UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An expose of the general literature in development planning and the applicability to West Africa Blell, Joseph C.


The purpose of this study is to show there is no special economic or general development theory tailor-made for West Africa. Maybe, when all general theories are valid, some are more valid than others. The recent emergence of "development theories" from academics in the "Third and Fourth World" countries is both an expression of serious doubts with orthodox development theories, as well as a serious search for self-assertion. These attempts to devise an appropriate theoretical concept geared towards the interpretation and analysis of the development process in these regions are, at bottom, also a response to the dynamics of economic and social change. The growing awareness of these views reflects the extent to which these processes of change are at work. As we shall soon observe, the attempts by the various orthodox authors of development theories to diagnose the underlying causes of development, the link with the world systems and the proposed future strategies, have very little in common. Take, for example, the economic system of the sixteenth century that generated modern industrial capitalism. This system was made up of three interdependent parts: a developed core in Western Europe, a partially developed semiperiphery in southern and eastern Europe, and an underdeveloped periphery of the rest of the world. From this, one can see, with some persuasion, that the dynamic of capitalism (or of a fully developed market economy) is based on the structural imbalance created by integrating the West Africa economies at different levels of development in what Prof. Wallerstein called a "world-system." There are probably few who would quarrel with this part of the formulation - although its neglect as a serious theory of economic development by economists, is, to this author, certainly one of the more interesting occurrences in modern history. The question that is open to debate is the degree to which this imbalance (in West Africa) tends toward permanence - the degree to which "underdevelopment" develops along with development to become a relatively stable economic adjustment. None of the development theories reviewed in the thesis has sufficient time depth to assess the question of permanence with empirical data, nor do they attempt to do so. Instead, the problem is tackled as follows. The nonindustrial nations of the world have not developed because they have failed the preconditions for it - a market mentality, local economic differentiation, "modern" socio-cultural institutions receptive to economic development (entrepreneurship). But none of these holds in the indigeneous societies of West Africa where there is no lack of entrepreneurship and little in the way of social and cultural impediments to growth. The most common alternative explanation is that the "surplus" necessary to endogenous growth is being drained in export-import trade with the developed systems. This thesis explores the dimensions of development in the economies like those of West Africa which are in a period of drastic change and dissatisfaction with the conventional paradigms. Structurally, this study has been divided into five chapters. The introductory chapter defines the uniqueness of the West African case. This uniqueness arises from uncensured acceptance of Western norms and models and reliance on growth - through capital-intensive imported technology. Coupled with this is also the idea of measuring the successes (if any) and the failures with the yardsticks accepted and applicable in the West, Chapter two will review the general literature in development (Dualism, Strategical, Foreign Trade, Sociological and Psychological, and Marxist theories) and then prescribe an indigenous model, Self-Reliance, as an alternative to the reviewed theories. Chapter three examines the physical environment and economy of the region. Chapter four deals with the acceptance or rejection of the hypothesis that is, when all general theories are valid, some are more valid than others and Chapter five deals with the policy implications and conclusions.

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