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The Spread of Economic Doctrines and Policymaking in Postcolonial Africa



This article looks at the relationship between economic ideas and policymaking in Africa over the last half century. It discusses the ways in which the focus of economists working on Africa has moved from the structuralist-developmentalist and neo-Marxist perspectives of the 1960s and 1970s, through a neoliberal phase of the 1980s and 1990s, to a more eclectic combination of neo-institutionalism, growth orientation, and welfarist interests in poverty and redistribution issues. These shifts in development thinking, while not unique to Africa, have not been the subject of much debate in Africa. The article argues that such a debate is long overdue, including an interrogation not only of the leverage of foreign interests, but also of the profession of economics itself and the implications of its material underpinnings and social construction on the integrity and credibility of its research. Cet article porte sur la relation entre les idées économiques et l’élaboration des réglementations en Afrique au cours du dernier demi-siècle. Il examine la façon dont l’attention des économistes travaillant en Afrique s’est détournée des perspectives structuralistes-développementalistes et néo-marxistes des années 60 et 70, en passant par une phase néo-libérale dans les années 80 et 90, pour se pencher sur une combinaison plus éclectique comprenant une approche néo-institutionnaliste, une orientation sur la croissance, une politique d’allocations pour les plus démunis, et un intérêt sur les questions de redistribution. Ces changements dans la pensée du développement, tout en n’étant pas propres à l’Afrique, n’ont pas fait l’objet de beaucoup de débats sur le continent. L’article soutient qu’il est grand temps d’avoir ce débat, et de s’interroger sur l’effet de levier des intérêts étrangers, sur la profession même de l’économie, sur les conséquences de ses bases matérielles et sur la construction sociale de l’intégrité et la crédibilité des travaux de recherche la concernant.
The Spread of Economic Doctrines and Policymaking in Postcolonial
Thandika Mkandawire
African Studies Review, Volume 57, Number 1, April 2014, pp. 171-198
Published by Cambridge University Press
DOI: 10.1353/arw.2014.0019
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The Spread of Economic Doctrines and
Policymaking in Postcolonial Africa
Thandika Mkandawire
Editors’ note: An earlier version of this article was presented as the inaugural African
Studies Review Distinguished Lecture at the 54th Annual Meeting of the African
Studies Association in Washington, D.C.
Abstract: This article looks at the relationship between economic ideas and policy-
making in Africa over the last half century. It discusses the ways in which the focus
of economists working on Africa has moved from the structuralist-developmentalist
and neo-Marxist perspectives of the 1960s and 1970s, through a neoliberal phase of
the 1980s and 1990s, to a more eclectic combination of neo-institutionalism, growth
orientation, and welfarist interests in poverty and redistribution issues. These shifts
in development thinking, while not unique to Africa, have not been the subject of
much debate in Africa. The article argues that such a debate is long overdue, includ-
ing an interrogation not only of the leverage of foreign interests, but also of the
profession of economics itself and the implications of its material underpinnings
and social construction on the integrity and credibility of its research.
Résumé: Cet article porte sur la relation entre les idées économiques et l’élaboration
des réglementations en Afrique au cours du dernier demi-siècle. Il examine la façon
dont l’attention des économistes travaillant en Afrique s’est détournée des perspec-
tives structuralistes-développementalistes et néo-marxistes des années 60 et 70, en
passant par une phase néo-libérale dans les années 80 et 90, pour se pencher sur
African Studies Review , Volume 57, Number 1 (April 2014), pp. 171– 198
Thandika Mkandawire is the Chair in African Development at the London School
of Economics (LSE) and currently is the Olof Palme Professor for Peace at the
Institute for Future Studies in Stockholm . He is the former director of the United
Nations Research Institute for Social Development, has served as director of the
Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) and
senior research fellow at the Centre for Development Research in Copenhagen,
and has taught at the Universities of Stockholm and Zimbabwe . His research
interests include development theory, economic policy and development and
social policy in developing countries, and the political economy of development
in Africa . E-mail:
© African Studies Association, 2014
172 African Studies Review
une combinaison plus éclectique comprenant une approche néo-institutionnaliste,
une orientation sur la croissance, une politique d’allocations pour les plus démunis,
et un intérêt sur les questions de redistribution. Ces changements dans la pensée du
développement, tout en n’étant pas propres à l’Afrique, n’ont pas fait l’objet de
beaucoup de débats sur le continent. L’article soutient qu’il est grand temps d’avoir
ce débat, et de s’interroger sur l’effet de levier des intérêts étrangers, sur la profes-
sion même de l’économie, sur les conséquences de ses bases matérielles et sur la
construction sociale de l’intégrité et la crédibilité des travaux de recherche la
Key Words: Economy ; policymaking ; development ; neo-institutionalism ; poverty
The theme of the 2011 conference of the African Studies Association was
“Fifty Years since Africa’s Modal Year of Independence,” and during the
recent outpouring of reflections over these years, much attention has been
placed on understanding how various societal interests and institutional
imperatives have constrained development. However, much less attention
has been paid to the ideas that help us understand any society. It is not
enough to study the interests of various actors in societies, or the exigencies
of institutions, or the limits that structures impose on societies. Ideas matter.
While not always decisive, they do have an autonomous and noticeable
effect on interests and institutions. If we are to understand the last fifty
years in Africa or the future of the continent, then the ideas that have been
deployed matter, whatever form they take—as the scientific understanding
of reality, or as the feverish imaginations of men and women in power, or as
the world visions of the people, or as simply cultural expressions of their
being. In the narrower sphere of policymaking, the neglect of ideas leads to
a partial understanding of African policymaking and the misinterpretation
of its basis. Thus many apparent “paradoxes” in regard to African social
groups’ not playing to type as defined by their material interests or institu-
tional location partly reflect the neglect of ideational aspects of political
practice. The focus on ideas is in no way intended to downplay the other
determinants of knowledge and change; indeed, as this article will suggest,
power arrangements, institutional inertia, and economic conjuncture all
play their role, and the significance of ideas is circumscribed in a funda-
mental way by the dialectical interaction with and among these factors.
For a number of reasons, I have chosen to focus here on particular
ideas related to policymaking in Africa since independence—specifically,
those forming the itinerary of the discipline of economics. First, for much
of the period I cover, economics has played a prominent role. This is not to
suggest that at any given time economics and the issues it points toward
have always been at the center of policy. And indeed, looking back over the
half century since independence suggests that economic ideas have not
always been a central preoccupation, although economic interests have been.
Economic Doctrines and Policymaking in Postcolonial Africa 173
In the early 1960s much of the focus on the ideational aspects of nation-
building and development in Africa was on the arts, history, philosophy,
and political ideologies. And it was precisely in these domains that Africa’s
newly acquired intellectual assertiveness was most pronounced. However,
in the later postcolonial period economic ideas have become emphasized
more and are a much more contested arena than perhaps any ideas in the
social sciences. In addition, the intellectual profiles of African leaders have
drifted toward economics. At independence only 8 percent of African leaders
had education in economics and related fields (business, engineering). By
1980 the figure was 15 percent. It reached 35 percent by 2005 (Hira 2007 ),
and today a stint in one of the international financial institutions is consid-
ered a political plus.
Second, the link between ideas and policies is much more sharply
drawn with respect to economic policy than in any other social policy. I also
believe that in the African case economics has clearly, and one might say
self-consciously, associated itself with policymaking. Because of its relatively
transparent proximity to policy, it provides us with some useful insights into
the fraught relationship between ideas and policy in Africa.
Third, the itinerary of economics in Africa captures the trajectories
of postcolonial African policymaking and thinking quite neatly. The
focus of economists working on Africa has moved from the structuralist-
developmentalist and neo-Marxist perspectives of the 1960s and 1970s,
through a neoliberal phase of the 1980s and 1990s, to a more eclectic com-
bination of neo-institutionalism, growth orientation, and welfarist interests
in poverty and redistribution issues. These shifts in development thinking
are, of course, not unique to Africa.
