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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2002
  • Online publication date: June 2014

5 - Development and disappointment: social and economic change in an unequal world, 1945–2000


No word captures the hopes and ambitions of Africa's leaders, its educated populations, and many of its farmers and workers in the post-war decades better than “development.” Yet it is a protean word, subject to conflicting interpretations. Its simplest meaning conveys a down-to-earth aspiration: to have clean water, decent schools and health facilities; to produce larger harvests and more manufactured goods; to have access to the consumer goods which people elsewhere consider a normal part of life. To colonial elites after the war, bringing European capital and knowledge to Africa reconciled continued rule with calls for universal progress. To nationalists, a development that would serve African interests required African rule. After independence, new rulers could claim a place for themselves as intermediaries between external resources and national aspirations. But African rulers were in turn subject to criticism for sacrificing development for the people to personal greed.

The development concept, some have argued, allowed for an internationalization of colonialism, as the one-to-one relationship of metropole to colony was transformed into a generalized economic subordination of South to North, of Africa and Asia to Europe and North America. New actors entered into trade relationships and provided capital and foreign aid: the US, the USSR, and Scandinavian countries, as well as international agencies like the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.

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