Loading...

HIST252: Modern Africa

Unit 8: Africa in the Late Twentieth Century   Leaders of African independence movements hoped to build strong states and bring growth and development to their new states in the second half of the twentieth century.  But in the 1980s and 1990s, many Africans saw their standards of living decline dramatically.  The causes of this reversal of fortune varied from country to country.  In some states, growing debts and failed attempts at reform weakened the ability of Africans to earn income.  In other states, political instability hampered growth; patronage and corruption allowed privileged elites to siphon off wealth and encouraged political rivals to battle for control over the state and its valuable natural resources.  Finally, social and environmental problems took a severe toll: the HIV/AIDS epidemic killed millions of Africans in the 1980s and 1990s, while drought, deforestation, and desertification limited the ability of Africans to produce sufficient food.

In this unit, we will explore the numerous challenges that independent African states faced at the end of the last century and explore the uncertain future of growth and development in Africa in the twenty-first century.

Unit 8 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 27.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 8.1: 6.0 hours

☐    Subunit 8.1.1: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 8.1.2: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 8.2: 4.5 hours

☐    Subunit 8.2.1: 1.0 hour

☐    Subunit 8.2.2: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 8.2.3: 1.0 hour

☐    Subunit 8.3: 6.0 hours

☐    Subunit 8.3.1: 2.0 hours

☐    Subunit 8.3.2: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 8.3.3: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 8.4: 11.0 hours

Unit8 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Identify and discuss the principal economic, political, and social problems faced by African states in the late twentieth century.
  • Discuss the significance of various internal and external factors for Africa’s problems.
  • Explore the causes and ramifications of economic and political instability for social development.

8.1 Economic Challenges   8.1.1 The Debt Crisis   - Reading: Mt. Holyoke College: Vincent Ferraro’s and Melissa Rosser’s “Global Debt and Third World Development” Link: Mt. Holyoke College: Vincent Ferraro’s and Melissa Rosser’s “Global Debt and Third World Development” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this article to understand how African nations became indebted to foreign lenders and the effect that loan repayments had on African societies.
 
The “debt crisis” began in 1982 when the government of Mexico announced that it could no longer pay its debts to foreign lenders.  Across the developing world, governments amassed large debts during the 1970s to pay for industrial, agricultural, and social projects.  By the late 1970s, interest rates skyrocketed, and the combination of rising oil prices and low prices for the primary commodities produced by developing states severely limited the ability of governments to service their debts.  In Africa, the debt crisis forced governments to slash spending on education and other social services as well as to rely on new foreign loans and foreign aid for survival.  This essay was originally published in the Proceedings of the 15th Anniversary Third World Conference Foundation (Chicago: Third World Conference Foundation, Inc., 1991) and is hosted on Professor Vincent Ferraro’s website at Mt. Holyoke College.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.1.2 Structural Adjustment   - Web Media: International Monetary Fund’s West Africa: The Fabric of Reform (1998) Link: International Monetary Fund’s West Africa: The Fabric of Reform (1998) (Windows Media Player)
 
Instructions: Watch this documentary (32 minutes) to see how the International Monetary Fund (IMF) tried to stimulate growth in West Africa.
The IMF is an intergovernmental organization charged with regulating the global economy.  Mired in growing debts, African states turned to the IMF in the 1980s and 1990s for assistance with rebuilding their economies.  The IMF facilitated new loans for many governments, but required African governments to enact “structural adjustment” policies that cut government spending, reduced taxes, privatized state-run enterprises, and eliminated regulatory controls.  This film, produced by the IMF in 1998, highlights some of the positive aspects of structural adjustment, such as increased competitiveness in markets.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Center for Economic and Policy Research: Robert Naiman’s and Neil Watkins’ “A Survey of the Impacts of IMF Structural Adjustment in Africa: Growth, Social Spending, and Debt Relief” Link: Center for Economic and Policy Research: Robert Naiman’s and Neil Watkins’ “A Survey of the Impacts of IMF Structural Adjustment in Africa: Growth, Social Spending, and Debt Relief”(HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this report and examine the charts to see how IMF policies have affected African states and societies.
     
    This report shows some of the negative effects of IMF structural adjustment policies in sub-Saharan Africa.  The authors conclude that “the International Monetary Fund has failed in Africa, in terms of its own stated objectives and according to its own data.”  They show that debt has increased for many states, while growth rates remain poor.  IMF requirements to cut government spending have hit the health and education sectors severely in many states, weakening the tools needed to improve standards of living in African countries.  
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.2 Transitions   8.2.1 End of the Cold War   - Reading: New York Times: Jane Perlez’s “After the Cold War: Views from Africa; Stranded by Superpowers, Africa Seeks an Identity” Link: New York Times: Jane Perlez’s “After the Cold War: Views from Africa; Stranded by Superpowers, Africa Seeks an Identity” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this four-page article to see how African governments reacted to the end of the Cold War.
 