However, they have not been the
subject of much debate in Africa. There is not yet in Africa anything close
to the large number of publications on economics and its relationship to
policy as there is in Latin America (see Dezalay & Garth 2002 ; FitzGerald &
Thorp 2005a ; Sikkink 1991 , 1996 ). Furthermore, the economics profession
in Africa has rarely been critical of its epistemological foundations, nor has
it seriously considered the deontology of the profession, especially the
implications of its material underpinnings and social construction on the
integrity and credibility of its research. This is in sharp contrast to the situ-
ation of other disciplines, where self-criticism has been rife.
It is also in sharp
contrast with practices among economists elsewhere and the steady flow of
literature on the malaise of the discipline.
In this article I will look at the relationship between economic ideas
and policymaking in Africa over the last half century. I divide postcolonial
policy history into three periods: the planning era, with its predominantly
structuralist premises on development; the structural adjustment era, with its
neoclassical understanding of the economic crisis; and the “post-Washington”
era, with its more eclectic foray into various areas of social sciences although
within a fundamentally neoclassical framework. For each of these phases I
look at how ideas informed dominant policies and how local capacities to
service these policies were developed. I also examine what was happening
174 African Studies Review
to research and teaching in the universities. I do not say much about the
correctness or appropriateness of the ideas that spread, were rejected, or
were absorbed.
First Phase: Development Economics and Planning
The first two modal decades of Africa’s independence were the era of
“interventionism” par excellence in both the developed and developing
countries . Problems of welfare and unemployment in developed countries
and those of poverty and underdevelopment in developing ones were inter-
preted through the lens of Keynesian economics and development economics,
respectively. Although there was little in common between the actual analytical
content of Keynesian doctrine and that of development economics, with
Keynesianism focused on aggregate demand and development economics
focused on supply constraints, the two approaches mostly shared critical
views of neoclassical economic theory and the related acceptance of state
Development economics, building as it did on the ideas of
“catch-up” and implied intentionality (or what Albert Hirschman [1981:10]
described as “a deliberate, intensive, guided effort”), and on the recogni-
tion of the perversity of market failures in developing countries, took it as a
given that the state would play an important role in the development pro-
cess and that countries could deliberately telescope their development
through state action. This called for some kind of national development
planning. Virtually all external donors and private investors accepted devel-
opment planning as an essential exercise, and up until the 1980s they rou-
tinely required, as a condition for the aid or loans, some kind of “plan” that
indicated investment priorities and the “financial gaps” that were to be filled
by external resources. The support was not only for the coordinating role
of the state but was extended to the entrepreneurial role of setting up and
managing enterprises. One should also add here that institutions such as
the World Bank supported the nationalization of the mining industry in
order to reduce price volatility and help finance development (Luong &
Weinthal 2006 ; Ross 1999 ). Significantly, all this resonated well with the
nation-building ambitions of new states. There was not much feeling that
planning per se was an imposition from outside, although there were com-
plaints about the competence and ideas of expatriate planners who were
imposed on them as technical assistants or who ghost-wrote the plans.
Producing Planners
Colonial governments after the Second World War had been engaged in
“colonial welfare and development” planning. In the postcolonial period,
in light of the absence of qualified indigenous planners, both national gov-
ernments and donors relied on expatriates (Green 1965 ).
economists from the erstwhile colonial powers played a central role in the
formulation of these first plans. However, both the politics of indigenization of
Economic Doctrines and Policymaking in Postcolonial Africa 175
expertise and the costs of expatriate skills made it clear that the arrange-
ment was temporary, and the felt need of the policymaking community—
both domestic and foreign—was thus for the training of “development
planners.” In the meantime, training programs (staff development plans)
were set up to send Africans to institutions with courses designed specifically
for students from developing countries (see Helleiner 1972 ). The emphasis
was to be on “applied economics” relevant for developing countries. African
students abroad were often counseled to opt for such economics and not
spend too much time on theory, the result being that African students
tended to only skim the more theoretical work as they were pushed in the
direction of more “relevant” case studies. Recognizing this need for plan-
ners, the World Bank extended the role of its Economic Development
Institute (established in 1955) to train senior government officials. Within
Africa, institutes such as the United Nations Institute for Development and
Economic Planning (IDEP) were established to train policymakers in planning
skills such as national income accounting, input–output models, planning
methods, and “development economics” in senso extenso. An extensive literature
on development planning emerged during this period. Most of this literature
was commissioned by major international institutions (see Helleiner 1972 ).
By the end of the 1960s and 1970s a steady stream of trained planners
were assuming positions in their respective governments, where they had
considerable influence; as David Hirschman observes, planning officers
were the “the flagship of economic expertise in the bureaucracy, the location
of many of its best thinkers” (1999:296–97).
Project Planning Phase
No sooner had the first cohort of trained economists begun to take up their
planning posts than, by the early 1970s, “the crisis of planning” struck. The
economic planning was problematic and quite arbitrary. As characterized
by Marvin Miracle, much of it was “in the macro tradition of unreliable
guesses of current national income combined with desired, but unrealistic,
growth rates and fictitious capital-output ratios” (1969:146): a practice best
captured by Wolfgang Stolper’s tongue-in-cheek book title, Planning without
Facts (1966). Although African economies enjoyed high rates of growth,
there was no clear relationship between this growth rate and the sectorial
targets set by the state. This was a tolerable situation as long as growth was
taking place. The discrepancy became unacceptable when the growth indi-
cators turned negative. This led to the understanding that good plans were
meaningless if there were no well-designed projects for the implementation
of the plans.
In addition, in the 1970s, following the growing realization that economic
growth was not adequately addressing the issues of poverty and inequality,
the international agencies shifted toward “growth with equity” and “basic
needs” strategies.
The new vehicle was not national plans but projects. Poverty
alleviation was to be addressed through integrated rural development
176 African Studies Review
projects focused on small farmers and the provision of urban services.
Robert McNamara, as president of the World Bank, presided over a huge
increase in the volume of lending for such projects; by the mid-1970s, more
than half of total OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and
Development) aid was allocated to infrastructure projects: roads, railways,
water and sewerage, ports, airports, power stations, and telecommunications.
The shift toward project funding was also reinforced by the rise of private
bank lending in the 1970s as the recycling of petrodollars opened many
developing countries to these new lines of credit. Significantly, this kind of
funding paid little attention to the balance of payments and other macro-
economic implications of borrowing.
The new shifts toward project planning put pressure on country and
project staff to get enough projects approved and called for new skills. And
so, no sooner had the cohorts of development planners returned home
with their newly minted M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, than their skills were
described as at best inadequate, and at worst passé. The new game now was
“project evaluation” and “project planning.” All this led to demands by
donors and recipient countries for new skills that existing economists
had not mastered. A new generation of economists had to be trained in the
requisite skills of project evaluation and cost analysis and in sectorial eco-
nomics, transport economics, agricultural economics, economics of educa-
tion, and so on. Institutions such as IDEP added project planning to their
curricula. Once again international institutions commissioned new textbooks
and manuals (Little & Mirrlees 1969 ; UNIDO 1972), which were often dis-
tributed free to universities and government agencies.
Movement toward project analysis did not constitute a significant
epistemic break with the development planning framework, nor was devel-
opment economics as such rejected. Rather, these revisions constituted a
second-order change and were directed simply toward facilitating better
implementation of the development plan and not the fundamental objectives
of economic policy such as establishing a market economy. One reason is
that both approaches shared the “market failure” argument for interven-
tion. The new literature on project evaluation was based on the view that the
market would not capture both the social benefits and costs of particular
projects. Indeed, given the obvious imperfection of the market in the devel-
oping economies, such social accounting of the value of individual projects
was deemed necessary. The state, through its development plans, was
expected to provide the normative basis of cost–benefit analysis (e.g., by
defining the social discount rate).
