HUMAN DEVELOPMENT: AN AFRICAN PERSPECTIVE
(Human Development Report Office Occasional papers) (summary)
I. Reflections on the African Socio-Economic Crisis*
II. Profile and Trends of Human Deprivation and Human Development*
III. Issues of Human Security
IV. Major Issues of People's Participation
V. Prospects for Progress in Human Development
VI. Concluding Remarks
REFLECTIONS ON THE AFRICAN SOCIO-ECONOMIC CRISIS
For many years now, the economic news coming out of Africa has been one
of unrelieved gloom. The 1980s have repeatedly and emphatically been
described as a lost development decade, and the 1990s have not made a
more auspicious beginning. In fact, while economic growth rates averaged
to merely 2 per cent per annum during the 1980s, the regional GDP grew at
an even lower average annual rate of only 1.3 per cent, causing per
capita incomes to fall by 1.8 per cent annually during the first four
years of the present decade.1
To be sure, the situation has not always been so desperate. The immediate
post-independence period which was characterised by political euphoria
and great economic expectations had registered some solid achievements to
its credit. Economic performance was largely respectable, as demonstrated
by growth in per capita income, saving, investment and export earnings.
There were also significant achievements in the social field, especially
in health and education.
However, the fruits of independence had already begun to turn sour by
about the mid-1970s and the situation deteriorated in dramatic
progression thereafter. In the harsh verdict of the Lagos Plan of Action,
adopted in 1980, "Africa is unable to point to any significant growth
rate, or satisfactory index of general well-being, in the past twenty
years".2 Such has been the depth of the economic malaise to the extent
that today the average African is worse off than he/she was at
independence a generation ago. It is sobering to note that the region
has the unenviable distinction of being the only region in the world to
suffer from such a sorry economic performance for such an extended
period of time.
This picture is reinforced by almost every index of economic performance:
low and falling saving and investment rates, sharply declining food
security (on several occasions translated into severe famines) and a
corresponding growth of dependence on food aid and imports; falling
export volumes and prices; a rapidly rising and unmanageable debt
burden; growing budgetary deficits; and arrested industrialisation.
But these depressing economic facts revealing as they are tell only a
partial story, because they are inadequate to convey the breadth and
depth of the human tragedy in Africa. All too often the African
landscape has been plagued by a pervasive widespread and grinding
poverty; recurrent famines; widespread civil conflicts with their
inevitable record of death, disablement and displacement; rising
unemployment; and reversals in social progress, as reflected in
declining school enrolment, deteriorating educational levels and
inadequate health care. For many countries what is currently at issue
is not economic and social development, but sheer survival.
In the political sphere too, in spite of some promising recent
developments which ushered in democratic change and political
liberalisation, Africa has all too often been victimised by misgovernment
of monumental proportions; the suppression of rudimentary freedoms;
vicious and destructive conflicts with all their attendant consequences;
widespread political instability; and corruption of a gigantic scale in
the public service.3 As these lines are being written, the colossal
human tragedies unfolding in Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Liberia, Angola
and a number of other countries make a mockery of more than thirty
years of flag independence.
The factors that account for the African predicament are many and
inter-locking, and some are of internal origin while others are
externally generated. They include misguided policies, rapid population
growth, environmental degradation, civil strife, and an unfavourable
international economic environment, on top of the underlying basic
structural problems inherent in the state of underdevelopment.
