close this bookThe Courier - N°159 - Sept- Oct 1996 Dossier Investing in People Country Reports: Mali ; Western Samoa
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L'Afrique est-elle protectionniste- Les chemins buissonniers de la liberation exterieure

(Is Africa protectionist ? Greater economic freedom via the maze)

by Beatrice Hibou. Karthala Publications (22-24, boulevard Arago, F-75013 Paris). 1996. 334 pp. ISBN 286537-633-8.

This volume offers a clearsighted analysis of the foreign trade policies of African states, fraud, smuggling and the way in which the franc zone operates, giving a definitive, reformulated account of structural adjustment.

In her approach, the author is critical of both the liberal political economy and the new trends (the 'new political economy' end the neoinstitutionalist trends) which perpetuate the division between the economy and society. She refers to K Polanyi for whom Man's social relationships include economics and in whose opinion the economic system is managed as a function of non-economic motives.

From this starting point, Beatrice Hibou demonstrates the part played by the unexpected and the unintentional in economic policies as they currently exist, revealing that coherence in foreign-trade policies on the part of African countries is not an economic priority but a socio-political one. In this connection, she shows that structural adjustment programmes have been unsuccessful in making any real impact on protectionist practices, at least in terms of their political and historical bases.

After an overview of (legal or illegal) foreign-trade practices in contemporary Africa, protectionism is clearly alive and well, although much less widely applied and effective than about a decade ago. The reduction in the State's legal powers has meant increased freedom for 'informal networks', various types of dispensation, and an increase in fraud and smuggling.

On the basis of Jean-Francois Bayart's opinion, dating from 1989, the author suggests that the explanation is to be found in the specific nature of Africa's economic history, which is one of independent means, a lack of production and management of dependency without the way in which it operates being affected.

Dominique David

The Reality of Aid

Independent review of international aid. Pub.: J. Randel and T. German. Earthscan Publications Ltd. (120, Pentonville Road, UK London N1 9JN). 1996. 244 pp. ISBN 1 85383 292 8.

The Reality of Aid (now an annual publication) compiled by two NGOs; Eurostep and ICVA, aims to highlight the extent to which donor aid helps developing nations, looking beyond the official publications of governments, banks and inter-governmental bodies. It contains a useful critique of the European Union's various aid policies and the respective bilateral policies of each of its 15 member states, as well as those of other Western nations like Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United States. This year's review highlights, in particular, the need to mount more projects to alleviate poverty, despite aid commitments becoming more scarce.

It says, for example, 'Too much aid is being squandered by governments on projects which have more to do with commercial and political advantage than poverty eradication. Rigorous evaluation needs to identify those programmes which can make an impact -and aid must increasingly be directed only to these areas.

International aid to developing nations has fallen off over the years. In 1994, members of the OECD's Development Assistance Committee-21 of the world's richest countries-allowed their aid to fall to just 0.3 % of GNP, the lowest level for more than 20 years. The review stresses the need for donors to address in particular; policy coherence (environment, agriculture and consumption policies are all linked to poverty), the effectiveness of aid, the failure thus far to invest in people and the fact that the amount of assistance going to health and education is stagnating.

The review also features analytical case studies of various donor activities in selected developing nations (India, Fiji, Cambodia, Peru, Zimbabwe) and looks at Western assistance to post communist countries in transition.

A chapter on the European Union's current development policies, edited by Mirjam van Reisen, a Brussels-based Eurostep researcher, criticises the lack of coherence of EU aid with its Member States bilateral programmes-an issue which is likely to come more to the fore as other European nations join the Union in the next millennium. Ms van Reisen also claims that there are too few staff running the EU's development policies and suggests, in particular, that there is a lack of expertise in the social and poverty areas. She stresses the importance for the EU's political leaders of giving more political clout to the EU's development policies at the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), which is currently engaged in revising the EU's treaties.

Debra Percival

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