and the United Nations Conference (1986)
View the documentDebt and the threat of a financial crash
View the documentThe efforts of radical African nationalism: adjustment or delinking?6
View the documentNotes

Africa: from the Lagos plan (1980) to the world bank plan and the United Nations Conference (1986)

Few now remember the Lagos Plan of Action, adopted by the OAU summit in 1980, in the tracks of the euphoria that five years earlier had marked the Third World's adoption of a charter for a 'new international economic order'.5

Once the euphoria of the early 1960s was over, the tares of colonial development suddenly resuscitated by the newly independent regimes were not slow to sprout. Then 15 years of systematic efforts by some to bring to Africa the concept of autocentric development were at last to find a response. The whole strength of the Lagos Plan lay in the fact that it was based on this masterfully simple idea that Africa's development could not be merely a passive result of the world system's or evolution of the European Economic Community, to which the continent's states had been bound by the association named after the agreements of Yaoundnd LomThe explicit option for a new, self-reliant development strategy arose from this crucial idea.

But the Lagos Plan did not draw the conclusions implied in the logic of this option. It was satisfied with the easy part of the task, namely showing how this option did make it possible to overcome the handicaps of extraversion. In this spirit the Lagos Plan set itself the target of strong growth (7% a year) based on a genuine agricultural revolution (4% annual growth) and subsequent industrialization (9.5% annual growth). At the same time, it declared the aim of economic and even cultural and social integration for the continent.

As soon as we move from intentions to a consideration of the means of implementation, however, we find the weaknesses of the plan. These were manifest in the 'technical' method employed to calculate the 'means' in question. The calculation, starting from projection of demand, then used known technologies and a tabulation of input and output to define the desirable structure of production. Hence could be deduced the amount of investment and imports needed and consequently the corresponding exports demanded. A routine methodology, whose reputation for 'neutrality' in relation to the aims is certainly vouched for by the planners. But the methodology is not neutral: it assumes the given demand and hence reproduces the distortions in the specific income distribution of peripheral capitalism, along with the negative effects of the imported model of consumption; it accepts the structure of world prices as the criterion for economic rationality, although this structure reproduces the dual polarization between the centres and the peripheries and in income distribution within the peripheral societies.

Little wonder that the use of this methodology brought results in direct contradiction with the declared principle of autocentric development. The Plan's calculations were based on imports growing faster than the GDP (8% a year for imports) and a significant contribution from foreign capital (since exports were to grow at the rate of GDP, 7% a year). The Lagos Plan, despite its declaration of principle, was a classic plan for development by way of greater integration in the world economy.

The genuine implementation of the principle of autocentric development implies very different reasoning that has the nerve to challenge the criteria of economic rationality observed by conventional economics.

Without dwelling at great length here on the details of an alternative methodology consistent with the option of autocentric development, it may be recalled that this option requires the determination of a pricing structure delinked from that governed by the worldwide law of value, such that it ensures approximately equal rewards for labour in the various sectors of production (and therefore substantially reduces the gap between town and countryside, industry and modern informal sectors, and so on). On this basis of a national and popular economic rationality it may be possible to formulate development policies whose benefits can really bring improved standards of living to the broad mass of the people (cf. Chapter 5).

Priority for agriculture must come within this framework, as was shown earlier in the critique offered of the prevailing concepts of agricultural development. Similarly industrialization within this framework must be industrialization in support of the agricultural revolution, at least as a prolonged first stage.

In these areas the Lagos Plan was content to wage a rearguard action against the colonial onslaught of the World Bank. For example, it correctly defends the principle of industrialization that had been challenged on the grounds of conflicting with agricultural development! This is a throwback to the old colonial prejudice of an Africa 'naturally agricultural', as if agricultural development was really possible without industrialization, and contrary to the whole of the world's history. In the same way the Lagos Plan correctly defends the principle of basic industry. But it stops there and fails to challenge the mundane model of industrialization followed on the continent so far. It is obvious that the industrialization required is not an industrialization on all fronts, undefined and general and mainly for import substitution and exports through the processing of mineral resources. The spurious argument about export industry or import substitution industry has obscured the real argument. The Lagos Plan could not escape from a view of industrialization subordinate to the demands of the international division of labour. By adopting the UNIDO industrialization plan (the Lima targets: a 2% share of world industrial output for Africa by the year 2000), plus the plans of the

African states, the Lagos document demonstrated both a disturbing lack of imagination and a low level of consciousness of the character of the option of self-reliance.

