Date: Sat, 7 Aug 1999 15:35:05 -0500 (CDT)
From: email@example.com (Rich Winkel)
Subject: AFRICA/ECONOMY: Scholars Demand Alternatives to SAPs
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Scholars Seek New Economic Programme For Africa
By Lewis Machipisa, IPS, 6 August 1999
HARARE, Aug 6 (IPS) - There is growing call in Africa to revive the African Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment Programmes (AFF-SAP), which has been in the archive for 10 years.
This call is being made by a number of African scholars, fed up with the sufferings being inflicted by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs).
The scholars are demanding that AFF-SAP be given a chance.
"Our governments rush to sign these very good documents (AFF- SAP) but then allow themselves to be sidetracked by other forces, namely the World Bank and the IMF," says Choolwe Beyani of the Harare-based African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD).
Beyani regrets that the "AAF-SAP remained at purely bureaucratic level."
The AAF-SAP originated from studies by Adebayo Adedeji, former executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and colleagues at the ECA in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1989.
Accepted as an alternative to the traditional economic thinking, it was hailed as "a basis for constructive dialogue" by the United Nations General Assembly in November 1989. Only the United States voted against it.
"We don't have governments that plan economic development for an African agenda. Structural adjustments programmes by the World Bank have sidelined African indigenous thinking," says Beyani.
As a result, Africa has the largest number of the poorest countries in the world. Of the 42 least-developed countries, 29 are in Africa, according to the World Bank.
Although the AFF-SAP was written by the ECA, the commission now "does not want to acknowledge its document," says Choolwe.
He believes that the commission is indifferent because Adedeji, who championed the programme left the ECA and was replaced by K.Y. Amoako, who for years worked for the World Bank.
The proposed alternative programme, however, never took off the ground due to a lack of funds.
While this is partly true, no study has shown there was ever an attempt to raise funds for the programme. Zimbabwe, for example, adopted an IMF-tailored SAPs just a year after African finance ministers had adopted the alternative programme.
Almost 10 years on, the programme has brought untold suffering among the most vulnerable groups. The disparity between the rich and the poor is widening and Zimbabwe has the second most unequal wealth distribution in Africa. The richest 20 percent of the population consume more than 62 percent of income, according to the ECA.
"SAP has weakened African governments' capacity for economic management by virtue of the insistence that they move out of the economic arena," says Beyani.
He says during the 1980s, multilateral institutions and Northern donor governments pressured increasing numbers of African governments to adopt economic austerity -- or structural adjustment -- programmes that emphasised cutting government spending and balancing exports and imports.
For years, most of Africa's industries were protected by government controls. Prices of basic goods were subsidised. So were social services like health and education. Then came the IMF- inspired SAPs, which eroded the purchasing power of the majority of African people, making it impossible for them to afford medical treatment, and education.
According to AFF-SAP: "No programme of adjustment or development makes sense if it makes people indefinitely more miserable."
One major area that AFF-SAP questions is the insistence on countries to increase exports. AFF-SAP argues even if production of traditional export items could be increased, there will be no instant solutions for African economies.
In a fundamental difference with the Bretton Woods-inspired SAPs, AFF-SAP calls for a change in consumption patterns to favour locally or regionally produced commodities.
At the international level, AFF-SAP calls on multilateral development and financial institutions to support programmes designed by African government to solve specific national problems.
It says "donors should do all they can to respect the development priorities that African countries set themselves, and should give assistance at the most favourable terms."
Africa, once a net exporter of food, now cannot feed its people. About one-third of Africa's more than 600 million people rely wholly or in part on imported food.
"The tremendous contribution of African women to the raising and harvesting of crops is diminished by their meagre share of land, capital, credit and technology and by social and cultural customs and taboos that marginalise their role in the economy," notes the AFF-SAP document.
The crisis has further been compounded by the fact that Africa accounts for a mere three percent of world trade. This share is also declining rapidly.
According to Beyani, the solutions for Africa's problems lies in the continent. "We need a comprehensive study on AFF-SAP", he says. (END/IPS/lm/mn/99)
[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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