Academic Research
During the first phase many economists were focused on the national economy,
regardless of their individual ideological positions.
For some this involved
the elementary but crucial task of getting the national accounts in order.
Others were preoccupied with how well the national economy was internally
Economic Doctrines and Policymaking in Postcolonial Africa 177
“articulated” or with integrative role of fiscal policies, while the more critical
were concerned with the adequacy of the national bourgeoisie to pursue
the national project and how the nation-state was integrated into the world
system. Later, individual economists gained knowledge in specific sectors,
but the approach was still from the national perspective. African econo-
mists were interested in industrialization, technological acquisitions, and
the use of the gains from favorable trade conditions for industrialization.
This research was carried out in universities and regional or international
organizations such as the Economic Commission for Africa and IDEP, and
the thrust of most of the analysis was largely within conventional development
and structuralist economics. It tended to be critical of the extraversion of
African economies and the dependent nature of national governments, the
waste of economic surplus, or the failure to plan strategically.
Donor-driven training of economists was largely confined to civil
servants in the planning or project-management institutions. Even when
donors supported the teaching of economics in African universities, there
was rarely any insistence on a particular form of economics other than its
being somehow “relevant.” The overall effect is that economics in the
universities was not “policy oriented” in the simple sense of its being done
at the behest or on behalf of policymakers. Most of the economists did not
work within a directly normative policy framework and definitely not in the
consultancy mode that is now de rigueur. Researchers were, of course, pre-
occupied with the relevance of their work. Indeed, much of the debate on
the relevance of economics was very much among university economists
The independent research within universities shared the overall
view of the policymakers about development and planning. Even the critical
voices of the “Dependence School” resonated with the general nationalist
view that African economies were still under colonial rule and that the state
should play an important role in the development process. After all, a major
text in this vein was written by a sitting president, Kwame Nkrumah
( 1966 ).
This is not to say that there were no efforts by the major powers to push
their own economic doctrines. Efforts to spread economic ideas to the
developing countries were part of the larger struggle against communism.
There was a belief that disseminating the liberal worldview was in the
national interests, and leading development economists in the U.S. moved
easily between academia, the State Department, foundations, and even
the CIA. In general, however, there was agreement that this could be best
achieved by bringing African students to the U.S. and sending U.S. faculty
to African universities. There was no need for any heavy-handed indoc-
trination or steering of the emergent academic communities.
The liberal
worldview could also be enhanced simply by supporting the new African
universities and research centers. Considerable funding of economics,
together with the other social sciences, existed through foundation support
to university staff development programs. Although these foundations
aimed at “influencing economist behavior, through funding economists
178 African Studies Review
they thought were good and not funding those they thought were bad . . . [,]
overall their goals were generally to promote impartial, objective research”
(Backhouse 2005 :378). In the case of Africa, the foundations were content
with providing fellowships for Africans to study at good American univer-
sities without having to insist that the economics studied should be of a
particular type or tethered to a particular policy package. Or, as stated by
David Court of the Rockefeller Foundation,
It was accepted that the only relevant qualification was a PhD from an
overseas university and preferably one from one of the best universities.
From this perspective, staff development was, by definition, national devel-
opment and its measure was the achievement of qualifications, with little
debate occurring about the content of that training. (1994:131)
In retrospect, the most remarkable thing about research during this
first phase was that it was carried out autonomously within universities and
often in splendid isolation from the policy world. It was also not under the
enormous pressures of the monolithic discourse that would be so pro-
nounced in the 1980s and 1990s. The Cold War and resurgent nationalism
militated against such a hegemonic discourse. Furthermore, the predomi-
nance of national funding in universities and the multiplicity of benefactors
permitted some degree of openness to funding non-mainstream ideas and
provided the chance that a broad spectrum of ideas would be funded. The
point here is not to suggest unrestrained intellectual autonomy in African
universities but to underscore the fact that the relative financial indepen-
dence of national universities from foreign funders, the generally more plu-
ralistic intellectual environment in a much less unipolar world, and the
self-assertiveness of new states permitted a much more open intellectual
terrain, at least within university premises, when compared to what was to
happen later.
Second Phase: The Stabilization Phase
The Paradigm Shift
By the end of the 1970s development economies and project planning
were in a serious condition. Development economics simply ceased to
serve the needs of the establishment upon whom its rise had been so
dependent. Preeminence was now given to the macroeconomics of stabi-
lization. In 1981 the World Bank published what was to become popularly
known as the Berg Report, which signaled the end of state interventionism
in Africa. The salient message of the report was that “getting prices right”
would not only address macroeconomic issues but also would provide
private entrepreneurs with sufficient signals to ensure efficient allocation
of investments. There was no need for project planning, let alone national
Economic Doctrines and Policymaking in Postcolonial Africa 179
Not only was national planning abandoned, but so also was project
planning. Mosley and Eeckhout give three reasons for the decline of pro-
ject aid: (1) the growing complexity of the projects and delays in planning
and budgetary allocations; (2) the realization that the success of projects
was not determined in the main by factors internal to the projects but by
external factors, especially policy that affected exchange rates and price
level; and (3) most relevant, the fact that “it was becoming clear that evalu-
ation methods such as internal rate of return which assessed only the direct
effects of a project . . . gave only partial and almost certainly an over-optimistic
view of the efforts of aid” (2000:104). According to the World Bank ( 1988 ),
“although lending targets were met, half of the audited rural development
projects in Africa failed over the 1965–86 period.” The large number of non-
performing projects apparently “sapped the [World Bank’s] . . . confidence’”
(Kapur 1997 :720) and led it to believe that it was the macroeconomics that
was wrong and that no project could be expected to perform well under
such conditions. It was deemed much more important to get “prices right”
than to expend resources on cost–benefit analysis, since the incentive struc-
ture applied to both private and public sector investment.
The “Battles for the African Mind”
The “normalcy” framework and consensus on planning of the first phase in
policymaking had muffled the discord that existed in economic thinking.
The dramatic policy shifts in the form of structural adjustment programs
unleashed what Adebayo Adedeji, then the executive secretary of the
United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), referred to as
the “Battles for the African Mind” (2004:266). The view that ideas were the
driving force behind policy shifts became more prominent during this
phase, when there was dramatic confrontation between neo-Keynesian and
neoclassical economists, with the latter now riding on the coattails of resurgent
neoliberalism in politics. This immediately raised the question in Western
academic circles about the drivers of economic policymaking. Did changes
in direction take place because of endogenous changes in ideas or by diffusion
through normal processes of learning and emulation? Was it the “invisible
hand” at work in “marketplace of ideas,” or was it “the visible feet” of eco-
nomic interests? Was it the persuasive capability of institutions, or perhaps
the weighty compulsions of international factors?
12 The debate spilled over
to Africa but in a much cruder form that pointed to ideological blinkers
and greed as accounting for the pursuit of wrong ideas. The more generous
interpretation was simply that African resistance to good ideas was due to
ignorance about experiences in other parts of the world:
In part, this opposition reflects and is in turn reinforced by Africa’s relative
isolation. African intellectuals have been somewhat cut off from the global
public policy debates that have generated support for economic policy
reform elsewhere in the world. Relatively few of them have been able to
180 African Studies Review
follow policy developments in regions of the world where these reforms
have been carried out. They are less likely to have received public policy
training or had professional experience in the West. (van de Walle 2004 :48)
Changes in policy were thus seen as results of diffusion and learning. It
has thus been argued that movement from so-called inward-looking import
substitution strategies toward export-oriented strategies was due to the
demise of the interventionist schools of thought and the adhesion by
wizened policymakers to neoclassical wisdom. In some cases it was argued
that politicians had ceded the steering wheel to autonomous technocrats
familiar with the new analytical tools. The analogy used was from Latin
America where, it was argued, the training of economists in the universities
of the North had produced a breed of technocrats familiar with neoclassi-
cal economics and literature demonstrating the iniquities of “government
failure” and the virtues of the market. The alacrity with which certain ideas
were adopted in Latin America and Eastern Europe was thus attributed to
the prior existence of communities of scholars who advocated, or at least
held, those doctrines. Some of these technocrats occupied key positions in
the state apparatus, and it was to their intellectual influence that changes in
policy were at least partially attributed. The “Chicago Boys” in Chile are the
quintessential examples demonstrating how a few technocrats can steer a
country’s policies.
