Africa: APIC Policy Outlook 1997

Africa: APIC Policy Outlook 1997

Africa: APIC Policy Outlook 1997

Date distributed (ymd): 970106

APIC Document



First the good news: For the decade beginning in 1996, the annual economic growth rate for Sub-Saharan Africa is projected at 3.8%, double that for the decade that ended in 1995. This welcome increase reflects improved commodity prices, the return to peace in several countries on the continent, and increased investment and productivity in many. Statistics for 1995 show that it was the first year of positive per capita income growth since 1989, and 1996 is expected to turn out even better.

This new aggregate growth refutes the stereotype of a consistently gloomy outlook for the continent. There are, however, many sobering qualifiers. The World Bank estimates that growth rates less than 6% will not significantly reduce poverty in most countries. While 12 African countries achieved this target in 1995, 41 did not. Food intake per person in Sub-Saharan Africa was estimated last year at just 87% of daily requirements.

Africa's share of foreign direct investment continued to fall, from 10% in 1987-1991 to 3.6% in 1995. Meanwhile, global concessional aid flows, on which Africa is particularly dependent, continued their decline. While 1996 saw the approval of a new scheme for greater debt reduction for heavily indebted countries, it was unclear how many countries would actually benefit from it in 1997.

In addition, as the World Bank now concedes--echoing the longtime view of critics--"economic growth is necessary but not sufficient for reducing poverty." Even in countries praised for their economic reforms and growth rates, most people continue to struggle for survival under precarious conditions. Funds for investment in infrastructure and human development, essential for long-term advance, are squeezed by "market-oriented" budget constraints throughout the continent.

Peace and Security Issues


Countries cannot progress economically in the absence of basic physical security. In many countries, security is threatened by open conflict, physical displacement or arbitrary abuses by repressive regimes.

The multifaceted crisis in the Great Lakes region and Zaire, which made headlines in 1996, remains deadly. Open war also continues in the Sudan, and peace settlements in both Liberia and Angola could easily give way to renewed violence. In Algeria there is no end in sight to the violent conflict pitting extremist Islamic rebels against repressive government forces, in which both sides have targeted civilians and the lives of journalists are particularly at risk.

In cases such as the Great Lakes, the scale of crisis simply overwhelms local capacity to respond. There is a growing consensus, contrary to the Organization of African Unity's general assumption in past decades, that internal conflicts are not just the concern of one country. Neighboring countries and indeed the continent at large are victimized by spillover effects. Genocidal violence is in theory--if not yet in practice--the concern of the entire human community.

Yet consensus on the need to "do something" is unlikely to lead easily to agreement on who should do what. The crises mentioned above, and perhaps new ones, are certain to confront Africa advocates this year with hard questions.

In African countries not suffering open warfare--i.e. the vast majority--civil society continues to expand its role in demanding respect for human rights, democratic governance, and attention to a wide range of specific issues. But advocates typically work in a climate of domestic repression and international indifference. The most prominent case in 1997, as in 1996, is likely to be Nigeria, where the military regime shows no signs of responding to demands for democracy and respect for human rights.

In South Africa, the new democratic system is well established. The extension of the Truth Commission's amnesty deadline into this year makes it likely that revelations about past abuses will continue. The country faces formidable problems, however, as it seeks to reconcile demands for economic growth with the need for equity in a society still fundamentally defined by the class and race hierarchies of the apartheid era. South Africa has yet to define a clear foreign policy that includes constructive participation in African issues as well as relationships with global economic powers.

Issues This Year


In Washington the political climate will likely remain extremely difficult for advocacy on Africa. The reelected Republican majority in both houses of Congress will continue to press for cuts in international affairs budgets, ranging from development assistance to U.N. funding, the World Bank's International Development Association, peacekeeping operations, and other international agencies. The Clinton Administration, moreover, is likely to be inconsistent in its support for such budget commitments, despite its success in ousting U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

In Congress the retirement of Senators Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.) and Paul Simon (D-Ill.) removes two of Africa's most prominent allies on the legislative front. While there are sympathetic lawmakers in both the Senate and House, it will be an uphill battle to build even a modest core of members ready to speak out regularly on Africa issues.

Apart from regular budgetary issues, there will be discussion of the African Growth and Opportunity Act introduced by Representatives Crane, Rangel and McDermott last year. The bill is designed to promote US trade and investment in Africa, but there is debate about whether it takes a balanced approach to development and reciprocal economic ties or fosters a one-sided stress on market-led growth and free trade.

In short, African issues are unlikely to receive much more attention from Washington in 1997 than in 1996. In many cases, however, relatively small shifts in US policy can have substantial impact on African or multilateral initiatives. The following is a brief checklist of some specific areas and issues on which US involvement may make a difference this year.

Conflict (Great Lakes and the Horn): With the return of the majority of Rwandan refugees from Zaire and Tanzania, the interlocked crises in this region are for the moment focused primarily within rather than between borders. Rwanda faces the massive challenge of integrating the refugees and establishing functional legal procedures for coping with the aftermath of genocide. The future of Zaire and the refugees remaining there is unpredictable, except for the certainty that the conflict is not over. Burundi's minority military regime is still under sanctions from regional countries, and massacres of civilians continue.

War rages on in southern Sudan, and the repressive Sudanese government is under increasing challenge in the north as well. There is, nevertheless, little immediate prospect of decisive military shifts or revival of stalled mediation efforts. The conflict has spawned an ongoing humanitarian crisis, and Sudan's neighbors could yet be drawn into the war.

Peace agreements (Liberia and Angola): The peace process in Liberia is formally on track again after its violent collapse in April 1996. But key steps such as disarmament of faction forces are not yet implemented, and a new collapse is easily possible in 1997. In Angola the United Nations peacekeeping force is scheduled to withdraw by mid-year. On paper the demobilization of Unita forces is complete, but observers warn that as many as 20,000 Unita troops are still operational. Insecurity is pervasive in the countryside, and there is a real threat of renewed open warfare.

Democratization (Nigeria and other countries): The internal and international campaign for democracy in Nigeria will continue, given the failure of the Abacha regime to offer more than token promises of change. Neither Western nor African countries are likely soon to take additional steps to increase pressure on the military regime, however, unless there is a dramatically visible escalation of the crisis. Pro-democracy efforts in most other countries are even less likely to attract major international attention and support.

Landmines: The Clinton Administration will have to decide soon whether to join Canada and other countries in pressing rapidly for a total ban on anti-personnel landmines or continue deferring to the Pentagon's opposition to quick action on the issue.

International institutions: Like his predecessor, incoming U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is a highly skilled diplomat from the African continent. But the spectacle of the transition, engineered unilaterally by the United States, was not encouraging. Substantive issues were absent from the debate, save for the code-word "reform," generally understood as a euphemism for downsizing. This will be a critical year for US relations with the U.N. and other multilateral institutions. Unless the pattern of the last few years changes, the negative consequences for Africa will be substantial.


Message-Id: <> From: Date: Mon, 6 Jan 1997 21:14:33 -0500 Subject: Africa: APIC Policy Outlook 1997

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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