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Aid to African Agriculture - Lessons from Two Decades of Donors' Experience - A World Bank Publication. Edited by Uma Lele. The John Hopkins University Press, 1992

This book is a compilation of articles written for the Managing Agricultural Development in Africa (MADIA) study. The study was carried out between 1984 and 1988 by the World Bank, donor agencies and governments (USAID, UKODA, SIDA, DANIDA, the EC, France, Germany) with the collaboration of the governments of the six African countries covered by the study (Kenya Malawi, Tanzania, Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal).

One of the ideas behind it was to draw up a general report on agricultural problems in Africa through a country-bycountry analysis. Its aim was 'to determine the sources of agricultural growth (...) the extent to which domestic policies, the external economic environment, and donor assistance contributed to this growth, the effect of the growth on incomes, employment and consumption and the potential sources of economic growth'. The major factor which influenced donors to participate in the study was their concern about the effectiveness of their assistance to Africa.

In separate chapters, each of the donor agencies gives an overview of its aid policies, a description of aid assistance in various countries, an assessment of performance, and the conclusions to be drawn from their experience. Although technical, the articles all contain a wealth of background information, detailed descriptions of the projects themselves and comprehensive assessments of the negative and positive factors which influenced project performance. The reports have been drawn up within a similarly structured framework to allow greater comparability between chapters.

Throughout the book, emphasis is placed on the importance to developing economies of a broad base in agriculture, smallholder development and adequate institutional and human capacities. The findings would seem to call for greater recognition of the driving role of agriculture in the economy and, as such, the need to back the sector with, inter alia, sound long-term strategies, a well-thought out balance between investment choices (especially as regards food and export crop production), and a stronger human and institutional capacity to accelerate growth, encourage private initiative and allow greater participation in formulating, implementing and pursuing development policies.

The chapter on EC aid focuses on assistance to Cameroon, Senegal and Tanzania in groundnut/cotton, palm oil, and coffee production respectively. It also looks at EC-funded integrated rural development in Cameroon and Tanzania, small-scale projects, food aid, and STABEX. Some of the observations made with regard to the EC experience include the complementarily of food and export crop production, the need for price stability in high-cost irrigation schemes and the direct benefits that small-scale projects offer local communities, such as their ability to generate greater local initiative.

Using the findings of the different participants, the book also puts forward a global definition of the role of donor agencies in promoting agricultural growth by pinpointing the areas in which they can use their know-how - and more particularly their money - to the best advantage. A symposium on the MADIA study was held in 1989, bringing together senior African and donor policymakers who recommended 'the implementation of many of the study's valuable lessons' and a continuing of its 'consultative, nonideological approach to analysis to ensure that donors and governments reach a consensus on the ways and means to spur broadly based agricultural growth in Africa'.

There is no doubt that the book constitutes a significant contribution to development planning both as a set of guidelines and as an information reference to be used by the donors themselves and by national decision-makers in their dealings with them. The book is an evaluation by donors of their experience. However, it is not strictly speaking 'their' experience. It is equally - if not more so - the development experience of the countries with which they have been involved. This in itself points to the need for a greater effort to encourage recipient countries to carry out independent research and analyses of development, including their assessment of the extent to which donor action has contributed or not contributed to development, the policies it has been based on and the methods used to implement it. Finally, recipient countries need more opportunities to carry out studies like these where they formulate and expound their development philosophies, exercise creativity, and define the role they feel should be theirs in determining what - when all is said and done - their fate and future are to be.

Nancy KACHINGWE

Michel Albert - Capitalisme contre capitalisme (Capitalism versus capitalism) - Editions du Seuil, 27 rue Jacob, Paris VI - 318 pages - FF 120 - Bfrs 841 - 1991

This is one of Edition du Seuil's 'immediate history' series and aptly so, for it is an up-to-the-minute discussion by one of the European economic personalities best qualified to analyse the rapidly-moving trends of the modern world. Michel Albert is a 'youthful' commentator in his sixties, sharp, enthusiastic and anxious to win over his readers. He was once Commissioner General for Planning, he became, inter alia, Chairman of Assurances Generales de France and, for the past 20 years, he has been turning out educational pieces on economic and social affairs, with the cooperation of leading political figures and renowned journalists.

The capitalist-communist-third world trilogy which dominated the post-war world is a thing of the past, Albert maintains. It was a simple-minded form of classification because, clearly, there are several Third Worlds and they are all at different stages of development. Capitalism has crushed communism, he says, and there is no call now to talk about two sides, with the developed and rapidly developing countries, capitalists all, lined up against the under-developed countries, the poor ones.

The situation would be satisfactory, intellectually at least, if triumphant capitalism, whose mainspring is competition, had not done away with all its competitors - hence the title of the book. For now we have two models of capitalism, neo-American capitalism and Rhineland capitalism, which are 'of comparable importance', and it is not clear which one will win the day. The former is based on individual success, short-term financial gain and the promotion of these through the media while the latter, found mainly in Northern Europe and, with variations, in Japan, relies on collective success, social consensus and the long term.

The past 200 years, Albert says in conclusion, have seen three phases of capitalism - capitalism versus the State in the 1790s, capitalism backed by the State in the 1890s and capitalism instead of the State now, in the 1990s. So what we have to do is continue with the construction of the working model of Europe which we have with the EC and turn it into a United States of Europe. 'It is everybody's business. For all of us, tomorrow has to be decided today'.

This book simplifies the issue, but it is easy to understand, full of practical examples and well worth reading.

Alain LACROIX

'Third World Debt; how sustainable are current strategies and solutions?': ed. Helen O'NEILL: 143 p.p.: Frank Cass &c Co. Ltd., Gainsborough House, 11 Gainsborough Road, London E11 IRS.

