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The activities of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (together comprising the Bretton Woods Institutions) in Africa have continued to generate questions about the impact of economic reforms on democratization and economic growth. The Bretton Woods Institutions strongly believe that economic growth contributes significantly to poverty alleviation efforts and hence generates improvements in living standards, particularly in developing countries, including those in Africa. In the mid-1980s, as many African countries struggled to service their external debts and qualify for additional credit to provide services to their citizens and promote economic growth and development, the World Bank and the IMF offered to help them. However, the Bretton Woods Institutions conditioned their assistance on the willingness of each African country to undertake necessary structural reforms, which included a reduction in the public sector, devaluation of the national currency, deregulation of the foreign trade sector, and more reliance on markets for the allocation of resources. These aid programs, which came to be known as Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) consisted of conditional lending to African countries in economic crisis. At this time, the World Bank felt that the effectiveness of its development programs in Africa and other regions of the world was being undermined by bloated and dysfunctional bureaucratic structures and governmental systems that were hostile to the market generally and entrepreneurship in particular. The World Bank’s desire to condition the extension of credit to African countries on institutional reforms was supposedly to improve bureaucratic efficiency, as well as economic performance, and enhance the effectiveness of the World Bank’s projects in these countries. Thus, the IMF and the World Bank emerged in the 1990s as major players in efforts to improve economic growth and development in Africa. The SAPs were expected to improve macroeconomic performance, produce rapid economic growth, achieve economic diversification, and provide each African country with the resources that it needed to confront poverty and improve national living standards. In fact, in 1994, the World Bank expressed a lot of optimism about the impact of SAPs on African economies. However, many critics have argued that SAPs had virtually no positive impact on the macroeconomic performance of African economies and, instead, created a series of internal political and economic contradictions that have continued to haunt the continent to this day. As a result, critics say, many countries that implemented SAPs continue to suffer from high levels of poverty and became more dependent on external financial resources (such as loans, development aid, and food aid) than before they got involved with the Bretton Woods Institutions and their adjustment programs.

Article

Krista Johnson

Africa has the largest number of people living with HIV, with an estimated 25.7 million HIV-positive people in Africa by the end of 2018. This figure represents over two-thirds of infected people globally. African women and girls represent a majority of those infected, and Africa is home to three-fourths of all HIV-infected women and girls. Across African countries, there are differences in the sizes and trajectories of HIV epidemics. Southern Africa has the worst epidemic, with the numbers infected still rising in some countries. Prompting a development and governance crisis in many southern African countries, HIV prevalence rates are as high as 20 percent of the adult population in some countries and nearing 50 percent of the adult population in certain communities. East Africa too has been hit hard by HIV, leading to high mortality and morbidity rates in that region as well. In most of West and North Africa, there has been limited spread of HIV, with most countries in these regions having HIV prevalence rates of less than 3 percent. Africa’s encounter with HIV and AIDS began before it was first identified as a medical condition early in the 1980s. However, it was not recognized as an epidemic in most parts of Africa until much later. Framed largely as a public health crisis rather than a developmental one, much of the world’s focus on the AIDS pandemic in Africa has centered on access to treatment, and developing effective prevention strategies that have principally focused on behavior change practices for targeted populations. However, the HIV and AIDS pandemic in Africa did not emerge in a vacuum. It is the consequence of longer historical processes such as massive demographic growth, urbanization, and social change, as well as global inequalities and historical legacies of colonialism and imperialism. In this regard, a historical account of HIV in Africa offers an important corrective to the dominant biomedical response to AIDS in Africa. It is important to take note of longer historical processes that have shaped both the virus and the human response to it.

Article

Jane I. Guyer and Karin Pallaver

African peoples have managed multiple currencies, for all the classic four functions of money, for at least a thousand years: within each society’s own circuits, in regional exchange, and across the continent’s borders with the rest of the world. Given the materials of some of these currencies, and the general absence of formalized denominations until the colonial period, some early European accounts defined certain transactions as barter. The management of multiplicity is traced through four eras: a) the precolonial period, with some monies locally produced and acquired, and others imported through intercontinental trades, such as the Atlantic slave trade, and eventually under the expansion of capitalism to Africa; b) the colonial period, when precolonial monies, in some places, still circulated with official monies; c) postcolonial national monies for the new African states; and d) the most recent phase of multiplicity in use, due to migration and sales across borders as well as to the use of new technologies, such as mobile money. The management of multiplicity thereby has a long history and continues to be an inventive frontier. History and ethnography meet on common ground to address these dynamics through empirical study of money in practice, and broader scholarship has drawn on a large variety of original sources.

