Past, present and future perspectives


Despite making some noticeable efforts towards progress in the region, setbacks have also been encountered during the past decade. Wars in countries such as Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia-Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of Congo have not only led to a resurgence of the serious problems of refugees, but also to the plunder of natural resources. The United Nations (UN) has produced a number of reports on this issue, and some countries have been sanctioned over the trade in illegal diamonds and other minerals and natural resources.

African countries have taken bold steps in solving conflicts themselves at a regional level. For instance, the sub-regional defence bloc for West Africa, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), has been instrumental in bringing peace to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Elsewhere in the region, there are similar bodies that are entrusted with sub-regional security, such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.

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Figure 1.3: Economic performance in Africa, 1965-2000


The 1990s were also characterized by state involvement in the shift towards a market economy in Africa. This is the decade when many African countries liberalized their economies. Privatization of state-owned infrastructure was introduced in many countries. There were mixed results but, overall, job losses were evident in those countries. Figure 1.3 illustrates Africa's economic performance between 1965 and 2000.

Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs)

During the past decade, many African countries continued with economic reform through SAPs. While economic liberalization may have triggered economic recovery, there have been indications that economic growth will worsen, as opposed to improving, environmental conditions (UNDP/UNEP/World Bank/ WRI 1996). The general trend between 1995 and 1998 shows a declining economic situation, with GNP per capita falling. Indications, however, reveal that, in some countries of the region, the economy may have started to pick up again. According to the World Bank, only nine out of 48 countries have annual per capita income of more than US$l 000, and only five countries in the region-Botswana, Gabon, Mauritius, Seychelles and South Africa-have annual per capita levels of more than US$2 500 (Kappel 2001).