A History of Wealth and Poverty: Why a Few Nations are Rich and Many Poor, by John P. Powelson.

Appendixes for Chapter 9

Appendix 9.1: Centralization of Power in Post-Colonial Africa and its Capricious Use (in alphabetical order by country name)

Algeria. In response to anti-government riots in 1988, President Chadli Benjedid admitted that the problem was "how to strip the encrusted 250,000 or so people who control the top of the party of their overwhelming control of every facet of power and politics." [151] In 1991, the decline of socialism everywhere had its impact on Algeria, so that Ibrahim could report "an astonishing flowering of political diversity." But when an Islamic fundamentalist movement won initial elections, the old-line parties suspended further democracy, leaving Algeria in a state of uncertainty that must have inhibited economic or entrepreneurial propensities.

However "correct" the policies may be from the viewpoint of economists, nevertheless frequent changes, with the risk that they may be reversed, reduce economic activity. Not knowing what kind of state will be formed — Muslim, Christian, or nonsectarian — or how stable it will be can also be unsettling.

Botswana. Land boards took over the traditional functions of tribal chiefs after independence. [152] The land boards themselves seem to be decentralized, however.

Equatorial Guinea. In 1979, President Francisco Macias Nguema was overthrown in a coup. He had been "widely recognized as a paranoid despot, [who] destroyed his nation's economy by expelling the entire Spanish population of 7,000 or forcing into exile about one-third of the African population." [153]

Ghana. In 1979, "soldiers demolished stalls and goods in one of the market places in this rundown capital [Accra]. . . . [T]he action was taken because the market women were selling goods at prices above those set by the Government." [154]

Ivory Coast. From its independence in 1960 until 1989, this country was looked upon as an economic miracle. The government of President Houphouët-Boigny welcomed foreign capital, mainly French, and followed liberal market policies, with a high level of economic growth. In 1989, with the decline in the price of cocoa, the internal weaknesses of his paternalistic regime were revealed. The government had vastly overspent its budget; the President had constructed a palace in his birth town [155] and the largest Catholic cathedral in the world — with his own funds, he said (where did they come from?) — and the country was heavily in debt. The Ivory Coast is a classic model of a government commanding the right economic policies but without the institutional base to hold the power groups in check. [156]

Kenya. As the third economic plan was about to go to parliament in 1974, President Kenyatta was asked at a public meeting whether the tax on taxis would be reduced. "This tax is abolished forthwith," was the President's instant reply. That week, the Ministry of Finance and Planning had to revise the fiscal projections for the next five years. [157]

Liberia. "Although the party of General [Samuel K.] Doe easily gained legal status to engage in politics, opposition parties have become frustrated in their attempts to become registered. . . . General Doe has promulgated a decree empowering security forces to arrest anyone 'found spreading rumors, lies and misinformation' about it." [158] Business executives complain that Doe's government is unpredictable in both its policies and the enforcement of laws. [159]

Libya and Morocco. Without consulting anyone else, in 1984, Colonel Muammar Qadhafi, de facto head of state of Libya, and King Hassan II of Morocco declared a federation of their two countries. The uncertainties for businesspeople and farmers — who surely pondered the effect on price controls, commercial law, and tariffs — must have been enormous. [160]

Mozambique. In 1980, President Machel complained that "government bureaucracy has paralyzed the economy." [161]

Nigeria. Pluralism does not arise in situations where one group (government) is so powerful that it may demolish all competing groups. With no competition among the powerful, weaker groups are unable to make alliances to lever their power upward. For example: "In a crackdown on dissent, the Government this year disbanded the National Trade Union Council, the National Students' Union and the National University Professors' Union. Thirty universities were temporarily closed. Journalists have been detained. Magazines have been seized." [162] Another example: According to a 1987 report, the government rejected a loan offered by the International Monetary Fund, and then adopted a "structural adjustment" program that was far more radical than what the Fund would probably have imposed. [163] Growing Islamic fundamentalism has strained religious tolerance. Fundamentalist leaders have called for making Nigeria an Islamic state and for imposing shari'a, or Islamic law, throughout the land.