Article

At their closest points, Sicily and Tunisia are separated by less than 100 miles across the Strait of Sicily. Using intermediate islands as guides, it is possible to cross this distance without losing sight of land. The proximity of Sicily and the Italian Peninsula to North Africa facilitated substantial interactions between peoples in these regions across the central Middle Ages—from roughly 1000 until 1300. During this period, Norman Sicily and Italian city-states like Venice, Genoa, and Pisa had substantial interactions with Muslim lords across North Africa. Walled funduqs provided isolated and secure facilities for merchants to conduct business in Muslim ports. Mendicant missionaries tended to these traders and, at times, voluntarily martyred themselves by denouncing Islam and proselytizing in the streets of Muslim cities. These traders and monks operated against a backdrop of intermittent conflict. State-sponsored raiding from both Muslim North Africa and Christian Italy proved a persistent threat to merchants and their wares. On occasion, these raids devolved into more substantial campaigns aimed at conquest, including a handful of papally-sponsored crusades. The longest-lived Christian foray into North Africa during these years resulted in Norman Sicily seizing control over a strip of land in modern-day Tunisia from roughly 1148 to 1160 and forming the Norman “Kingdom of Africa.”

Article

The heyday of African socialism as the animating force behind African political developments has passed. Yet, like other political doctrines of great revolutionary movements, its name and principles continue to be invoked by political and social leaders today. As recently as 2005, the Rev. Johnson J. Chinyong’ole of the University of KwaZulu-Natal argued that the principles of African socialism should guide the Anglican Church’s efforts in reducing poverty in Tanzania. As part of the zeitgeist of early postcolonial Africa, the traditions and principles of African socialism have had a profound impact on how Africans have seen and shaped their world. An understanding of the central tenets of African socialism helps to explain the unique ways in which Africans have responded to and appropriated features of Marxism, socialism, and capitalism, as well as to illuminate distinctly African traditions of communalism, philosopher-kings, aestheticism, and perfectionism in politics.

Article

Corinna Jentzsch

The history of independent Mozambique is a history of war and peace, and it is closely intertwined with the history of the main opposition movement Renamo (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana), which formed as an armed movement and transitioned into a political party. Mozambique gained independence from Portuguese colonial rule in 1975 after a ten-year liberation struggle. The main liberation movement Frelimo (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique) became the ruling party and introduced far-reaching social, economic, and political reforms. These reforms generated discontent, which contributed to the formation of opposition movements in the center of the country. From the late 1970s onwards, an armed movement, later known as Renamo, gained ground in central Mozambique and fought a guerrilla war against the Mozambican government. Renamo received support from Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe) and apartheid South Africa who sought to undermine Frelimo aid to liberation movements in their respective countries. It was only in 1992 that Renamo and Frelimo reached a settlement with the help of international mediators, with a path to multiparty elections in 1994. Since then, Renamo has participated in elections as a political party but has never won a majority in parliament nor was it able to claim the presidency. Political conflict between Frelimo and Renamo has never subsided, with Renamo regularly protesting election results and alleging fraud. Tensions escalated in 2013 and led to low-level conflict in the central region. A ceasefire agreement in 2014 and a unilateral truce by Renamo in December 2016 ended that conflict, but a peace accord was only struck after Afonso Dhlakama—president of Renamo—died of natural causes in 2018. Since then, tensions have remained due to armed activity by a Renamo breakaway movement and a slow demobilization process, and peace remains precarious. Renamo’s transition from an armed movement into a political movement, similarly to Mozambique’s transition from war to peace, has not yet fully materialized.

Article

Terje Tvedt

To understand the role of the modern Nile in African history, it is first necessary to have familiarity with the premodern “natural” Nile, including both its hydrology and societal importance. It is well known that no river basin in the world has a longer, more complex, and more eventful history. The Nile water issue in modern times is a history of how economic and political developments in East and North Africa have been fundamentally shaped by the interconnectedness of the Nile’s particular physical and hydrological character; the efforts of adapting to, controlling, using, and sharing the waters of the river; and the different ideas and ambitions that political leaders have had for the Nile.

Article

Ujamaa  

Michael Jennings

The idea of Ujamaa emerged from the writing and speeches of Tanzania’s first president, Julius K Nyerere, from the late 1950s and into the 1960s. Usually translated as “familyhood,” it was a form of African socialism that blended broadly conceived socialist principles with a distinctly “communitarian” understanding of African societies, and a strong commitment to egalitarian societies. It was to form the bedrock of efforts to institute profound social change from the late 1960s, directed and shaped by the state. At the heart of the idea of Ujamaa were ideas around self-reliance (people should build for themselves their futures), total participation of all in developing the nation (“nation building,” and self-help), communal labor in the rural sector and communal ownership of land, and nationalizations in the private sector and of public services. Ujamaa as an idea was to have a profound impact on Tanzanian economic and development policies from the late 1960s, but also had a wider continental impact in contributing to and shaping a distinctive form of African socialism in the 1960s and 1970s.