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Economic conditions for rural development in Sub-Saharan Africa


Problems of food and poverty are rife in rural Africa, where most peasants still refuse to adopt modern production techniques to get higher yields and improve their working conditions. This situation is the result of the agricultural and rural development policies applied, up to now, by African governments. These policies, whether of capitalist or socialist inspiration, are all based on a logic of surplus production in agriculture for the benefit of luxury consumption (consommation parasitaire) or industrialization that does not correspond to the need for agricultural rural development in general.

Moreover, the World Bank and the IMF have, since the 1980s, forced liberal macroeconomic policies upon African states. However, these policies are not adapted to the conditions in the rural areas of Africa and are even in contrast with the economic approach of the peasants and those structural factors that keep the peasants from increasing their supply for the market (i.e. lack of transport, uneven weather conditions, lack of land resources, shortage of specialized labour and equipment, too expensive input supplies, lack of credit, weak demand, difficulties of peasants to deal with suppliers of production factors and middlemen).

The alternative is to break away from the usual methods applied to rural Africa by recognizing the peasants' right to define their own projects. This would also require the creation of a favourable environment to improve working conditions and increase production. It would mean transplanting or decentralizing those industries that support agriculture and would require improved relations between banks and the rural population, as well as non-official financing which is a popular means for saving in Africa.

Such an environment would require land reform to provide for stable land distribution, since it is important for peasants to feel secure. That is the price to pay in order to change peasants' conservative outlooks which is a major hindrance to lasting rural development.

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