São Tomé. "[T]he government, which occupies the first 10 pages of the island's 20-page telephone directory, has trouble digesting the foreign aid largesse." [164]

Tanzania. President Nyerere cited African tradition in defense of the single-party state. He mentioned "the notions of free discussion, on the basis of individual, rather than party, opinions, as being a traditional feature of African life that could be preserved in an adapted form in a modern constitution." [165] By 1962, however, the National Assembly had withdrawn all political, administrative, and judicial authority from tribal chiefs and centered it in the government at Dar es Salaam.

Uganda. With a change of government in 1987, controlled agricultural prices were boosted 500 percent. [166] Sudden changes of such magnitude must upset the economic projections of purchasers and sellers.

Zaire. The arbitrary use of power and the corruption in this almost-bankrupt country have been often reported: President Mobutu Sese Seko's palace, "Versailles in the Jungle;" [167] his speech to schoolchildren after women had demonstrated against him: if they ever saw women demonstrating, the children should "beat them, kick them;" [168] his banishment of political opponents to internal exile; [169] and many more. [170] "Corruption is rampant, and harassment, imprisonment, torture and execution have taught most Zairians not to protest." [171]

Zambia. "As Zambia's economic troubles have worsened, [President Kenneth] Kaunda has branded his critics, from churchmen to business leaders, as traitors to the country and has moved to stifle dissent. 'There has been an erosion of the freedom of the judiciary and of parliamentary dissent,' one diplomat said. "As the pressures have increased, toadyism has increased. Kaunda sees fewer people and is increasingly cut off.' " [172] In Zambia government wage scales are increased by irregularly constituted salary review commissions. . . . [173] Leading figures in the army, politics, and the economy are frequently shifted around between the nation's top posts, a maneuver that lessens political risk but prevents an accumulation of expertise. [174] (President Kaunda was defeated for re-election in 1991 and peacefully relinquished his office.)

Appendix 9.2: Citations of Recent African Wars and Their Consequences

  1. The western Sahara has been an area of endemic wars among tribal groups for centuries. [175]
  2. A conference of the United Nations and Africa Network on Protection against Child Abuse reported in 1987:
  3. The death rate of this continent's children, from bullets and preventable diseases, is soaring, and the toll exacted by conflict is felt in other serious ways: Children often lose their homes and clothing and, because of the protracted chaos, cannot attend school. Many have seen their parents killed or have been separated from their families. With anxiety and depression as uncompromising companions, they wander toward a future that seems to offer more despair than promise. [176]
  4. A thriving agriculture in Angola has reverted to subsistence. "Coffee, diamond, and food production has been largely destroyed." [177] After 27 years of war, Angolans find 'peace' has lost its meaning." [178]
  5. The government of Ethiopia moved "enemy" populations en masse to southern areas where presumably they would find more fertile land with rainfall. But they were not supplied with housing or agricultural implements, and many perished. The government was charged with preventing foreign relief supplies from reaching rebel areas. [179]

In addition to outright wars, a tendency toward personal violence remains in some parts of Africa, as is shown by the following list of references:

  1. In the past twenty-five years, more than seventy leaders in twenty-nine African countries have been deposed by assassinations, purges or coups. [180]
  2. Massacres, which have taken place for more than a century, are still frequent between Tutsi elite and Hutu peasants in Burundi. [181]
  3. Violence and lack of freedom of speech are reported in Lesotho. [ 18]2
  4. Masses of Liberian refugees flee rebellion and reprisal killings. [183]
  5. Continued violence occurs between Muslims in northern Nigeria and Christians in the south. "Rivalries among the country's 250 ethnic groups often parallel religious rivalries." In a conflict reminiscent of the jihads of earlier centuries, Hausa and Fulani Muslims have attacked Yoruba and Ibo. [184]
  6. In South Africa, clan warfare breaks out regularly among the Zulus. Fighting between the Inkatha organization and the African National Congress is frequent. [185]
  7. Ruinous violence continues in Uganda. Murders and disappearances are rife as various factions fight with one another. [186]
  8. Essentially, the violence in Matabeleland [Zimbabwe] stems from tribal enmities that were translated into political terms during the long guerrilla war for independence. In that war, two guerrilla forces formed, largely but not entirely on tribal lines, often feuding and plotting. A truce of sorts was arranged on the eve of Zimbabwe's birth in April 1980 and it unraveled shortly afterward. [187]


Copyright © 1994 by the University of Michigan. First published in the USA by the University of Michigan Press, 1994.

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