Responses to the crisis have varied from country to country, but it
would be fair to state that what have been generally attempted have
been policies of adjustment, sometimes initiated by governments
themselves, but more often with the firm insistence of the international
financial institutions, notably the World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund. However, adjustment programmes have seldom delivered on
their promises. Even worse, the available evidence suggests that they may
have accentuated the deterioration in the human condition. Even countries
with a decade or more of adjustment behind them have very little to show
for it in terms of human development.4
There have also been collective attempts to grapple with the African
crisis, again with little consequence. The pioneering initiative in this
regard was the Lagos Plan of Action (LPA), which put the accent on
strategies of self-reliance, food self-sufficiency, industrialisation
and regional integration. But the LPA was short on achievement. This was
followed in 1985 by the launching of Africa's Priority Programme for
Economic Recovery 1986-90 (APPER) followed by the United Nations
Programme of Action for African Economic Recovery and Development
1986-1990 (UN-PAAERD), which was subsequently adopted by the UN general
Assembly.5 This document was lauded at the time of its launching as
"a unique compact between Africa and the international community". But,
as the final review of the programme revealed, the results were
unsatisfactory and the Programme's targets, obligations and orientation
remained dead letters. Per capita incomes decreased over the UN-PAAERD
period and even more telling "social conditions worsened considerably,
with deterioration in the areas of education, health, nutrition,
employment and incomes, with especially serious effects on children,
youth and women".6
In view of this, the General Assembly of the United Nations further
adopted the New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s
(UN-NADAF) to "serve as a catalyst, giving political impulse and
strength to the other activities going on within and outside of Africa".7
The priority objectives of the New Agenda are "accelerated transformation,
integration, diversification and growth of the African economies, in order
to strengthen them within the world economy, reduce their vulnerability
to external shocks and increase their dynamism, internalise the process
of development and enhance self-reliance".8 More germane to the concern
of this paper is that the Agenda "also accords special attention to
human development and increased progress towards the achievement of
human-oriented goals by the year 2000 in the areas of life expectancy,
integration of women in development, child and maternal mortality,
nutrition, health, water and sanitation, basic education and shelter".9
The significance of the Agenda lies in its recognition of the extreme
gravity of the African situation and in its affirmation that the
concerted efforts of the international community would be indispensable
in dealing with the crisis. Yet, as the experience with UN-PAAERD
clearly demonstrated, lofty expressions are one thing, while
implementation is an altogether different matter. Moreover, as important
as international assistance is, the fundamental fact remains that the
ultimate responsibility for reversing Africa's economic and social
decline resides with the African peoples and their leaders. This is why
the commitment to change must begin at home.
It is in this spirit that the United Nations Economic Commission for
Africa (ECA) launched an alternative framework for African development
in 1989 in the form of the African Alternative Framework to Structural
Adjustment Programmes for Socio-economic Recovery and Transformation
(AAF-SAP).10 Starting from a critique of standard Structural Adjustment
Programmes (SAPs) as being excessively concerned with adjustment to the
neglect of long-term development issues, AAF-SAP argues for adjustment
with transformation. This is based on the view that it cannot be assumed
that the classical instruments of control of money supply, credit squeeze,
exchange rate and interest rate adjustments, trade liberalisation, etc.,
which may be valid in well-structured economies, could bring about
positive results in African economies characterised by weak and
disarticulate structures. While recognising the need to curb inflation
and to address fiscal and external imbalances and other shocks through
the selective use of these instruments, AAF-SAF recommended that
adjustment programmes should simultaneously address both short- to
medium-term as well as the structural transformation problems of the
African economies.11 In this regard, three basic policy directions that
are designed to attain the combined aims of economic growth, improved
living standards, and reduced external dependence were outlined as
* strengthening and diversifying Africa's productive capacity and
* equalising and enhancing the efficiency of factor income allocation;
* adjusting patterns of expenditure to ensure that basic human needs
are met. 12
Central to AAF-SAP, therefore, is "the human dimension the recognition
that it is only through the motivation and the empowerment of people as
well as the ensuring of the equitable distribution of income that
development can take place on a sustainable basis".13 The centrality of
human development in collective regional stances received even more
explicit and forceful assertion in three seminal documents, The African
Charter for Popular Participation in Development14; The Khartoum
Declaration: Towards a Human Focused Approach to Socio-Economic Recovery
and Development in Africa15; and the African Common Position on Human
and Social Development in Africa.16 UNDP's five Human Development
Reports17 came to lend more forceful arguments to the centrality of
human development and human-focused development strategies.
Even as this broader and human-focused framework for dealing with
immediate and long-term policy and development issues was being
advocated, it also became clear by the end of the 1980s that new
perspectives brought about by changing circumstances should be fully
reflected in the implementation of Africa's long-standing strategies
and plans for its development.18 Responses to five distinct challenges
are required in future policy directions in the region.
First, it is being increasingly recognised that development requires
more than sound economic management. A stable and secure political
environment is no less important. The causes of political conflict and
instability in many countries are often complex and intractable. Be that
as it may, the current wave of democratic reforms in the region augurs
well for the future although democratic structures of governance remain
fragile. Nonetheless, the consolidation of democratic processes and
increased harmony within and between African states remains a
precondition for progress.
Second, over and beyond issues of governance and economic management, it
has also become clear that the world economy is driven more and more by
innovations in science, technology and information management. As the
phenomenon of globalization intensifies, it integrates advances in
information dissemination with innovations in international finance,
production and distribution. While Africa remains enthralled by the
demands of sheer survival, its diverse economic agents must increase
their efficiency, effectiveness and productivity so as to become
competitive within the global system as soon as practicably possible.