This is all the more serious since the Lagos Plan is still within the area of exploitation of natural resources, and the traditional colonial and neo-colonial view of Africa as a 'source of supply' for the development of others. It is not enough that the very concept of control over natural resources is overlooked (and from this point of view the Lagos document is a step backwards in comparison with the concepts of the NIEO), that the Lagos document naively declares its confidence in the multinationals developing these resources(!) and hopes that the African states will show a united front in their shared demands, but also and principally that the Lagos Plan envisages the exploitation of Africa's resources on the basis of world demand. On the energy issue, however, we note that the Lagos Plan did try to avoid the narrow and fruitless discussion of 'oil costs'.

We are brought back to the central issue of foreign trade. Development 'within the world system' (in fact based on further integration with it) does come from worldwide demand and hence always seeks to maximize exports in line with that demand. Conversely, autocentric development regards foreign trade as a remainder. It begins with a calculation of essential imports for each stage of the implementation of the autocentric strategy, and on the basis of this figure sets the level of export needed to finance imports. This approach leads to the conclusion that the maximization of exports of mineral resources is often not only useless but also dangerous because of the distortion and increased dependency it brings.

Other aspects of the Lagos Plan's development strategy are treated in the same way, in contradiction with the declared option of self-reliance. This is the case for the issue of technology, perceived simply as acquisition of technologies in use in the West. In this regard the plan is caught in the trap of the old argument on the technology said to be 'appropriate' to the factors of production, as it confuses the role of technological research with the problems of management. It does likewise with education, whose objectives are defined in purely quantitative terms without serious regard to the alienation it may bring; without any consideration of the changes necessary to keep pace with autonomous scientific and technological development; with transport and communication no more than a cumulative list of national projects. As for comments on environmental and feminist issues, they take the form of wishful thinking additions to fall in with current fashion.

The obvious result is that the Lagos Plan concludes with a giant 'finance gap'. When the UN General Assembly at its special session in 1986 came to consider the extent of foreign aid required, we were back to square one, as such aid was unimaginable in the prevailing circumstances.

In short, the Lagos Plan, despite its declaredly 'self-reliant' intentions, despite its strong criticism of the colonial and neo-colonial heritage, could not escape the conventional methodology closely associated with the conventional strategy of peripheral capitalist development. Its technical and institutional

(not to mention bureaucratic) approach - whereby for each 'problem' area the plan proposes the establishment of a Pan-African organization to deal with it (!) - its naive view of African integration through 'the common market' (in contradiction with historical experience showing that the market can only aggravate inequalities between the regions it incorporates), its astonishing silence on the identification of the agents of change (states, or private enterprises, and which ones) and on the structures of economic power in Africa, are clear indicators of the unresolved conflict between praiseworthy intentions and the possible ways and means.

This might seem harsh criticism. It may be tempered by reference to numerous positive and passing aspects of the document, but unfortunately the latter do not make up for the overall line of thinking pursued.

The question of development strategy for Africa, as for the Third World, is complex and ambiguous. Should development be conceived in accordance with the demands of the international order, or conversely, is it necessarily in conflict with it? Can the international order be transformed end 'adjusted' to the priority demands for Third World development, or conversely can the latter only be the result of the reverse 'adjustment'? The merit of the NIEO proposals was that they raised these issues without prejudice. The NIEO was trying to be both 'realistic' end 'optimistic'. It accepted that the, inescapable demands of autocentric development were not necessarily in total conflict with 'worldwide interdependence'. It therefore proposed a transformation in the international order conducive to a reconciliation of interests, to the advantage of all.

The facts have shown that this view was based on a naive illusion as to the laws governing existing world capitalism. The West's categorical rejection of the NIEO proposals has brought about first a resumption of the development initiative by the agencies charged with implementing traditional Western ideas, and second a range of attempted 'compromises' falling back from the NIEO plan.

