chapter  2
33 Pages

Industrial development

The dilemmas of political institutionalisation and longevity are by no means the only difficulties that Third World leaders must grapple with. The challenges posed by industrial development, or lack thereof, are equally daunting. The quest for industrial development and economic growth has been a consistent feature of developing countries in recent decades, especially in the light of growing disparities between levels of development in the West and those in the developing world. The race towards industrialisation has been particularly intense since the 1960s, when, having come of age, Third World leaders became uncomfortably conscious of their industrial and technological backwardness vis-à-vis the West. A ‘Decade of Development’, as declared by the United Nations, was ushered in during the 1960s. The hope was to accompany the tide of political independence and self-rule sweeping over Africa and other parts of the developing world with the termination of Western economic domination and the initiation of rapid, indigenous industrial development. These hopes and expectations were somewhat fulfilled in the 1970s, although often only after considerable economic readjustment, when increased global demands for raw materials and liberal lending practices by multinational credit agencies fuelled growth and expansion in numerous Third World countries. But the rapid pace of economic growth turned out to be short-lived. The boom of the 1970s was unceremoniously followed by the bust of the 1980s, a decade burdened with famine, destitution, political instability and domestic and international wars. The economic downturn of the 1980s was in large measure a result of unreasonable hopes and expectations, misguided policies, unimaginative planning and rampant corruption and mismanagement, all of which in one way or another plagued the Third World in the 1970s. As economic realities set in, Third World politicians began desperately searching for ways to restructure or completely relinquish the enormous debts that they had accrued from Western creditors in previous years. By the 1990s the debt problem had been mostly solved, although the gap between the rich and the poor continued to grow, compounded by the prevalence of old plagues – famine, drought, civil wars – and the spread of a new, even more deadly one, AIDS.