"It is a call to master new production techniques to convert Africa's
resource endowments and other potential strengths into new comparative
advantages, to adopt new approaches in organising and managing human,
financial and material resources and to seek and expand new markets
with new aggressiveness".19
Third, the challenge of sustainable development demands of Africans that
they make careful, well-informed trade-offs that maximise the rate of
economic growth, with the most impact on poverty alleviation and minimal
negative impacts on the environment. This requires not only increased
awareness but also sound analytical capacities in African public,
private and voluntary sectors to make these trade-offs.
Fourth, the pandemic of HIV/AIDS casts a dark shadow over human capital
accumulation, workforce stability and productivity in the region. This,
to be sure, is a world-wide tribulation, but the spread of the disease
in Africa has been accelerated by inauspicious economic conditions
including the under funding of health programmes and the spread of
prostitution associated with chronic unemployment. Africa's human
resources remain its main agents of future growth and prosperity. A new
resolve to reduce the devastating impact of the disease must be a
And fifth, it has become clear that the answer to socio-economic
revitalisation does not lie with governments alone, nor with private
entrepreneurs and voluntary organisations alone. Past strategies that
emphasised only one set of actors must be replaced with one that
emphasises the role that everybody has and potentially can play and the
interdependence of these roles. New strategies, approaches, institutions
and processes of development management will therefore be needed to
achieve this kind of co-operation and co-ordination across sectors.
Indeed, management and institutional capacity at all levels and in all
sectors has become a vital requirement for sustained and sustainable
development in the region. 20
It is thus evident that in the years to come, African countries must
adopt such broad-based approaches, strategies and policies of development,
at the core of which human development must predominate. With undue
emphasis still being placed on economic reforms and SAPs, both the goals
of achieving sustainable human development and long-term transformation
of the structures of the African economies still remain an elusive goals.
PROFILE AND TRENDS OF HUMAN DEPRIVATION AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT
The best composite measure of the state of human development is perhaps
UNDP's Human Development Index (HDI), which is widely utilised in its
various Human Development Reports. The most striking observation about
Africa that emerges out of the HDI ranking is the continent's extremely
low level of human development (see Table 1 and Annex 1). According to
the Human Development Report 1994 21(HDR94) there is not a single
African country in the category of countries with high human development.
There are only eleven countries in the medium category, including
South Africa (Algeria, Botswana, Egypt, Gabon, Libya, Mauritius, Morocco,
Seychelles, Swaziland and South Africa). Five of them (Mauritius,
Seychelles, Botswana, Gabon and Swaziland) have a combined population of
4.6 million. When Libya and Tunisia are added, the figure rises to 17.9
million. All the remaining 41 countries are in the low human development
category. This, however, does not tell the entire story. There are 55
countries in this category, which means Africa accounts for 79 per cent
per cent of the category. Even more telling is that of the 30 countries
with the lowest human development indices, 25 (or 83 per cent) are
African. 22 In other words, Africa is the continent with the poorest
showing in human development.
This general picture is reinforced by a review of some major indicators
of human development and human deprivation. The average life expectancy
for Sub-Saharan Africa is 51.1 years, the lowest for all regions. The
situation with respect to health, food and nutrition is also equally bad.
The percentages of the population having access to health services, safe
water and sanitation are 59, 45 and 31, respectively; and average
calorie supply per capita is only 92 per cent of requirements. In the
sphere of education, only 49 per cent of adults can read and write while
the enrolment ratio for all levels is 35 per cent, suggesting a very low
level of human capital formation. At US$1250, real GDP per capita is the
lowest of all regions; and GNP per capita ($540) is extremely low,
compared to an average of $880 for all developing countries and $4,160
for the world as a whole. 23 Fifty four per cent of the people in
Sub-Saharan Africa live in absolute poverty24.
Critical as the general situation is, it is even worse for children and
women. The mortality rates for infants (under twelve months) and children
(under five years) are, at 101 and 160, respectively, the highest of all
regions. The percentages of children who are underweight, wasted and
stunted are 31,13 and 44, respectively. Only 40 per cent of births are
attended by trained medical personnel and only 49 per cent of
one-year-olds are fully immunised. 25
The situation of African women is much worse than that of men. Thus, the
literacy rate of women is only 60 per cent of that of men and the
corresponding figure for mean years of schooling is 40 per cent.
Similarly, the gaps in school enrolment are also wide, the figures being
85 per cent, 67 per cent and 35 per cent for primary, secondary and
tertiary level education, respectively.26 While the life expectancy of
women is higher than that of men, other indicators of health are biased
against women. Maternal mortality rate is 700 per 100,000 live births,
and only 64 per cent of women get prenatal care. And women constitute
only 33.9 per cent of the labour force.27
Interestingly, this critical human situation is complicated by obvious
imbalances in resource allocation. The share of military expenditure in
the GDP, which was 0.7 per cent in 1960, had risen to 3 per cent by 1991.
