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International Development Economics Associates (IDEAs)

From development crisis to development tradegy:
Africa's encounter with neoliberalism

Jìmí O. Adésínà
Department of Sociology, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa

January 2004

SARPN acknowledges the website of International Development Economics Associates (IDEAS) at as the source of this document
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This paper examines the impact of the neoliberal project on sub-Saharan Africa, and argues that the effect of twenty-five years of adjustment has been to turn the development crisis of the early 1980s into development tragedy. The paper focuses on the emergence of an external debt peonage and its economic and social impacts; and the increasing normalisation of economic and social disequilibrium. The persistence in declining terms of trade; deepening current account deficit, and donordependency are some illustrations of the phenomenon. None of the celebrated "successful" adjusting countries has overcome the structural crisis of inherited colonial political economy that precipitated the crisis in the first instance. We examine also the (direct) impact of neoliberal policies on aspects of poverty (water and food security).

The paper is however anchored on an epistemic approach to neoliberalism. It argues for transcending the tendency of the debates not to get beyond massaging the protective belt of the neoliberal paradigm— a paradigm it borrowed from mainstream economics. It is essential - the paper argues - to displace the two core propositions at the heart of this paradigm as well as its method of knowledge. The horrendous consequences of neoliberal policy failures reflect both its dubious intellectual content and its twinning with imperial political and economic objective—it is this sense that neoliberalism has become the economics of the new imperialism. The counter-hegemonic project requires the displacement of the epistemic narratives of neoliberalism. It is in this that we situate the framework for overcoming the neoliberal development tragedy.

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