The World Bank's 1980 plan for sub-Saharan Africa, drafted by the North American expert Elliot Berg is a typical example of the former. This plan, directly following the principles of Reaganite orthodoxy, seeks merely to legitimize the maximum demands of worldwide capital, as was shown above.

Whatever the deep contradictions, shortcomings and naivetof the Lagos Plan, it was more realistic, less ideological and even more soundly scientific (notwithstanding the inadequacies of its methodology) than the virtually skimped work of the World Bank. But the powers that be in the world exchequer are such that the Lagos Plan, far from being a point of departure, was soon buried, while the World Bank's language became the leitmotiv of official policies.

Undoubtedly, the international conjuncture was altogether unpromising as the NIEO proposals were rejected even as a basis of discussion. The Europe of the EEC, with its special responsibility for Africa, inherited from colonialism, then came to the fore. The Lagos Plan had refrained from even discussing the structures of overall power accompanying the association conventions of the ACP and EEC, presumably to avoid hurting feelings beyond the Mediterranean. The inadequate aid projected within the framework of association (here, too, the Lagos Plan refrained from making any judgement on the structures of power associated with so-called 'co-operation'), the inadequate resources available to stabilize agricultural products, with Stabex unable to withstand a deep and prolonged crisis, the even more dubious character of the Sysmin mechanism, which enshrines the control of worldwide capital over the continent's principal resources, encouraged reformist circles, such as those the Brandt Commission aroused briefly, to offer modest corrective solutions. The latter have been no better received than the earlier, more radical, proposals of the NIEO.

The new language of South-South co-operation was, in the circumstances, an ambiguous advance. Undoubtedly the national and popular policies for self-reliance had every interest in mutual reinforcement through complementary South-South co-operation, if only to offset the difficulties of a too restricted market in the smaller countries, or modest amounts of such and such a resource in other cases, for example. But in the absence of a genuine autocentric option at national levels, South-South co-operation meant very little. As we shall see in Chapter 6, it was inevitably to become a complement to the North-South inequalities against which it was aimed. Despite these inevitable limitations in the current situation, genuine co-operation efforts such as Afro-Arab cooperation (cf. Chapter 6) and the establishment of the South-South Commission may be useful investments that could bear fruit later when the current wave of 'compradorization' has exhausted its disastrous impact.

The collapse of the bourgeois national plan in the Third World, combined with the eclipse of the national and popular forces exposed by this failure, created favourable conditions for an offensive by the most reactionary forces, symbolized by the IMF and World Bank.

In the light of this offensive the Western ideological currents not hostile to Third World peoples were entirely disarmed, at least for the time being. This no doubt explains why to date they have offered nothing more than proposals representing pious hopes.

The first Brandt Report shares the general philosophy - of which its very sub-title, 'A Programme for Survival', is a reminder - according to which interdependence is synonymous with the shared interests of partners. What has to be saved is therefore this threatened 'global interdependence'. The world system must be maintained, and the various national societies must find their role and fit their development to the overall development of the system. The entire report, recommendations and analyses (or more precisely lack of analyses) are based on this option. The hypothesis that the common interest prevails over the conflict of interests leads inevitably to the language of pious hopes: we quote what the world's governments would like...

History offers too many denials of this philosophy for its continued acceptance: (i) since history to date has been precisely that of interdependence and asymmetry of this (hence the very expression of interdependence is inaccurate and that of dependence more appropriate); (ii) the history of this unequal development is that of unequal evolution of the power of the partners and hence of a succession of phases of development in the system ('A' phases of overall growth in a system defined by rules-particularly of the division of labour - hierarchies, one or more hegemonies, and so on) and crises, enforced transition from an A1 phase to an A2 phase by B crisis (defined by challenge to the rules and hierarchies); B phases of crisis, demonstrating the conflict of interests and the change wrought by the resolution of the conflicts, are based on the acknowledgement of the new balance of power; (iii) the changes in power relations owe their origin to the cumulative effects of unequal interdependence and internal transformations in societies.

Our period is clearly one of a B phase of crisis. It serves no purpose to deny the conflicts of interest, which are primary, or to treat them as insignificant. This would prevent any understanding.