This analogy, however, is misplaced with respect to the situation in
Africa. First, the diffusionist arguments assume an incremental process of
learning, while the shifts in Africa were sudden, tectonic, and far reaching.
Second, while the “Washington consensus” could be easily exported intel-
lectually to a number of Latin American countries where “local interlocu-
tors were typically part of the network of alumni from these organizations”
(Dezalay & Garth 2002 :91)—or as in the case of the “Chicago Boys,” had
been “standing in the wings, ready to implement their ideas in the realm of
policies” (Fourcade-Gourinchas & Babb 2002 :549)—the situation in Africa
was different. African countries did not have what has been referred to as
“local bastions of neoliberalism” (Plehwe 2011 :133). Except for the few
economists in the central banks who jumped on to the new dogma with
remarkable alacrity, few economists were conversant with orthodox macro-
economics in other parts of the government, including the Ministries of
Most of the economists were development economists or experts
on “project evaluation” or sectorial economics (such as transport, agricul-
tural, health, etc.).
Consequently, adherents to the doctrine had to be quickly planted on
this conceptual loam and nurtured in a hothouse fashion. African econo-
mists supporting any new policies have often emerged long after the policy
has been adopted or imposed, so that much of their task has been to lend
an aura of legitimacy and “scientific objectivity” to what is at best retrospective
consent (national ownership). And so important policy shifts have frequently
preceded the availability or recruitment of technocrats deemed conversant
Economic Doctrines and Policymaking in Postcolonial Africa 181
with the new analytical tools required for the articulation and implementation
of the new policies. In addition, shifts in policy have been accompanied by
changes in personnel, and have included replacement of native advisors
with foreign ones or the insistence by foreign institutions that if they are to
provide funds to a particular country certain individuals be removed from
decision-making positions. In other words, the technocrats are an endoge-
nous variable to which one cannot attribute the ideational changes, and
therefore they cannot serve as an explanatory variable.
Finally, most national economists and those in regional institutions and
networks such as the African Development Bank, the Council of Development
of Economic and Social Research in Africa (CODESRIA), and the UNECA
were deeply skeptical of the appropriateness of the proposed solution to
the African adjustment crisis (Campbell & Stein 1991; Mkandawire &
Soludo 1999; 2003; Onimode 1988).
Much of what the international
financial institutions (IFIs) were claiming simply produced cognitive disso-
nance and skepticism among African scholars and doubts about the integ-
rity of the research itself, which often consists of brief visits to fill in data in
a standardized macroeconomic model. There was also strong opposition to
adjustment from a wide range of social scientists outside the economics
discipline. Even officials of the central banks were initially skeptical of the
new prescriptions on developmental grounds, arguing (1) that SAP policies
were procyclical and would only make the crisis worse, (2) that the policies
underestimated the structural bottlenecks that inhibited African economies
from responding rapidly, and (3) that they undermined capacities for long-
term growth by reducing investment in human capital and infrastructure.
Much of this opposition simply had no impact. Initially there were pockets
of resistance in economics departments, but much of this was soon drowned
out by a highly regimented and well-funded form of networking among
economists from the IFIs and institutes closely related to them. What
Hirschman had termed “monoeconomics” had triumphed, so that even
diversity of opinion and controversies that still prevailed in the heartland of
neoclassical economics were simply elided.
There were, of course, economists of neoliberal persuasions and there
were many economists who immediately aligned themselves with the new
paradigm. The axiomatic solution to the crisis, as the one suggested by the
“Getting Prices Right” approach, was simple and seductive. Their conviction
was further strengthened by the egregious mismanagement of the interven-
tionist model.
Market of Ideas
As with everything in the era of liberalization, the metaphor used to charac-
terize the conflicts over ideas referred to globalization: “the global market
of ideas.” The “marketplace of ideas” argument is based on a premise from
textbook economics about a separation of producers and consumers of
ideas, who only meet in the marketplace. It is thus assumed that atomistic
182 African Studies Review
economists supply economic knowledge and atomistic policymakers
demand it. In such a market, good ideas triumph and bad ones are defeated.
But as the new institutional economists have suggested, such a view ignores the
role of institutions in the markets and the many “market failures” that charac-
terize markets. First, not so naive as to leave things to the caprices of the “invis-
ible hands,” donors acted to affect both supply and demand of economists,
thus becoming actors on both sides of the system, monopolistically supplying
the skills through technical assistance and financing the production of the
requisite economists. They, in turn, monopolistically ensured that their prod-
ucts were demanded by aid recipients through technical cooperation arrange-
ments, topping up of salaries of selected local experts, and so on. The “market
of ideas” was thus heavily rigged. The World Bank ( 1996 ) described this pro-
cess as “supply driven and geared to satisfying internal institutional demands
rather than the capacity building needs of the countries.”
Second, there are huge asymmetries in communicative power and
control of the resources that each of the actors have brought to the “mar-
One salient feature of the new context of capacity building
was the World Bank’s self-characterization and self-repositioning as a
“Knowledge Bank” (Toye & Toye 2006 ).
The World Bank became “the
single most important external source of ideas to developing country
policy-makers” (Gavin & Rodrik 1995 ). Furthermore, it has increasingly
and more vocally taken on the task of what Robert Wade ( 1996 ) and Robin
Broad ( 2006 ) refer to as “paradigm maintenance.”
It is probably in this
role as an “ideational entrepreneur” that the IFIs have had the most impact
on the spread of economic ideas. In the case of Africa, the World Bank
became a main player in all the “capacity building” initiatives aimed at pro-
ducing the desired type of economists. The Bank also included African
economists in its “spin-off” organizations such as the Global Knowledge
Partnership and Global Development Network (GDN).
The strategy for propagating new ideas involved discrediting those who
still challenged the old development economics or opposed the new
neoliberal dilemma. Earlier generations of economists were denigrated in
several ways: they were blamed for the intellectual underpinnings they had
provided to a failed strategy; or they were simply declared “old fashioned”
and not familiar with the new analytical tools (Fox 1997 ). In some writing
they were dismissed as self-serving rent-seekers who had benefited from the
regime of interventionism. This is no small matter for an individual econo-
mist’s well-being. It is the donors and the ubiquitous and carefully selected
consultants who suggest or sanction the approval of local economists both
directly and indirectly. It is they who define who are “real economists,” and
governments have learned that they save time if they use these donor-certified
economists to prepare their documents or engage donors on their behalf.
Being associated with international “epistemic communities” was both
materially rewarding and intellectually reassuring. Nationals were also
transferred from international positions to national institutions and
selected individuals had their salaries boosted.
Economic Doctrines and Policymaking in Postcolonial Africa 183
In addition, the IFIs could bolster the political clout of these individuals
and “change teams” in the local “palace wars” by making them the gate-
keepers to their country’s access to international finance and by direct finan-
cial rewards through consultancies and salaries. In some cases key individuals
who belonged to the same “epistemic communities” as the expatriate experts
were identified and empowered by them through access to financial and
research resources. In this new “marketplace,” the value of the economists’
expertise was further enhanced by the technocratic turn in policymaking
that came with the new emphasis on “political credibility” as essential to
attracting foreign investment. And government officials were made to believe
that economists are desired not only for their knowledge, but also for their
cosmetic and even “guru effects” to calm the “animal spirits” of jittery inves-
tors by signaling to foreign capital markets that a country was in the right
hands and pursuing “sound policies” and thus was safe for investment
(FitzGerald & Thorp 2005b). Sobriquets such as “American-trained,” “former
World Bank official,” “Harvard-trained,” “nonideological,” and “analytically
proficient” were used to characterize financial officials as proficient.
