The Future of the Fourth World: Choices and Constraints on the Very Poor in the 1980s

  • Timothy Shaw M
Part of the Macmillan International Political Economy Series book series (IPES)


. . the most fundamental assumptions underlying a significant improvement in sub-Saharan economic prospects are unrealistic. The implication is for a continuation of economic stagnation and human misery, recurrent crises and stopgap measures.’— Christine A. Bogdanowicz-Bindert ‘Sub-Saharan Africa: an agenda for action’1

’The African continent is more drastically affected egative achievements of the than the other regions of the world by the development strategies adopted by most countries whose failure, aggravated by the social crises which the industrialized countries are currently undergoing, hardly needs emphasizing . . . [A] new pedagogy geared to African unity is necessary if the concept of development based on collective autonomy and on the African people’s own values is to be a realistic proposition.’ —Africa towards the year 2000’2

’Africa is unable to point to any significant growth rate, or satisfactory index of general well-being, in the past 20 years. Faced with this situation, and determined to undertake measures for the basic restructuring of the economic base of our continent, we resolved to adopt a far-reaching, regional approach based primarily on collective self-reliance.’— Organization of African Unity (OAU) Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa, 1980-2000 3

’The deep recession in the industrialized world has plunged the Black African economies into a depression that will increase starvation and social unrest. With demand for primary commodities depressed, even nations that were regarded as success stories in the late 1970s - resource-rich economies such as the Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Nigeria - are now sinking fast. The oil importers, of course, are suffering the most ...[their] per capita growth is expected to be negative for this decade, after dropping to 1.7 per cent per year in the 1970s from 3.7 per cent in the decade of the 1960s.’ — Tetteh A. Kofi, ‘Black Africa: bleak prospects and rising unresti4

The African crisis of relative and absolute underdevelopment inten-sified as the symbolic centenary of the Treaty of Berlin approached in the early 1980s: Africa has become more peripheral and marginal than ever before, with profound implications for development theory and national strategy as well as for economic revival and personal survival. The ecological devastation and social deprivation which much of the continent has endured during the last decade — the post-Bretton Woods era of oil shocks and Northern stagflation — is symptomatic of exponential structural changes and challenges.5 These centre on the new division of post-independence Africa into ‘third’ (middling rich) and ‘fourth’ (chronically poor) worlds. As a recent OECD report recognises, differentiation within the ‘third world’ now poses a major challenge for policy (and for theory):


Political Economy Ivory Coast International Division Primary Commodity Fourth World 
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© Dennis C. Pirages and Christine Sylvester 1990

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  • Timothy Shaw M

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