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close this bookAfrican Agriculture: The Critical Choices (UNU, 1990, 227 pages)
close this folder1. The agricultural revolution and industrialization
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentThe failure of the modernization strategies
View the documentThe agricultural revolution, but how?
View the documentThe alternative strategy

The alternative strategy

Instead of the false, and metaphysical, opposition between agriculture and industry, consideration should be given to how they are interlinked in 'modernization' theory and practices and how they should be linked in an alternative national and popular strategy. For the agricultural revolution needs industry to make it possible, but not the type of industries so far developed (poorly) in Africa.

To try to schematize the opposing autocentred model/extraverted model, a four sector analysis had been proposed: 1) production of the means of production; 2) production of goods for mass consumption; 3) luxury production/consumption; 4) exports. The autocentred model is defined as one mainly governed by the interlinkage of sectors 1) and 2), and the extraverted model as one mainly determined by the interlinkage of sectors 3) and 4). This analysis leads to a major conclusion: in the autocentred model labour remuneration (wages and peasants' incomes) must necessarily increase according to the pace of the progress of productivity; in the extraverted the labour remuneration can be delinked from the productivity growth.


(i) the development of a contemporary Third World country cannot be achieved through the adjustment of its economy to the requirements of the international division of labour, but through delinking this economy from the international division of labour;

(ii) this delinking is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for an autocentred development which remains impossible if it is not intended for the people (that is, if the benefits of the productivity rise do not go straight to the greater majority);

(iii) conversely, a growth, mainly of benefit to a minority, is possible on the basis of an extraverted development (not always and everywhere possible), but such development is more effective for this objective than is an autocentred model.

In the contemporary Third World, autocentred development is synonymous with a national and popular content. It is now possible to see that the policies implemented in Africa during the 1960s and 1970s have been mainly extraverted In Africa, bearing in mind the contrasts and differences, and different political regimes and numerous changes, there have been four sets of experience:

a) 'Stagnation', associated with a lack of natural resources and/or a stagnant world demand for these resources.

b) 'Stagnation', despite the existence of such resources either potential (but well-known), or even exploited (and at times on a large scale).

c) 'Relatively marked growth', at times even high, associated with the exploitation of these resources, either by the multinationals or by the national state.

d) 'Marked growth', despite the fact that the exploited resources (often agricultural rather than mining) are moderate, due in general to an extensive opening to the exterior; this marked growth being associated with an uneven distribution of its benefits.

Within that framework of conventional economic analysis some motors of effective growth (when it has existed) may be identified: (1) oil and mines; (2) export agriculture (relatively rich: coffee, cocoa; or poor: groundnut); (3) light consumption industries managed in an acceptable way, established by multinationals or the state, modern in techniques, responding to the internal market (import substitution); (4) a lively building sector (linked to the accelerated urbanization and 'prosperity'); (5) administrative expenditures conceived in very classical terms, miming the West in its form and, to some degree, so-called social (education first), growing at a sustained pace; (6) tertiary activities (trade, finance) almost always stronger in growth than the other sectors.

When the global growth has been slight (or zero, or negative) it seems attributed to an insufficient dynamism of (1) and (2) and/or to a doubtful character of (3). If, in addition. (5) and (6) have been pushed, then the linked double crisis of public finances and balance of payments ineluctably worsens the situation. The lack of dynamism of (1), (2) and (3) is attributed either to the evident shortcomings of the country or to its lofty nationalism that refuses foreign capital, a rare factor, It is, or can be, aggravated by the unconcern of the elite, its corruption, and so on.

A steadily backward agriculture almost always stagnant (except in export products) is incapable of releasing a marketed food surplus up to the standard of the effective urban demand. In the most extreme cases, it becomes increasingly difficult for the rural world to feed itself. These disasters or shortages are easily attributed to the climate (drought) or to the careless administrative bureaucracy of the rural world. The policies draining the rural world, which these conventional global strategies of growth necessarily imply, are rarely analysed.

In these experiences, industry has rarely been the driving force of the growth, but the product of a response adjusting to growth, whose chain effects are limited: (i) upstream, through the shortage of basic industries and the weak inter-industrial integration: (ii) downstream, through the uneven character of the incomes it distributes. If the industry restricts itself to a definite number of production units in a position of quasi-monopoly on a small market, and these units provide consumption goods for middle classes, then, even if efficiently managed (that is, without need of subsidies and with prices competitive with those of imports), this industry is derived, and not a driving force.