Palace Wars
Many battles over ideas were not fought in the “marketplace” but within and
between institutions, often with the help of their international counterparts,
with each one defending the set of policies that fell under its international
mandate. It is necessary to point out here that in terms of the international
development agenda there was a dramatic shift from the approaches of
United Nations agencies, with their sector-specific specialization and direct
operations with related “spending ministries,” to the Breton Woods institu-
tions, with their close links to central banks and Ministries of Finance. Quite
frequently, “palace wars” pitted “technocrats” against benighted or greedy
political actors. This partly arose from the tendency to consider as “techno-
crats” only the small band of economists attached to the Ministries of
Finance and often working directly under the tutelage of international
financial institutions. And yet the fact is that there were other technocrats
in other ministries who may have had other interpretations of and alterna-
tive solutions to the crisis, as colored by their own ministries’ mandate and
the time horizon over which their major activities are conceived. In the
immediate postcolonial years the “spending ministries”—Ministries of
Planning, Trade, Industry, Education, and Agriculture—occupied central
positions in their governments. Ministers of Finance basically accommo-
dated their expenditure needs. The new emphasis on the watchdog role
of finance ministries shifted authority from the “spending” ministries to the
finance ministries and institutions. In the process it enhanced the position
of economists in these ministries while undercutting that of specialized
economists in the “spending ministries.” Thus, although technocrats in
planning divisions and so-called spending ministries may have clung to
some developmentalist views of their own activities and tended to insist on
184 African Studies Review
the long-term effects of any particular set of policies (FitzGerald & Thorp
2005a ), they were now in much weaker positions institutionally. And in any
case, many donors found it unnecessary to hold a dialogue with local econ-
omists, most of whom remained highly skeptical of adjustment packages.
Instead, they appealed directly to the political leadership. Eboe Hutchful
(2002:152) notes that in Ghana, for instance, the “World Bank negotiators
had learned that . . . it was sometimes advantageous to commence with the
politicians rather than the technocrats, and that all that was needed was
Rawlings’ personal commitment to ensure that a policy would be carried
[out].” Governments, in turn, also realized that it was much easier to make
use of economists who were accepted (or even paid for) by donors, as this
facilitated dialogue, or more prosaically, the release of what Hutchful ( 1995 )
refers to as “policy rents.” Local economists may thus have been pushed in
the direction of the IFIs’ thinking by their own governments.
Capacity-Building Once Again
The absence of “local bastions of neoliberalism” called for remedial action,
if only to address an issue that became progressively more problematic and
required local capacity—the lack of “ownership” of policies by Africans
themselves. This lack was blamed for the ineffectiveness of the conditional-
ities that came along with the new policy package. To solve the “principle-
agent” problems that had bedeviled conditionality, it was argued that
“ownership” of policymaking must be transferred to nationals. This was to
be achieved in two ways. One way was to maintain the charade whereby key
position papers such as those for meetings of the Paris Club, which suppos-
edly reflected government opinion, were ghost-written by donors who then
turned around and praised the recipients for their thoughtful propositions.
However, such attempts at transferring “ownership” to Africans have on
several occasions been as farcical as to border on a hoax. The “ownership”
reserved for Africans did not include the generating of their own policies,
but rather the “ownership” of prepackaged policies. As Elliot Berg observes,
there is a lack of autonomous intermediaries in heavily-aided countries. . . .
Donors spend much of their “dialogue” in discussion with captured insti-
tutions and officials who are direct beneficiaries. . . . It is unclear how
genuine many of these partnerships are, given the differences in power
and knowledge between the aid donors and their local partners. The result
is that feedback has become distorted and often unreliable. (2000:32)
This was ultimately self-defeating, as it bred cynicism and mistrust among
the local counterparts. Ideas are most potent when they are completely
internalized and “owned” by local experts. The efficacious way of achieving
this was to produce what Ngaire Woods calls “sympathetic interlocutors . . . who
understand and are sympathetic to [the] reform agenda” (2006:68). The
solution was to provide such local counterparts with the requisite skills and
Economic Doctrines and Policymaking in Postcolonial Africa 185
imbue them with an intellectual inclination that would enable them to
“own” the hegemonic orthodoxy so that it “comes naturally” to them, so to
In such situations, external actors need not exert any direct influ-
ence in order for their agenda to be carried out.
Storming the “Ivor y Tower”
As in the earlier phase, donors embarked on new programs to train African
economists in government in the new stabilization economics. Both the
World Bank and IMF significantly increased their “capacity-building” pro-
grams. At the national level “workshops” became a popular instrument for
proselytizing new ideas. The in-house training of economists or the identifica-
tion of certain individuals as such was not enough. The apparent success of the
“Chicago Boys” encouraged the view that one could train university economists
in particular tools or approaches, offer them research funding, disseminate
their ideas, and place them in key positions within so-called change teams.
And so it was necessary to get at the root of the problem—the universities.
We noted earlier how removed the international financial institutions were
from economics departments in the universities during the earlier phase. This
arms-length stance of the aid establishment toward the teaching of economists
in universities changed dramatically in the era of adjustment.
International donors now took up a more proactive position in trying
to shape the content of teaching in African universities and sought to enter
directly into the process of organizing degree programs through a process
that involved bulldozing one’s way through the universities and research
In its new role as the self-proclaimed “knowledge bank,” the
World Bank not only trained policymakers in its own institutions, but also
sought to change university education and to directly or indirectly control
various research networks.
According to the World Bank, the aim was to
create “competent reputable technocrats” deserving of their “recognition,
appreciation, prestige and awards” (1997:83,91–96). More troubling for
the prospects of a broad agenda in the teaching of economics in the univer-
sities is that even the private foundations changed position. For a while the
foundations seemed to have lost interest in economics or simply let it
develop in the directions that universities and individuals scholars deemed
This began to change in the era of adjustment. However, in contrast
to the more open-ended support of economics in the 1960s and 1970s, this
time the funding was tied to policy and a research agenda driven by the
exigencies of SAPs. David Court, then at the Rockefeller Foundation,
explained the shift thus:
Now, after twenty-five years of experience, the deficiencies of some overseas
training and a context of financial austerity must lead to the definition of
fellowships in terms of required skills and experience, rather than simply
the achievement of a degree. The more precise we can be about desired
outcomes, the better placed to decide how they can be achieved. (1994:131)
186 African Studies Review
This intensive focus on the training of economists led to an unprece-
dented investment in this one branch of the social sciences, with a con-
centration on the macroeconomics of stabilization. In perhaps the most
spectacular attempt to transform a discipline ever carried out in any
continent, a group of donors, with the support of the Rockefeller
Foundation, set up the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC)
in July 1988 with the principal objective “to strengthen local capacity
for conducting independent, rigorous inquiry into problems pertinent
to the management of economies in sub-Saharan Africa” (see mission state-
ment at ). It is worth noting that at this period univer-
sities faced serious financial crisis so that both institutional and individual
survival strategies weakened the intellectual resolve to resist these new
The outcomes of this hands-on “capacity building” and spread of ideas
have been a source of many mea culpas by the aid establishment (Jaycox
1993 ; World Bank 1996 ; Valdelin 1998 ). Expectedly, the World Bank ( 1996 )
laid some blame for the “flawed approach” on “host governments’ failure to
develop a coherent vision of capacity building, leaving the field open for
donors to impose their own ideas.” In light of the World Bank’s involvement
in the disruption of national planning and its squeeze on tertiary education,
this is a fair remark.
Third Phase: “Goodbye Washington Consensus, Hello Washington
By the mid-1990s, many observers of African economies agreed that
structural adjustment had not generated the “accelerated development”
that the Berg Report had promised.