The remedy for the global crisis that the report proposes is one of world Keynesianism, in Andre Gunder Frank's felicitous turn of phrase. The report says: 'Advocates of various schemes of "massive transfers" of funds from North to South have argued that such action would amount to a pump-priming of the world economy. We view them as contributing to growth and employment creation in the North as in the South.' (pp. 67-8 of the report).

The NIEO proposals in this regard were better and stronger and without the dubious diversion of the 'large-scale transfers'. The NIEO proposed simply export industrialization from the South to the North, based on low wages and abundant natural resources. This massive relocation of industry would doubtless have raised the global rate of profit. In this area Keynesianism is more simple: it attributes the crisis to insufficiency of demand that may be stimulated by income redistribution. It refrains from going on to the organization of production. The NIEO was aimed directly at the latter. Relocation evidently brings both redistribution of the forces of production, and hence of income, and an increase in the rate of profit. The NIEO moreover, far from begging for additional 'transfer', whose limitations and largely harmful character have been shown in history, envisaged an increase in prices for the traditional exports from the South and the mobilization of the additional resources generated in this way (mining and oil royalties in particular) to finance the new stage of growth without any 'transfers'.

Clearly the partners of the redistribution in question are not the 'peoples', but countries. The NIEO did not make the naive mistake of confusing them. In fact export industrialization based on cheap manpower presupposes: (i) exploited agriculture that supplies the towns with a superabundance of proletarianized labour power and cheap foodstuffs: and (ii) urban unemployment, a poor working class and subordinate middle class. The plan therefore was not one of 'development to the benefit of the poor', but one of capital accumulation. Clearly, too, the partners in the conflict were the ruling classes; the battle for the redistribution in question was between capital in the North and states in the South on the ground of division of an increasing surplus.

The absence of analysis of the causes of the defeat of the states in the South leads the Brandt Report, for each issue dealt with, to propose inadequate, misleading and generally naive solutions, a) The report's recommendation - to accord priority to agriculture - is superficial. Such a priority is unquestionable. But the models of colonial exploitation, founded on the same priority (the colonial trade economy, the concessionary companies and the reserves) are the historical source of the current wretchedness of the African countryside. The 'new' policies (bureaucratic incorporation, kulakization or agro-business - proposed by the World Bank) reducing the food priority to food production plans without questioning the overall policy of world integration - are bound to aggravate the wretchedness of the peasants.

'Food priority' should mean something very different (i) a challenge to all aspects of the global policy (income distribution, real wages and agricultural prices, taxation and finance, and so forth); (ii) establishment of industries to serve the agricultural priority and not export, or to meet the relevant demand on the basis of existing structures; (iii) autonomy for peasant communities in the conception and execution of their development plans (and this goes much wider than the land reforms proposed in the report); and finally (iv) detachment from the criteria of profitability, on the understanding that the establishment of a national and popular economy and society will be in contradiction with the demands of 'international competition'.

What has been said of agriculture is mutatis mutandis also true of other sectors of popular concern: small businesses and crafts serving popular consumption. The Brandt report proposes assistance to the informal sector; it overlooks that this sector, geared as it is to an economy that does not seek to satisfy popular needs, is therefore exploited. Classic language of 'social services' is no substitute for the demands for genuine autonomy for the collective bodies of the people.

Building an economy seeking to satisfy popular needs does certainly require 'internal reforms'. But history and politics show that these reforms are scarcely compatible with the demands of integration in the world system. And why does the report shy away from condemning the policies of 'destabilization' of popular regimes conducted by international powers and institutions such as the IMF?

b) In dealing with the 'less developed' countries the report acts as if it were dealing with a homogeneous group, while a historical analysis has led it to postulate various types of country 'less developed' for differing reasons and tending to their integration in the world system es 'peripheries of peripheries', with some supplying migrant labour (two examples: (I) the second degree trade economy of Burkina Faso in relation to Cd'Ivoire: or (2) reserves, such as the bantustans or Lesotho) and others foodstuffs (an example: the Sahel countries exporting meat and recently cereals to the Benin coast),

c) The timidity in regard to dominant monopoly capital to be observed in the chapter on trade. Was it not ludicrous to propose common funds and other ways of stabilizing trade without taking account of the failure of negotiations? Why ignore the possibility, entertained in 1975, of forming cartels of Third World producers? Surely that was the only way to shift the balance of power in favour of the South?

