In This Review

Africa's Choices: After Thirty Years of the World Bank
Africa's Choices: After Thirty Years of the World Bank
By Michael Barratt Brown
Westview Press, 1996, 433 pp

Most observers dispute the reasons why but not the fact that the World Bank's programs of structural adjustment have done little to arrest African economic decline. While some experts favor stiffer doses of the bank's medicine, others argue that the basic prescription is faulty and even contributes to the political and social instability that reinforces economic malaise. Brown, a severe critic of the bank and most Northern-directed trade, aid, and lending programs aimed at the poorer nations of the South, sets out an assortment of alternative proposals for African recovery, many of them probably overly idealistic in light of prevailing political tendencies in both donor and recipient countries. His unifying ideas, backed up in varying degrees by statistics, anecdotal evidence, and moral exhortation, are that Africans, especially those at the grass roots, know best and must unite to empower themselves, that cooperation is more productive than competition, that rich nations have a duty to cancel the crippling debts of the poor, and that enlightened opinion in the North must rally in support of more generous terms of trade and lending if Africa is ever to break out of its cycle of underdevelopment.