Already in 1989, the World Bank
had been constrained to ask, “Does Africa have special structural prob-
lems that have not been properly understood? Have the external factors
been correctly assessed? More fundamentally, is there a long-term vision
that is both credible and energizing?”
These questions signaled the
failure of the “Washington Consensus” to stimulate economic growth
and structural change. It was also clear that one major objective of devel-
opment policy—the eradication of poverty—had not been addressed by
structural adjustment. By the end of the 1990s the World Bank had to
acknowledge that the failure of SAPs as development strategies called for
going “beyond the Washington Consensus,” as it titled its 1998 report, to
address the issue of poverty, which was now understood as complex and
To compound matters, economists in the IFIs distanced themselves
from the “consensus” around which the new training of African economists
was anchored and began to look elsewhere for explanations of the “African
Tragedy”—ethnic diversity, unfavorable geography, colonial history, and so on.
All this undermined the policy focus of earlier capacity-building programs.
Economic Doctrines and Policymaking in Postcolonial Africa 187
In its report of 2000, the World Bank made some attempt toward such a
broad perspective. The result was a rather eclectic report that tried to
take on board virtually all the determinants of growth that the “new
growth theories” had thrown up. This state of disarray is summarized by
Lindauer and Pritchett in their account of the “end of Big Ideas”: “it seems
harder than ever to identify the keys to growth. For every example, there
is a counter-example. The current nostrum of one size doesn’t fit all
is not itself a big idea, but a way of expressing the absence of any big
ideas” (2002:13). The foundations upon which the highly structured
“capacity building” edifice had been built were shaken. According to the
World Bank,
The central message . . . is then that there is no unique universal set of
rules. . . . Thus we need to get away from formulae and the search for
elusive “best practices,” and rely on deeper economic analysis to identify
the binding constraints on growth. . . . This much more targeted approach
requires recognizing country specificities, and calls for more economic,
institutional, and social analysis and rigor rather than a formulaic approach
to policy making. (2005:xiii)
Once again, the shift by donors left capacity-building institutions in Africa
in the lurch.
Now a number of things were recognized as important. The first was
that politics and institutions mattered. In this respect the centrality of the
state to the effort of “catching up” was recognized. This was interpreted
to suggest that training in institutional analysis was important (AERC 2004).
According to the AERC executive director, this signaled a growing interest
in “political economy issues as a way to explain why Africa has lagged
behind other continents” (LyaKwurwa & Ajakaiye 2007 ). Accordingly,
leading political economists were now brought into the training of econo-
mists in Africa. The approach drew heavily on public choice theories
was premised on finding the answer to the question as to why African poli-
cymakers failed to adopt the “good policies” promoted by the IFIs—even as
the value of such policies was being severely challenged.
The second was that investment in infrastructure was necessary. It
immediately became clear that, irrespective of how much structural adjust-
ment and market liberalization had been pursued, there are always infra-
structural projects for which there is no market and whose identification
involves some nonmarket appraisal. World Bank economists began once
again to produce studies suggesting that infrastructure is good for economic
growth (Calderon & Servén 2004 ; Foster & Briceño-Garmendia 2010 ; World
Bank 2009 ) and serves the new agenda on poverty.
The third was that some form of national planning—or in the words of
a former president of the World Bank, “Comprehensive Policy Framework”
(Wolfensohn 1999 )—was necessary. The multinational Commission on
Growth and Development (launched in 2006 and known informally as the
188 African Studies Review
Growth Commission—see ) spoke positively of planning
boards in Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia. Botswana was praised for “a
tradition of long-term planning guided by a vision for the future direction”
(World Bank 2008). The Commission for Africa of the U.K. bemoaned the
“weak institutional capacity (that) prevents the state from undertaking its
responsibilities effectively, whether planning and budgeting, managing
development assistance, providing services or monitoring and evaluating
progress” (2005:135–36). These effects of “uncreative destruction” and the
forced process of displacing old capacity with new have been evoked by
donors to argue that African economies are unable to absorb aid because
they cannot draw up long-term plans for the utilization of aid or elaborate
project documents for financing.
Once again a cohort of economists was confronted with the reality that
their skills in stabilization macroeconomics were not up to the new task.
Economic training had to move from preoccupation with stabilization to
a focus on economic growth (Commission on Growth and Development
2008 ). There is also the need for more specific sector knowledge. There
simply were no national planners, no industrial economists, no urban econ-
omists, no transport economists, no health economists. The return of aid to
infrastructure has revived interest in project evaluation and cost–benefit
analysis (Foster & Briceño-Garmendia 2010 :18). This requires a new breed
of economists who are not only competent in using a number of tools but
who also have a holistic view of the development process, more fine-grained
knowledge of different aspects of their national economies, and the social
savoir-faire to productively engage their societies in a broad developmental
agenda. To confound things further, some of the freshly baked products of
“capacity building” around the stabilization and liberalization agenda who
were then assuming key positions turned out to be more orthodox than
their trainers now wished them to be. Focused on static allocative efficiency
and stabilization, they had problems adjusting to the new focus on growth,
prompting the World Bank to insist that
Reforms need to go beyond the generation of efficiency gains to promote
growth. The policy focus of reforms in the 1990s enabled better use of
existing capacity but did not provide sufficient incentives for expanding
that capacity. While this emphasis on efficiency was warranted at a time
of extremely large distortions and waste, it also explains the frequent
instances of stabilization without growth or liberalization without growth.
Similarly, central banks turned out to be more conservative than had been
The forced process of displacement of old capacity with new had disas-
trous effects in terms of the ability of governments to deal with the crisis,
rendering them less able to formulate their own positions and negotiate on
an equal footing with the IFIs (Hirschmann 1999 ). Today governments
Economic Doctrines and Policymaking in Postcolonial Africa 189
complain that they cannot find economists to help them draw up new
national plans, facilitate their access to global financial markets, or evaluate
projects in which they can invest their newly acquired wealth in productive
activities. As one minister informed the author, “All they [economists] say is
that we should strengthen our reserve position or set up sovereign funds.
Nothing about how we can productively use them for national development.”
Donors themselves frequently complain about lack of local counterparts
with whom to bargain or plan for new activities in infrastructure, agricul-
ture, and so on.
This lack of economists with knowledge of development
and sectorial economics affects not only the recipient countries but donors
as well, a fact that shows up in the phenomenon whereby some of the major
advisors on macroeconomics are now morphing into specialists on infra-
structure, urbanization, industrial policy, and energy without any evidence
of prior demonstrated skills in these areas.
Research Environment Today
The current research environment is much more open than it has been in
the past, and for a number of reasons, most of which are connected to a
general loss of policy traction by the Washington institutions. The first
reason is the crisis of neoliberalism worldwide and the failure of structural
adjustment in Africa. This has led to a more eclectic “post-Washington
Consensus” policy agenda that leaves some room for other concerns. In
light of this, donor-funded economic research institutes and networks
began to rework their agendas. This shift in research away from an empha-
sis on macroeconomic management was captured by the AERC (2004):
The current thematic areas are Poverty, Income Distribution and Labor
Market Issues; Trade, Regional Integration and Sectorial Policies;
Macroeconomic Policies, Stabilization and Growth; and Finance, Resource
Mobilization and Investment. This current set of themes evolved from a
consolidation of macroeconomic and trade issues to make room for
the introduction of the theme [of] poverty and labor markets and . . . the
incorporation of issues [of] natural resource management, agricultural
policy[,] . . . and food security.
The second reason is democratization, which has created space for views about
the economy that differ from orthodoxy. Although initially new democracies
pursued orthodox policies (Mkandawire 2004 ), with the passage of time
the shift was increasingly toward more “home-grown” policies, reflective
of the emergence of new social groups and political parties that were
now making their own demands for economic expertise and providing
their own economic analysis, albeit without the technical finesse of the IFIs.