This article, from 1992, highlights some of the effects the sudden end of the Cold War had on Africa.  Warring parties in several African states lost military and political support from the superpowers; in Mozambique, for example, a civil war that had raged between the pro-communist government and anti-communist rebel movement came to an abrupt end in 1992.  In other countries, like Sudan, civil wars raged on, with opposing factions unable to raise enough outside support to win decisive victories.  The waning strategic importance of Africa to the superpowers also meant less development aid. Countries aligned with the former communist bloc suffered the most as foreign doctors, engineers, and other experts left and lucrative trade deals ended.  
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.2.2 End of Apartheid in South Africa   - Web Media: Michigan State University: South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid: “Unit 5: Reigniting the Struggle: The 1970s through the Release of Nelson Mandela” and “Unit 6: The End of Apartheid and the Birth of Democracy” Link: Michigan State University: South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid: “Unit 5: Reigniting the Struggle: The 1970s through the Release of Nelson Mandela” (HTML)and “Unit 6: The End of Apartheid and the Birth of Democracy” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the text for both units and explore the multimedia resources on the left sidebar to see how apartheid was defeated in South Africa.
 
These two units trace the end of apartheid in South Africa.  Several factors contributed to the sudden collapse of white settler rule.  The end of the Cold War deprived the African National Congress (ANC) of material support from the Soviet bloc, encouraging its leaders to favor negotiations over violence.  The South African government also lost its main excuse for repressing the ANC—fear of a communist takeover.  ANC leader Nelson Mandela and President F.W. DeKlerk arranged a negotiated end to apartheid in the early 1990s, and although violent extremists on both sides worked to derail the process, fair and democratic elections were finally held in 1994.  The end of apartheid changed regional politics in Southern Africa as well.  Apartheid South Africa was isolated and embattled internationally, but in the 1990s the nation emerged as a regional leader.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

8.2.3 Global Migration   - Reading: Ìrìnkèrindò: A Journal of African Migration, No. 2 (2003): Joseph Takougang’s “Contemporary African Immigrants to the United States” Link: Ìrìnkèrindò: A Journal of African Migration, No. 2 (2003): Joseph Takougang’s “Contemporary African Immigrants to the United States” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this scholarly article about recent patterns of African migration to the U.S.
 
Africans from across the continent began to move in unprecedented numbers in the last two decades of the twentieth century.  Many moved from one African state to another, displaced by war.  Many others left Africa entirely, headed to Europe, the Middle East, and North America in pursuit of a better life.  This article highlights the movement of Africans to the US, exploring the experiences of war refugees as well as “economic migrants,” who moved abroad to find better-paying employment.  While Africans may find new lives in the U.S., they maintain ties to Africa by traveling home, sending money to support families, or forming ethnic organizations to preserve their language and culture in new homes.  
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.3 Political Instability   8.3.1 Ethnic Conflict   - Reading: USAID: Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda: The International Response to Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from the Rwanda Experience: “Chapter 2: Pre-Colonial Period - Ethnicity in Pre-Colonial Rwanda” and “Chapter 5: April 1994 and Its Aftermath;” University of Pennsylvania’s African Studies Center: David Wiley’s “Using ‘Tribe’ and ‘Tribalism’ Categories to Misunderstand Africa” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

[Submit Materials](/contribute/)
  • Web Media: PBS’s Frontline: “Rwanda Chronology” Link: PBS’s Frontline: “Rwanda Chronology” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Use this timeline to follow the chain of events that led to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.  This timeline accompanies a 1997 documentary about the genocide in Rwanda titled “Valentina’s Nightmare.”
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.3.2 Failed States   - Reading: Institute for Security Studies: Monograph No. 36 – Whither Peacekeeping in Africa?: Tom Lodge’s “Towards an Understanding of Contemporary Armed Conflicts in Africa” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

[Submit Materials](/contribute/)
  • Web Media: The Open University: Environment, Development, and International Studies: “War, Intervention, and Development” Podcast Link: The Open University: Environment, Development, and International Studies: “War, Intervention, and Development” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Also available in:
    iTunes U
     
    Instructions: Watch the podcasts linked here in the following order to understand the causes and impact of the civil war in Sierra Leone: “War, Intervention, and Development,” “Civil War in Sierra Leone,”  “What Sparked Civil Unrest in Sierra Leone?” “Women’s Roles in the War,” “ECOMOG’s Role in Sierra Leone’s Civil War,” “The Future of the Marginalized in Sierra Leone,” “The Military and Civilian Relationship,” “The Prospects for Sustainable Peace,” and “Academic Perspective.”  Use the right-side navigation bar to choose each podcast to view.
     