The alternative option of a national and popular autocentred strategy rests first on the principle of an equitable distribution of income, especially between rural and urban sectors, between the modern sectors with higher productivity and the backward ones. The surplus of the production over the remuneration of labour thus equalized constitutes an excess which, if it is national and retained for accumulation, guarantees a marked growth and a parallel and even progression of popular consumption. Constituted in this way, the structure of demand would show priority in basic needs and orient the productive system towards their satisfaction.

Without entering into an illusory description of concrete details of the measures necessary to implement a development pattern of this type, it can be assumed that:

a) It not only implies a declaration of an agricultural priority, but also its effective implementation. This priority requires that other activities with higher productivity should not provide an opportunity for the distribution of incomes in excess of those distributed in agriculture. The reason for this is that to structure demand in such a way would satisfy the needs expressed by the privileged at the expense of agriculture.

b) It implies that industrialization be first conceived to maintain the progress of productivity in agriculture: production of adequate inputs; infrastructural works; preserving and processing the produce, and so on. It then ensures that industry satisfies the non-food consumption needs of the rural and urban population, on as egalitarian a basis as possible. This national industry cannot be abandoned by substitution through imports, because imports must be paid for through exports, and the comparative advantages are those resulting from the price and income system of the world order, in conflict with the political coherence outlined above. Therefore, imports must be reduced to a strict minimum.

c) It thus implies national and popular forms of social organization of the production: peasants' control over agricultural projects: real co-operatives (which should not be a way of draining the rural areas, depriving the peasants of their hold on production); institutions for collective bargaining of agricultural prices: national control of industries; a national wage policy: redistribution of the financing means on a country scale, and so on It is difficult to imagine how, for instance, multinationals would find a place in this organizational pattern, except, in time and under the strict national control, to provide some limited production or organizational models.

d) It implies that technology is not reduced to its transfer. It is in fact a matter of creating an inventive capacity, not for reasons of cultural nationalism, but because available techniques, especially the more advanced ones, are specific with regard to the range of products, the structure of demand to be satisfied (Western patterns), the price and income structures which control the profitability of these techniques.

e) It implies limited external relations radically different from those derived from the various industrialization strategies, import substitution, or export industrialization. Import substitution is based on an already actual demand in a structure of income distribution characterized by inequality, and on this basis respects the principles of the profitability (with at most some arguments of 'moderate protection of infant industries' during a brief transition). It can, therefore, only displace imports towards the intermediate goods (the industrial apparatus remaining non-integrated) and sophisticated capital goods (as the demand to be satisfied, in competition with the imports reproduces the Western capital's exacting consumption model): it thus remains extraverted National and popular autocentred industry, however, is not built in response to a pre-existing demand, but is created on the basis of the satisfaction of peoples' needs (incomes policy) and intermediate and derived capital needs Imports aim at filling the gaps in the range of these derived needs, but progressively reducing their relative importance (but not necessarily their absolute bulk). External relations are therefore bound to the logic of internal accumulation. The export industry, by its very definition, is extraverted especially as, forced to compete with advanced countries' industry in their own homeland, advanced technology must be extensively imported. This explains why the newly industrializing countries (NICs), which are the most advanced in that direction, are also the most indebted: the export industry does not alleviate the balance of foreign trade (contrary to the argument put forward to that effect, by the World Bank in particular), it aggravates it.

f) It implies building up a national structure of interdependence price/financing means which is in conflict with the principles of the criterion of micro-economic profitability. In fact, the autocentred industry, to comply with the peoples' needs, must accept the juxtaposition of diverse productive units modern industries, semi-mechanized manufactures, handicrafts manufactures. The unit of labour remuneration and that of prices thereby entail unequal surplus, which must be redistributed in order to avoid the polarization of progress in the modern units: and to finance progressive modernization of the backward sectors with the modern sectors' surplus. This is hardly possible on a large scale without big public property: the private national enterprise and, a fortiori, the multinational sub-company cannot at this level accept loss of profitability. In fact, such enterprises act in a directly opposite sense: by destroying the non-competitive cottage industry, they have contributed to increasing unemployment and simultaneously depriving the population of useful products.