(d) With respect to energy and mineral resources, where Northern interests are at stake, the report suggests only: (i) accelerating the search for mineral resources in the South through a special fund; (ii) that poverty in the South is produced by the high price for oil! But why accelerate the pillage of the natural resources of the South and preserve waste in the North? Why does the report remain silent on the political economy of the mineral rent and its relationship to the international division of labour?

e) On industrialization, the report seems to regard as positive the results obtained in the 'NlCs' - the semi-industrialized countries of Brazil. Mexico, South Korea, etc. But it overlooks: (i) that a global strategy of localization would necessarily accentuate the unequal development of the South; (ii) that this strategy was based on repressive social policy; growth in GDP and industrial output is accompanied by a stagnation or fall in workers' pay and peasant incomes; (iii) for this very reason the populations of the NICs do not appear to welcome the proposed model: Iran's Shah fell when there was accelerated growth; the democratic revolution in South Korea, the Philippines and elsewhere directly attacks the model entailing political repression; (iv) that, contrary to the model's suppositions, the priority option for export industry does not improve the external balance; are not the NICs the most heavily indebted of all Third World countries?

f) The report limits its comments on the transnationals virtually to a case for a 'code of conduct'. But is there not a further danger for Third World countries in agreeing to bow to the demands of a new stage in the transnationals' penetration of the world economy by granting it a juridical status it does not yet enjoy?

g) Finally, the report regards international labour migrations as advantageous for both partners. What a mistake, when history has shown that the countries of emigration are for ever being impoverished (consider Ireland which had the same population as England when it was sadly conquered, and the effect of emigration), and that in the exceptional case when a country does develop, it ceases this impoverishing emigration (consider modern Italy and Spain).

Of course, the proposed compromises led nowhere. Africa went on drifting. In their weakened condition the African states surrendered. In these circumstances the UN special session on Africa (1986) produced the sad spectacle of Africa begging for 'aid' to keep the system going without any prospect of development. Naturally the aid did not come. Nor has Africa won anything in the area of debt relief, the subject of a special African summit in 1987. Africa is the most vulnerable of empty bellies throughout the contemporary Third World.

Latin America in general is characterized by the newly industrializing countries. It also seemed more resistant to the crisis and maintained respectable growth rates in the 1970s, when these were falling in the developed capitalist world and in some other Third World regions, Africa in particular. Latin America believes it can sustain this kind of development, further complementing the range of export industries by a range intended for the local, national and regional markets. It believes this is necessary to maintain access to capital markets and to massive import of technology. It is thereby accepting increased dependence, just as it tends to line up with the developed world on energy policies.

The Arab world (and Iran), although revealing a level of urbanization and industrialization comparable to that of Latin America, has suffered the consequences of its massive but unequally distributed share of oil production. Agricultural weakness (with a reduced and very uneven potential), the Palestine issue, superpower competition in the region, impasses of the political forces in the forefront over three decades, are jumbled up and lead to a fairly chaotic situation.

The NICs in east Asia are threatened by the narrowness of their internal markets and their extreme dependence on the world market, to a greater extent than in Latin America. The maintenance of their economic model may be difficult and the political chaos in South Korea is doubtless not unconnected with the difficulties of 'change-over'. The south and south-east Asian countries, like the whole of Africa, are suffering from the massive impact of the crisis. The collapse of growth and productive investment, like the worsening of public financial and external deficits, is already commonplace.

Africa's situation in general is even more grave since, as has been shown, neither agricultural revolution nor industrialization has really begun. In these circumstances Africa is on the way to teeing 'marginalized', to undergoing a 'passive delinking'. The modish expression 'fourth world' indicates a 'rediscovery' of the commonplace that the worldwide expansion of capitalism is not synonymous with 'development everywhere', but of development, albeit peripheral in this instance, and destruction in another. Africa, under these circumstances, is bound for such destruction. The real periphery of tomorrow will be the NICs of Asia and America (that is why describing them as 'semiperipheral' is inaccurate, cf. Chapter 6), while the African 'fourth world' will no longer represent the 'typical periphery', but the last remnants of the periphery of yesterday en route for destruction.