    This series of podcasts examines the civil war that ravaged Sierra Leone between 1991 and 2002.  While the war was frequently portrayed in international media as an ethnic conflict, the primary causes of the war were political and economic.  Corruption in government and widespread poverty in the countryside encouraged people—especially young people—to take up arms and fight in the conflict.  The war was closely connected to the civil war in Liberia, and both conflicts were fueled by illicit diamond mining.  While the war in Sierra Leone ended in 2002, the task of reconstruction is daunting, and government faces many of the same social problems that caused the war in the first place
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.3.3 Problems of Reform   - Web Media: UNICEF: Democratic Republic of Congo: Martin Bell’s “Report on Children;” iTunes U: Boston University’s African Studies Center: Walter Rodney Lectures: Theodore Trefon’s “Reform Failure in Congo;” National Public Radio (NPR): Jason Beaubien’s “Rebuilding Congo’s Railroad” Links: UNICEF: Democratic Republic of Congo: Martin Bell’s “Report on Children” (Adobe Flash); iTunes U: Boston University’s African Studies Center: Walter Rodney Lectures: Theodore Trefon’s “Reform Failure in Congo” (iTunes U); National Public Radio (NPR): Jason Beaubien’s “Rebuilding Congo’s Railroad” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Watch the interactive map presentation, and listen to the narration for a brief account of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  Then, listen to this lecture (1 hour) about the difficulties of rebuilding government institutions in the DRC.  Finally, read Beaubien’s short article, and listen to the audio clip to see how difficult infrastructure reconstruction can be.  Also, examine the map to understand the geography of the DRC.
 
This map is part of a UNICEF report about child soldiers in the DRC.  In Trefon’s lecture, he argues that foreign aid “perpetuates dependency” and “weakens state-building efforts” in the DRC.  His talk illustrates the difficulty of fixing failing government institutions from within and from the outside. This lecture was presented on February 2010 as part of the Walter Rodney Lecture series at the Boston University African Studies Center.  “Rebuilding Congo’s Railroad” was first broadcast on NPR in June 2004.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.4 Human Challenges   8.4.1 HIV/AIDS in Africa   - Reading: United Nations Economic Commission for Africa: Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa’s “Securing our Future – Ch.1: HIV and AIDS the Issues for Africa” and “Securing our Future – Ch. 2: the Challenge to Governance and Development (chapter at a glance)” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

[Submit Materials](/contribute/)
  • Reading: UNAIDS’ “Fact Sheet: sub-Saharan Africa” Link: UNAIDS’ “Fact Sheet: sub-Saharan Africa” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Click on “Fact Sheet: sub-Saharan Africa” to access the PDF file to this 3 page document.  It provides a succinct overview of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa.  The fact sheet is produced by UNAIDS, a specialized agency of the UN dedicated to addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic worldwide.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

8.4.2 Environmental Problems in Africa   - Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 8 Review Essay” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 8 Review Essay” (PDF)
 
Instructions:Please write a well-developed essay in response to the following question. You are encouraged to reflect thoroughly on the course readings and to demonstrate your understanding of the content. Be sure not to merely summarize the readings; rather, integrate the central points of the readings you deem relevant and elaborate on your understanding of the material in order to devise a coherent and reflective essay in response to the question. When you have completed the task you are encouraged to check your work against the Saylor Foundation’s “Guide to Responding to Review Essay.” (PDF)  A well-developed essay should take 3-8 hours to complete.

  • Reading: The Africa Society’s “Addressing Environmental Problems in Africa” Link: The Africa Society’s “Addressing Environmental Problems in Africa” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read this overview of the environmental problems facing Africa in the 21st century.
     
    This text emphasizes the human factors behind environmental degradation in Africa.  Desperate for land, farmers are clearing forests and contributing to the spread of deserts; in other parts of Africa, workers with few opportunities handle toxic materials to earn a meager income.  While specific environmental solutions like soil conservation or industry regulation are needed to protect Africa’s diverse environments, any long-term solution must take into account two key factors that underlie all of these destructive processes: widespread poverty and weak governance.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.