As a percentage of health/education expenditure, military expenditure has
risen from 27 per cent in 1977 to 43 per cent in 1991. These trends are
contrary to what is observed in the developing countries as a group and
also in industrial countries. In developing countries military
expenditure as a percentage of GDP dropped from 4.2 per cent in 1960 to
3.5 per cent in 1990-1991 and as a percentage of combined education and
health expenditure from 143 per cent to 600 per cent for the same periods.
For the industrial countries, these figures showed a decline from 6.3
per cent to 3.4 per cent and from 97 per cent to 33 per cent
The overall trends in human development have been positive in some
respects. Thus, life expectancy has increased from 40 to 51 years and
infant mortality declined from 165 to 101 per 1000 births between 1960
and 1991. Likewise, there has been an increase in adult literacy from
28 to 51 per cent and in primary school enrolment between 1970 and 1990.
And there has been an increase in the percentage of the population
having access to safe water between 1975 and 1991. But these developments
have not been of a magnitude enough to make an appreciable dent in
Africa's formidable array of social problems.
In fact, in certain instances, the situation has grown much worse. For
example, in many countries per capita expenditure on health and education
has been declining. There have also been reversals in school enrolment
ratios and increases in school dropout rates relative to the appreciable
gains made in the 1960s and 1970s. As demonstrated in subsequent
sections, the continent's food insecurity has worsened. Environmental
degradation has proceeded unabated and many countries are racked by
internal conflicts of one sort or another. The impact of these
developments is more adverse on children, women and vulnerable groups.
Such trends cry out to be reversed. What is particularly disturbing is
that poverty has been increasing at alarming rates and is projected to
increase further. Indeed, it is estimated that Africa will be the only
region where poverty will increase by the turn of the century, when
Africa's share in global poverty is expected to double from 16 per cent
in the mid-1980s to 32 per cent by then.
Human Development Index for African Countries
Life Mean Real Human GNP per
expectancy Adult years GDP Develop- Capita
COUNTRY at birth literacy of per ment Rank
(Years) rate schooling capita index minus
1992 (%) 1992 1992 (PPPS) (HDI)1992 HDI Rank
Mauritius 69.6 79.9 4.1 7178 0.778 5
Libyan Arab Jam. 62.4 66.5 3.5 7000 0.703 -38
Tunisia 67.1 68.1 2.1 4690 0.690 4
Seychelles 71.1 77.0 4.6 3683 0.685 -44
Botswana 60.3 75.0 2.5 4690 0.670 -29
South Africa 62.2 80.0 3.9 3885 0.650 -33
Algeria 65.6 60.6 2.8 2870 0.553 -37
Egypt 60.9 50.0 3.0 3600 0.551 12
Morroco 62.5 52.5 3.0 3340 0.549 -10
Gabon 52.9 62.5 2.6 3498 0.525 -72
Swaziland 57.3 71.0 3.8 2506 0.8513 -21
Lesotho 59.8 78.0 3.5 1500 0.489 4
Zimbabwe 56.1 68.6 3.1 2160 0.474 -3
Cape Verde 67.3 66.5 2.2 1360 0.474 -10
Congo 51.7 58.5 2.1 2800 0.461 -23
Cameroon 55.3 56.5 1.6 2400 0.447 -13
Kenya 58.6 70.5 2.3 1350 0.434 21
Namibia 58.0 40.0 1.7 2381 0.425 -43
Sao Tomé &
Principé 67.0 60.0 2.3 600 0.409 10
Madagascar 54.9 81.4 2.2 710 0.396 31
Ghana 55.4 63.1 3.5 930 0.382 -1
Côte d'Ivoire 51.6 55.8 1.9 1510 0.370 -19
Zambia 45.5 74.8 2.7 1010 0.352 -4
Nigeria 51.9 52.0 1.2 1360 0.348 6
Zaire 51.6 74.0 1.6 469 0.341 20
Comoros 55.4 55.0 1.0 700 0.331 -10
Senegal 48.7 40.0 0.9 1680 0.322 -29
Liberia 54.7 42.5 2.1 850 0.317 -14
Togo 54.7 45.5 1.6 738 0.311 -9
U. Rep. of
Tanzania 51.2 55.0 2.0 570 0.306 22
Equatorial Guinea 47.3 51.5 0.8 700 0.276 4
Sudan 51.2 28.2 0.8 1162 0.276 -14
Burundi 48.2 52.0 0.4 640 0.276 6
Rwanda 46.5 52.1 1.1 680 0.274 -1
Uganda 42.6 50.5 1.1 1036 0.272 14
Angola 45.6 42.5 1.5 1000 0.271 -35
Benin 46.1 25.0 0.7 1500 0.261 -14
Malawi 44.6 45.0 1.7 800 0.260 -1
Mauritania 47.4 35.0 0.4 962 0.254 -31
Mozambique 46.5 33.5 1.6 921 0.252 14
Rep. 47.2 40.2 1.1 641 0.249 -25
Ethiopia 46.4 50.0 1.1 370 0.249 10
Djibouti 48.3 19.0 0.4 1000 0.226 -38
Guinea-Bissau 42.9 39.0 0.4 747 0.224 3
Somalia 46.4 27.0 0.3 759 0.217 7
Gambia 44.4 30.0 0.6 763 0.215 -22
Mali 45.4 35.9 0.4 480 0.214 -12
Chad 46.9 32.5 0.3 447 0.212 -7
Niger 45.9 31.2 0.2 542 0.209 -21
Sierra Leone 42.4 23.7 0.9 1020 0.209 -7
Burkina Faso 47.9 19.9 0.2 666 0.203 -19
Guinea 43.9 26.9 0.9 500 0.191 -44
Source: Compiled from UNDP, Human Development Report 1994, New York:
Oxford University Press, Table 1, pp. 129-131.