The third reason is the reduced financial reliance on Washington. African
economies now enjoy greater autonomy, largely due to improvements in
their trade positions. When African economies have found themselves in
190 African Studies Review
favorable economic circumstances (e.g., adequate foreign reserves or improved
terms of trade), they have pursued more developmentalist/nationalist
policies and consequently are more receptive to ideas that were typical of
development economics. The fourth is the growing influence of other
donors not quite beholden to the Washington Consensus or any of its variants
(e.g., China) and more receptive to the “developmentalist” intention of
African countries.
The fifth is the paradigmatic crisis of neoliberalism,
especially following the Asian financial crisis and the Great Recession still
haunting much of the developed world. The crisis has severely eroded the
respectability of the peripatetic advisors who served as purveyors of knowl-
edge from “The Knowledge Bank.” The recourse by Western countries to
policies they had declared taboo for African countries (bail-outs, nationali-
zation of enterprises, stimulus packages, and other countercyclical measures)
has helped African critics of the neoliberal development agendas. And
finally there is the revival of African universities and the increased invest-
ment by African governments in their own universities. This is allowing for
more autonomous research not tethered to donor-dominated research
networks and consultancies. But whether this window of opportunity will be
exploited by the African research community is another matter.
Concluding Remarks
In any society, there are many determinants to the generation and adoption
of ideas. These include special interests and the societal pressures they exert,
scientific progress in the research community, contagion and “international
demonstration effects,” and institutional imperatives. All these factors have
been at work in Africa. The various explanations for the determinants of
policy are not as neatly distinct as they are often claimed to be, and at any
given time each of these factors has some explanatory value.
I have traced the path through which the teaching of economics and
the choice of research themes have followed the changes in donors’ preoc-
cupations. However, the weight of each of these matters is contingent upon
a number of factors: the constellation of power and alignment of interests;
the nature of the economic crisis; the prevalent domestic ideational atmo-
sphere; and the international context. Economic conjuncture is important
in determining the donors’ leverage and recipient’s acceptance of foreign
diktat and the balance of forces between domestic and external forces.
While in Africa the demands of the aid donors for specific types of knowl-
edge and skills have always played a role and fundamentally affected the
rise and fall of any particular focus in economics research, the donors’ pre-
eminence became more pronounced in the era of adjustment, trumping
local ideas about the economy and local special interests. This is partly a
reflection of the crises in the African university and partly a consequence
of the dominance of donors, especially the IFIs, in both policymaking and
research on African economies. Current understanding of development
policy is that it involves “self-discovery” and is only effective if it is context
Economic Doctrines and Policymaking in Postcolonial Africa 191
specific (Hausmann & Rodrik 2002 :1). The knowledge required is not simply
of the passing moment but also of the historical process and structural factors
that have brought an economy to the present state and that condition or
limit actors’ choices. This calls for a process of knowledge generation that
is reflexive and cumulative, whereby new ideas build on previous knowledge.
The organization of such a cumulative process differs from one designed to
simply spread or equip recipients with ideas deemed appropriate by whoever
controls the purse or in response to the “flavor” of the moment.
Earlier versions of this article were presented as the Keynote Address at the
November 2011 meeting of the African Studies Association in Washington,
D.C., and as a keynote speech at the Ethiopian Economic Association con-
ference held in Addis Ababa in 2003. The author would like to thank par-
ticipants at both conferences for useful and stimulating comments. I would
also like to thank Charles Gore, Valpy FitzGerald, the late Derrick Gondwe,
Gerry Helleiner, Chinyamata Chipeta, Berhanu Nega, and Tiyambe Zeleza
for useful comments on an even earlier version. The usual caveats about the
author`s sole responsibility hold.
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1. These shifts are traced in Bloom ( 1998 ); Gavin and Rodrik ( 1995 ); Kapur,
Lewis, and Webb ( 1997 ); Lindauer and Pritchett ( 2002 ); Thorbecke ( 2007 ).
2. See, for instance, Mafeje ( 1993 ); Mamdani (1993); Mkandawire ( 2000 ); Diouf
( 1993 ); Imam and Mama ( 1993 ); Zeleza ( 2003 ).
3. One should note here that there were “structuralists” who paid attention to the
Keynesian problem of aggregate demand (see Furtado 1965 ; Vera 1998 ).
4. Writing about planning in Nigeria (and this could have been said about any
African country), Reginald Green observes:
Even more basic, neither the planning process nor the resultant plan shows
evidence of any serious attempt to make the economic targets and policies repre-
sent national goals in more than the vaguest sense. For all practical purposes
the federal plan was drawn up by a limited number of expatriate economists,
working virtually in a vacuum so far as detailed direction or consultation with
political leaders went, and with only peripheral advisory contact with Nigerian
civil servants and planners. (1965:254)
5. Examples of such planning are the works of Jan Tinbergen ( 1959 ) and Albert
Waterson (1965), commissioned by the World Bank. The United Nations also
commissioned several studies, including one by Arthur Lewis (1966).
6. These strategies never quite caught on in Africa, partly because most of the
economists and regional organizations were preoccupied with the issue of the
new international order (see Mkandawire 1980 ). In any case, this phase, and
the flirtation with “basic needs” and “redistribution and growth,” were too brief
to have allowed for the initiation of programs to train a new breed of economists.
7. Paradoxically, while more resources were being expended on training Africans
in cost–benefit analysis, the World Bank relied less and less on the technique,
presumably because the McNamara “new style” of poverty-oriented lending
“entailed lending for small projects based on less information, using well-
documented techniques and involving more costs and benefits that were difficult
or impossible to quantify using standard economic analytic tools” (Finnemore
1996 : 213). Thus, while the donors preached cost–benefit to developing countries,
they themselves ignored the tools (see Little & Mirrlees 1990 ).
8. This would be true of the work of such economists as Kofi ( 1974 ), Okigbo ( 1981 ),
and Onitiri ( 1967 , 1969 ).
Economic Doctrines and Policymaking in Postcolonial Africa 197
9. On the review of and debates about books on teaching economics in Africa, see
Kimble ( 1969 ).
10. Strangely enough, Nkrumah’s book does not seem to have had much influence
in the new “Dependence School,” which tends to dismiss thinking among African
leaders as “petty bourgeois.”
11. Or as Edward Berman (1983:83) observes: “Foundation personnel felt that the
socialization of key Third-World nationals into the norms of Western social sci-
ence could play a determining role in helping to ensure that those individuals
would follow development paths that, minimally, were not antagonistic to the
interests of the United States.”
12. See, e.g., Blyth ( 2002 ); Colander and Coats ( 1989 ); Hall ( 1989 , 1994 ).
13. This can be accounted for by the fact that that, as FitzGerald ( 2003 ) notes,
those central banks never accepted developmentalism in the postwar decades.
14. See also the papers in Mkandawire and Soludo ( 2003 ) and Onimode and Institute
for African Alternatives (1989).
15. There are many other sources of “market failure” in the “market of ideas.” See
Blocher ( 2008 ).
16. On some of the tensions and debates in the Bank’s desire to become a knowledge
agency, see King ( 2002 ).
17. Such paradigm maintenance includes “incentives in hiring, promotion, and
publishing, as well as selective enforcement of rules, discouragement of disso-
nant data, and actual manipulation of data (Broad 2006 :387).
18. One of the most bizarre attempts to impose a change team was the case of the
“Dream Team” in Kenya led by the renowned paleontologist Richard Leakey
and which included technocrats from multilateral agencies, some of whom
were reportedly paid as much as U.S.$25,000 a month in a country where
senior civil servants earned less than U.S.$1,500. The team was funded from a
$27 million public-sector management technical assistance project funded by a
group of donors led by the World Bank and was designed to “take the reins of
government departments and reassure international investors” (Crawley 2001 ).
