Review from ROAPE Volume 23 Number 68
Africa's Choices: After 30 Years of World Bank (Barratt Brown)
This is an important and welcome book. At a time when all too many on the left in the West (and in Africa) continue to bemoan ‘the African tragedy’ , and so-called ‘aid’ agencies like the World Bank persist with wholly ungrounded optimism to peddle their own failed prescriptions for African economies and societies, Michael Barratt Brown has preferred to consider the alternatives that exist. He emphasises the contribution of African thinkers and of indigenous groups and movements in Africa as the basis for real ‘African alternatives’ , while trying (not wholly successfully) to avoid the trap of romantic populism. He focuses on the potential ‘within’ , drawing attention at the same time to the constraints imposed by Africa's historically conditioned position in the global political economy and the world market. But he suggests that here also there are choices and openings - for ‘alternative trade’ , for example, both within Africa and with the rest of the world, arguing that ‘there is a place for self-reliance without isolation from the rest of the world’ (p. 368).