The range of opinions contained in this selection of papers by members of the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes represent an attempt, by contrast with previous works on this subject, to focus on the particular problems of low-income countries i.e. sub-Saharan Africa. Even so, presumably because of a paucity of ACP field-research material, the majority of the case studies examined are of non-ACP countries.

Nonetheless, the basic concepts and theoretical models set out are fully applicable to the ACP case. Moreover, the rigour with which the models and cases are examined, made, at least for this reader, a welcome change from much of the vague verbiage which has surrounded this subject.

The starting point for this work was the clear impression that many, if not most, of the measures taken during the 1980s had as their real objective the preservation of the value of commercial debt, so as to ensure the stability of the global banking system. The fear which that motive bespoke is no longer as great and has indeed been to some degree replaced by a concern about economic stagnation (or worse).

Fortunately the world has turned somewhat since most of these papers were drafted; the 'moral hazard' of debt forgiveness is now understood as less critical, so that measures to reduce the overall amount of debt, rather than merely to reschedule repayments over a longer period, are in hand. The initial results of the Brady plan, which is built around such measures, are encouraging and large-scale debt write-offs by commercial banks have happened without causing their collapse.

Nonetheless, whilst such measures are extremely welcome, they still have only a limited effect in the short term; outstanding debt problems are still such that, for many observers, even the most optimistic scenario will only allow just sufficent improvement to the present situation to permit the debtor countries as a whole to meet the interest payments due, not enough to repay the principal debt.

Perhaps the most problematic area in this field remains the inability to reschedule debts owed to the multilateral institutions, notably IMF and IDA, by reason of the latters' statutes. This fixity has resulted in bizarre situations such as that in 1986 and 1987 when those institutions were net recipients of funds from the Third World, rather than supplying capital desperately needed for development.

A.B.

Eric Fottorino, Christophe Guillemin and Erik Orsenna - Besoins d'Afrique (What Africa needs) - Librairie Fayard, 75 rue des Saints Peres, 75006 Paris - 348 pages - FF110, Bfrs 760 - 1992

The three authors studied political science in Paris. One of them is now a journalist with Le Monde, one is an economist and a director of UNIDO, the UN's Industrial Development Organisation, and one is a novelist (Prix Goncourt 1988) and a top civil servant. Between them, they have written an original book which should appeal to a wide audience.

Read it a little at a time, for it contains much factual information and many a worthwhile thought. Skip through it and take out snippets as you like. Although it is set out in three parts (Vitality, For Information and Heritage), each part with a section on great signs, a happy and lively innovation, it is really a series of short, incisive pieces on a variety of subjects relating to Africa, its people and its prospects.

But it is realistic. There is no attempt to hide the major problems of our time. Must the continent 'inevitably dismay us with its accumulation of calamities, from deforestation to AIDS though dilapidated infrastructure, corruption, migratory pressure, advancing epidemics, guerilla warfare and expanding cities with all their violence and death?' it asks. It comments interestingly on the State as predator, economies being less Stateridden than the State is privatised. 'If the public sector has to be privatised, then the State has to be nationalised'. And it makes very clear that 'Africa has a fatal disease - living off unearned income. People think hiving off is better than producing'.

Is this book an indictment ? Is it pessimistic? Certainly not, for the authors love Africa, praise the spirit of solidarity which other societies so conspicuously lack and have confidence in its future. 'Africa is a genius at hybridisation and mixing and cross-breeding. It will never give itself up entirely to the foreigner. It fits time-honoured recipes of its own into menus from abroad, be they offered or enforced, adding magic to Marxism and animism to Christianity'. This quotation from very near the end of the book betrays the humour that is there throughout. And the Africans need humour, for humour helps. A.L.

Vincent FALLY - Le Grand-Duche de Luxembourg et la construction europeenne (The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and European integration). Foreword by Jacques Santer - publ. Editions Saint-Paul, 5, rue Christophe Plantin, L-2339 Luxembourg-Gasperich - 2 volumes - 1992

The interest this important book has aroused can be gauged from the fact that it received financial support from the Luxembourg Prime Minister's Office and was published under the patronage of the Institut d'Europe Luxembourg and the Fondation du Merite Europeen, both establishments officially recognised as serving the public interest.

However, as the author points out in a brief and over-modest introduction, the book sets out only to be a descriptive work. But even though it is indeed a recital of events, it covers the last 70 years and, as the Prime Minister emphasises in a foreword he has contributed, 'Vincent Fally's book is an exhaustive study of the part Luxembourg has played in European integration from the end of the First World War to Luxembourg's presidency of the European Communities, which culminated in the holding of the European Summit in Luxembourg on 28 and 29 June 1991'.

Luxembourg was the seat of the first European Community, the Coal and Steel Community, as well as being a founder-member of the European Economic Community, and its commitment to Europe has never wavered. It has played a part far outstripping its geographical size the size of its population or its - albeit considerable - economic and financial importance. Thanks to men and women of high standing in European affairs - such people as Pierre Werner, Gaston Thorn and Jacques Santer - an approach combining pragmatism and a forward-looking attitude to the future has always typified its effective work on behalf of European integration.

In the course of ten chapters, Vincent Fally takes his readers by the hand from the First World War to the Treaty of Maastricht, giving a full account of the important part his country has played in the building of Europe. He writes with great clarity backed up by excellent documentation. Each chapter ends with a summary giving the nub of its content, shorn of inessential detail.

The closing paragraph of the two volumes offers much food for thought. It reads: 'Drive, hard work and flexibility are the order of the day - there is no escaping the fact. History has no time for the timid and the spineless. A.L.