The team was disbanded two years later after failing to turn around the economy
19. Tony Killick ( 1997 ) reports that “letters of intent” that were ostensibly from
governments were almost invariably drafted in Washington, with the govern-
ments left trying to negotiate inconsistencies in the document they received.
He adds: “It is difficult to imagine a procedure more subversive of ownership.”
In an even more bizarre situation, the World Bank is reported to have drafted
a response to one its own directives!
20. The international “epistemic community” has been highly circumscribed and
hierarchical. It is quite remarkable how the same names appear in the consul-
tancy teams or networks working on the training of economists in Africa.
21. This seemed to have happened in a number of countries. On Nigeria, see
Olofin (2007:5).
22. The trick was how to find a Pinochet counterpart to complete the story.
23. In many cases donor pressure was such that quite a number of economics
departments entered into degree programs without the formal approval of
their own faculties or senates. In the Francophone countries the strategy was to
separate economics from the law faculties and to push for closer links with the
more “Anglo-Saxon” economics of French-speaking Canadian universities.
24. Significantly this was the time when the World Bank was pushing its case against
university education as a whole.
198 African Studies Review
25. Foundations that had provided more open-ended support to economists had
lost much interest in the subject:
The foundation’s ardor toward economics has substantially cooled. A marriage
that seemed made in heaven has ended in some places at least in a trial sep-
aration or divorce. To my knowledge, with only one exception (headed by an
economist), none of the major foundations today has a program aimed at as-
sisting the discipline as such, and expressions of skepticism from foundation
officers about the utility of the subject have become commonplace. (Goodwin
1989 :138–39)
26. The subheading of this section draws from the title of an article by Dani Rodrik
( 2006 ) which aptly summarizes the message from the World Bank report (1998).
27. As Adebayo Adedeji remarked, these were “pertinent and fundamental questions”
which should have been asked and answered “before designing development
strategies, not after they had failed, causing severe hardship and rending the
fabric of African institutions” (2004:257).
28. Two major works justify this statement. The first is a special supplement of Journal
of African Economies (Ajakaiye, Drazen, and Karugia 2008 ). The second is the
two-volume book edited by Ndulu et al. ( 2008 ).
29. Thus, for instance, Fay et al. ( 2005 ) argued that infrastructure was important in
achieving child health–related Millennium Development Goals. See also Leipziger
et al. ( 2003 ).
30. As Grindle (1996:35) writes,
A frequent sight in ministries of finance and central banks throughout the
region (Africa) was the current mission from the IMF or the World Bank poring
over figures, complaining about the lack of data and the unreliability of the
data that existed. Equally frequent were complaints that there was “no one to
negotiate with” because existing economic skills among state officials were low
or even nonexistent.
31. China’s recent attack on the “Doing Business” report of the IFC and the World
Bank ( ) is symptomatic of a more active engagement by
China of the dominant ideological apparatus.
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Thanks to oil revenues, since the end of the war in 2002, Angola has largely eschewed the usual donor conditionalities in its state-led reconstruction process; the 2014 oil price drop, however, revealed the limits of this economic miracle. Coupled with a long-overdue political transition inside the ruling party, this moment of designated crisis has opened up spaces for elites to inject their continued projects of accumulation with the moralizing language of neoliberalism – talk of efficiency, responsibility, and the proverbial tightening of the belt. Based on fieldwork around the recently modernized transport hub of Lobito, the article examines how these tropes have been deployed and adapted, first to position Angola as a ‘business-friendly’ environment, and then to justify largely self-inflicted austerity measures. By examining the everyday working of real existing neoliberalism through the eyes of the port’s users, the article suggests that Angola’s turbulent history provides a fertile ground to advance, in this moment of crisis, agendas of capital capture, cloaking them in the mantle of common-sensical reasonableness and national solidarity.
This chapter explores the psychological dimensions of restorative justice, reparations, and reconciliation in the aftermath of slavery, colonisation, and apartheid. We consider the role of apologies and truth-telling as potential steps towards the type of memory work and accountability required for healing historical wounds; and reflect on some of the initiatives undertaken by African nations and Africans in the diaspora to deal with the internal violences that have swept across the continent in the post-slavery/post-colonial era. Calls for reparations and truth and reconciliation commissions have had ambiguous effects on people’s dignity and well-being and call into question the ideals of a Pan-African vision of unity and solidarity across the continent and the diaspora.
The boom of the humanitarian and development industry in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the demand for qualitative and quantitative research that has accompanied it have created a novel political economy of academic research in the region. An array of research associations and private data collection firms have emerged to respond to the international demand by Western universities and research projects. Like many industries operating on the continent, academic research has a racial dimension, which is rarely reflected upon, in part because it is often invisible to white Western researchers. This paper reflects on the creation and evolution of a non-profit association specialized in the collection of data in conflict-affected areas of eastern DRC. The research association was conceived by its Congolese and European founders as an enclave against the racism that pervades professional relations in the region, an experiment upheld by a collective commitment to academic research and an egalitarian ethos. Written from the perspective of three of its founding members, this paper analyses how racialized discursive repertoires and cognitive biases (re)appeared within the organization. We argue that these repertoires and biases serve to activate a particular mode of production, based on racial and geographic inequalities in working conditions and prospects. We interrogate the relationship between race and the system of production underpinning contemporary research, and show that, far from solely being a remnant of the colonial era, race constitutes a resource that can be tapped into, particularly in a context where empirical data, competition for funding, and ‘value for money’ are increasingly becoming the norm.
The authors substantiate connection between the mindset and the state of social and economic development of post-colonial states which allowed to elucidate some of still underinvestigated cause and effect relations between the spiritual world of a nation and economic and industrial relations objectified within the social processes. By the example of 20 post-colonial states, it has been proven that economic prosperity became possible in the societies mentally oriented towards individualism. Mindset is a dynamically alterable value-related and conceptual «core» of the nation. Depending on how far the society is prepared to undergo changes and consciously assert its own subjective identity, will it ensure whether the colonial past would become its death «sentence» or a «launch platform» for its subsequent economic upturn.
“The IMF and the World Bank have integrated a large number of countries into the world economy by requiring governments to open up to global trade, investment, and capital. They have not done this out of pure economic zeal. Politics and their own rules and habits explain much of why they have presented globalization as a solution to challenges they have faced in the world economy.”—from the Introduction The greatest success of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank has been as globalizers. But at whose cost? Would borrowing countries be better off without the IMF and World Bank? This book takes readers inside these institutions and the governments they work with. Ngaire Woods brilliantly decodes what they do and why they do it, using original research, extensive interviews carried out across many countries and institutions, and scholarship from the fields of economics, law, and politics. The Globalizers focuses on both the political context of IMF and World Bank actions and their impact on the countries in which they intervene. After describing the important debates between U.S. planners and the Allies in the 1944 foundation at Bretton Woods, she analyzes understandings of their missions over the last quarter century. She traces the impact of the Bank and the Fund in the recent economic history of Mexico, of post-Soviet Russia, and in the independent states of Africa. Woods concludes by proposing a range of reforms that would make the World Bank and the IMF more effective, equitable, and just.
The economic and social development of the Third World, as such, was clearly not a policy objective of the colonial rulers before the Second World War.1 Such an objective would have been inconsistent with the underlying division of labour and trading patterns within and among colonial blocks. It was not until the end of the colonial system in the late 1940s and 1950s, and the subsequent creation of independent states, that the revolution of rising expectations could start. Thus, the end of Second World War marked the beginning of a new regime for the less developed countries involving the evolution from symbiotic to inward-looking growth and from a dependent to a somewhat more independent relation vis-à-vis the ex-colonial powers. It also marked the beginning of serious interest among scholars and policy-makers in studying and understanding better the development process as a basis for designing appropriate development policies and strategies. In a broad sense a conceptual development doctrine had to be built which policy-makers in the newly independent countries could use as a guideline to the formulation of economic policies.