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Ramses 94 - Synthese annuelle de l'actualite mondiale

(Annual summary of world news) - Under the direction of Thierry de Montbrial and Pierre Jacquet - Published by Dunod for the Institut francais des relations internationales (IFRI), 6 rue Ferrus, 75014 Paris - 484 pages - 196 es - 1993.

The latest Ramses, which is even larger than usual, is in three sections, dealing with crises and international politics, the international economy (recession and transitions) and sub-Saharan Africa. It includes a chronological list of events for the year (August 1992 to August 1993), a statistical annex, a list of tables, charts, maps and insets, a 16-map annex outlining the state of the world, a subject index, an index of proper names by subject, an index of proper names and a list of subjects covered in previous editions. So here we have a resume of the facts and problems of the planet and how they should be interpreted as well as an outline of the political, economic and social interactions which they generate. The result is an even more important work than previous editions of Ramses.

Part one highlights the problems of an 'unfindable Europe', although, as it was published in autumn 1993, it obviously cannot include subsequent positive developments. It also assesses the chance of 'a fresh start' in the USA and describes changes in 'a multi focused Asia'. Part two looks at three countries in the throes of change - Russia, China and India.

Part three, an appraisal of the development, problems and challenges of sub-Saharan Africa and its position in the world today, is of particular interest to us here. But we should first consider the discussion of the recent changes in China, highlighted by Thierry de Montbrial in his introduction. China, he says 'has embarked upon a dizzy process of development and kept the country together. Its success is partly due to the spirit of the Chinese people (the people are a decisive element in all new industrialised countries) and the positive effect of the diaspora (a country in ruins recovers all the better if there is a prosperous diaspora to invest in it), of course, but the hand of history also has something to do with it Over the centuries, the Chinese have realised that they have every interest in living together (the exceptions being Tibet and Chinese Turkistan). There will be hitches, if only because of the inequalities of development, but China, nonetheless, is once again becoming a leading figure on the international stage.'

Things are very different in sub Saharan Africa, although the authors contrive to point to the handicaps and challenges facing the continent without giving way to deep pessimism. Enough books reviewed in this column have dealt with the subject for it not to need lengthy discussion now. But this book, which is to be recommended, was published too early to include the devaluation of the CFA franc, an idea which was in the air but failed to materialise until January this year, when all but one of the 14 countries in the franc zone devalued by 50%, while neighbouring Nigeria revalued the na by 100%. The French-speaking countries have new and unavoidable difficulties to cope with, particularly their budget deficits - which, in 1993, were twice what they were in 1992, and equal to 2.5 times the total amount of official aid. It will take stringency and a great deal of aid from the international institutions and all those concerned about the future of Africa to make a success of devaluation and cushion its effects on some of the world's poorest people. Alain Lacroix

L'economie de l'Afrique

Philippe Hugon - L'economie de l'Afrique (The African economy) - Editions la Decouverte, 9bis, rue Abe/-Hove/acque, 75013 Paris - Collection «Reperes» - 127 pages - Bfrs 311 - 1993

Philippe Hugon, who taught for 10 years in Africa, is a professor of economics at the University of Parix X-Nanterre and currently runs its development economics research centre (CERED-LAREA). This handy little book is in three parts, covering the macro-economic crisis, socio-economic rationale and economic policies and paths.

The work is somewhat academic in composition, approach and style, it says nothing new about what has caused the problems in sub-Saharan Africa and it tends to overlook the management shortcomings, human weaknesses, under-administration and domestic conflicts. But it does highlight one or two basic, up-to-date figures - for example, GDP in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa (South Africa included) was $238 billion in 1990, comparable to the figures achieved in the Netherlands or Mexico. It is also worth remembering that 35 of the 45 countries have populations of less than 10 million and 15 are landlocked.

Population is another basic factor to be borne in mind. Sub-Saharan Africa (South Africa included) had 210 million people in 1960 and, according to UN forecasts, numbers are expected to have increased to 690 million by the year 2000 and 1340 million by 2025, although the UN does say that this last figure cannot be relied upon, in particular because of the uncertainties caused by AIDS. However, the annual growth rate is close to 3% and currently 20% of the population are under five and 45% under 15. The figures quoted here are for 1990, when Africa (South Africa excluded) represented about 10% of the world population, 2% of its GDP, 1.7% of its exports and less than 1% of all value added in industry.

The author is right to say that Africa has remained an economy where people live without contributing to the production of extra goods and services and that the process of accumulation has never really got under way there. What a pity that this book came out before the devaluation of the CFA franc and do" not therefore comment on this major event. A.L.