Cover Image
close this bookWar and Famine in Africa (Oxfam, 1991, 36 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
close this folder1. Introduction
View the document(introduction...)
View the document1.1 The international context
View the document1.2 Oxfam's experience in Africa
View the document1.3 A Note on methodology
close this folder2 Food insecurity and the new world order
View the document2.1 The new world order'
View the document2.2 The position of Africa
close this folder3 Coping with change
View the document3.1 The intensification of production
View the document3.2 Political overview
View the document3.3 The development of 'Core' and 'Capitalisation Peripheral' areas
View the document3.4 The marginalisation of peripheral groups
View the document3.5 Patterns of social transformation
View the document3.6 The effects on the environment
View the document3.7 Coping with change
close this folder4 Local conflict
View the document(introduction...)
View the document4.1 Conflict and resources
View the document4.2 Wars of subsistence
View the document4.3 Breaking the continuity
close this folder5 Internal conflict
View the document5.1 Connecting local and internal conflict
View the document5.2 limitations of conventional understanding
View the document5.3 War as political economy
close this folder6 War and famine
View the document6.1 Structural considerations
View the document6.2 The overall effect of war
View the document6.3 Some basic parameters
close this folder7 The internationalisation of public welfare
View the document(introduction...)
View the document7.1 The conventions of war
View the document7.2 The internationalisation of public welfare
View the document7.3 The case for reform
View the document7.4 Oxfam's position
View the document7.5 Summary and conclusion
View the documentReferences

2.2 The position of Africa

The emergence of a new world order has stimulated some key developments in Africa:
a the reinforcement of an earlier colonial division of labour at a time when much of the rest of the world is undergoing rapid change and diversification;
b. despite attempts at intensification, a decline in the performance of many of these traditional productive sectors, leading to food insecurity;
c. the growth of internal conflict;
d. the increasing importance of food and welfare aid mediated by the international community.

Only the first two of these factors are examined in this section. Taken together, these interconnected elements provide an outline of Africa's structural position within the new world order. It should be emphasised that this is essentially a new and emerging development. During the 1960s, many African countries reached what, in retrospect, now looks like a high point of economic development and general prosperity.

The division of labour

The informational revolution that has transformed the leading industrial countries has not been repeated in Africa. Indeed, since the 1970s, the pattern has been for various factors to reinforce rather than change an earlier division of labour based upon the export of primary products. This occurred at a time when other developing countries, especially those in the Far East, were switching to the export of manufactured goods (Josling, 1987). Given the simultaneous technological changes taking place in manufacturing, especially the growing use of synthetic materials (Kaounides, 1990), the increased reliance upon traditional primary products is a major concern, which should be seen apart from the adverse market trends which also accompanied this development.

One factor helping to reinforce the old division of labour has been the decline in foreign direct investment (FDI) in African industry. Although in relative terms FDI in much of Africa has never been great, due to lack of infrastructure and high production costs, it began to decline during the 1970s (World Bank, 1989). To take the example of Britain: over the past decade British FDI in Africa has virtually collapsed. During this period around a third of the companies previously involved have disengaged, leaving Africa's share of British FDI at 0.4 per cent of the British world total (Bennell, 1990). A similar capital flight has been observed for South Africa (Smith, 1990). Investors view Europe and North America as better propositions. Dependency theorists may see cause for quiet optimism in this trend. Since the early 1980s, however, African policy makers have become increasingly concerned. Based upon the experience of the Far East, an emerging view is that trade and investment between rich and poor countries can be beneficial, especially if they result in the transfer of technology. In the prevailing climate, however, the prospects for developing such links are not encouraging.

The IMF/World Bank structural adjustment programmes (together with market reforms that some countries have independently initiated, because they are predominantly aimed at boosting the production of primary products) can be seen as an additional factor which has tended to entrench the old division of labour.

The emergence of food insecurity

The growth of food insecurity in Africa is a complex phenomenon. Different countries have often arrived at similar ends, although travelling separate routes. In general terms, Africa has continued to sustain a high level of population growth at the same time as per capita food production has declined. This has resulted in a growing number of countries consuming more than they produce (de Janvry, 1987). Reflecting an increasing urban demand, there has been a corresponding trend for the import of commercial foodstuffs to increase. So far, this trajectory is not untypical of normal development conditions. Many economically viable countries suffer from food deficits, and regularly import to make up the difference. In the case of Africa, however, the situation is different. In the absence of industrialisation, Africa has continued to rely on the export of traditional primary products to furnish the hard currency to purchase commercial imports. This has occurred at a time when the price of primary products has dropped, effecting a corresponding increase in the relative cost of these imports. Deficits have therefore become increasingly difficult, and in some case impossible, to remedy. Due to reasons of climate or instability, such situations have often been compounded by the highly erratic nature of African food production. Moreover, where local surpluses may exist, a lack of infrastructure often limits the scope for internal market solutions. A major consequence has been the increasing role for external food aid at the same time as it has declined in the rest of the world. In 1987/88, for example, the countries of the InterGovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda) alone received 13 per cent of total world food aid (IGADD, 1990).

Food insecurity is now an established feature of the African condition. The statistics are staggering. Among IGADD members, for example, 45 million people, or 39 per cent of the total population, are regarded as 'food insecure'. With the exception of Malawi and Zimbabwe, a similar situation exists among the members of the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe) (Morgan, 1988). With respect to the 'food insecure' themselves, the two largest groups (aside from the growing number of urban poor) are poor rural households and those affected by the growth of internal conflict. In the IGADD countries about 35 per cent of the 'food insecure' (nearly 16 million people) are classed as 'war affected'. In SADCC, since the mid-1980s, food insecurity relating to internal conflict has grown dramatically. It is now estimated that some 12 million people are involved (one third of the population of Angola and half that of Mozambique). They include 6.1 million displaced within their own countries, 1.9 million refugees in neighbouring countries, and 4 million urban people affected by the resulting economic breakdown (Smith, 1990). When the situation in Southern Africa is taken into account, at least half of the total population categorised as 'food insecure' in Africa have been affected by war in some way.