1. ECA, Economic Report on Africa 1994, Addis Ababa, April 1994, p. 1.
2. Organization of African Unity, Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic
Development of Africa 1980-2000, Addis Ababa, 1981, p. 5.
3. See Sadig Rasheed and Dele Olowu (eds.); Ethics and Accountability in
African Public Services, Nairobi: ICIPE Science Press, 1993.
4. See, for example, I.A. El Badawi, D. Ghura and G. Uwujaren, World Bank
Adjustment Lending and Economic Performance in Sub-Saharan Africa in the
1980s, World Bank, Policy Research Working Papers, WPS 1000, October 1992,
p. 5.; ECA, The Khartoum Declaration: Towards a Human-Focused Approach to
Socio-Economic Recovery and Development in Africa; G.A. Cornia, R. Jolly,
and F. Stewart, Adjustment with a Human Face, Oxford University Press,
October 1991; Adedeji, Rasheed, Morisson, The Human Dimension of Africa's
Persistent Economic Crisis, Hans Zell, London, 1990; Giovanni Andrea
Cornia, Rolph Van der Hoeven and Thandika Mkandawire, Africa's Recovery
in the 1990s: From Stagnation and Adjustment to Human Development,
New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.
5. United Nations, United Nations Programme of Action for African
Economic Recovery and Development 1986-1990 (UN-PAAERD), New York, 1986.
6. United Nations, Final Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of
the United Nations Programme of Action for African Economic Recovery
and Development 1986-1990 (UNPAAERD), New York, 1991, P. 3.
7. United Nations, The United Nations New Agenda for the Development of
Africa in the 1990s (UN-NADAF), New York, 1992, p. 4.
8. Ibid., p. 8.
9. Ibid., p. 8.
10. Economic Commission for Africa, African Alternative Framework to
Structural Adjustment Programmes for Socio-economic Recovery and
Transformation, Addis Ababa, 1989.
11. Ibid., i-iii.
12. Ibid., pp. 30-31.
13. Ibid., p. iii.
14. ECA, African Charter for Popular Participation in Development and
Transformation, Addis Ababa, 1990.
15. ECA, The Khartoum Declaration, op. cit.
16. ECA, Africa Common Position on Human and Social Development in Africa,
Addis Ababa, 1994.
17. UNDP, Human Development Report, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, New York:
Oxford University Press.
18.Economic Commission for Africa, Strategic Objectives for Africa's
Economic Development in the 1990s, Addis Ababa: E/ECA/CM.19/4, 1993.
19. Ibid., p. 16.
20. Economic Commission for Africa, Strategic Agenda for Development
Management in Africa in the 1990s, Addis Ababa: E/ECA/CM.19/11, 1993.
21. UNDP, Human Development Report 1994, New York: Oxford University
22. Statements based on Human Development Indicators, table 2, Ibid,
23. See Ibid, Human Development Indicators, table 2, pp. 132-133.
24. Ibid., table 18, p. 165.
25. Ibid., Human Development Indicators, table 11, p. 151.
26. Ibid, Human Development Indicators, table 9, p. 147.
27. Ibid., Human Development Indicators, table 11, p. 151.
28. See Ibid., Human Development Indicators, table 21, p. 171.
RRojas Research Unit/1996