Desert Bloom

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From the mid 1960s, a group of international scholars—including Issa G. Shivji, Walter Rodney, John S. Saul, Giovani Arrighi—gathered at the University of Dar es Salaam to study the political and economic issues facing a newly postcolonial Africa. Looking past the given ideas of modernization theory, they argued for organic forms of socialist development suited to local contexts. 

In a 2009 book, ISSA G. SHIVJI charts the rise of neoliberalism in Africa. 

From the text:

“During the first one-and-half decades of independence, African economies showed impressive but unsustainable growth. Growth in agriculture was based on extensive cultivation rather than a rise in productivity. Growth in manufacturing was of the import-substitution tvpe, with little internal linkages, and dependent on imported intermediary inputs. Investment was largely public, while domestic private capital was stashed away in foreign countries. By 1990, 37 percent of Africa’s wealth had flown outside the continent. During this period, the developmental state borrowed heavily. By the end of the 1970s, cheap loans turned into heavy debt burdens. Growth rates became negative, debt repayments became unsustainable, fiscal imbalances went out of control, and so did inflation. One after another, African governments found themselves at the door of the IMF and the Paris Club pleading for mercy. The 1980s, described as Africa’s ‘Lost Decade,’ saw the decline of developmentalism and the rise of neoliberalism. Structural Adjustment Programs were pushed through, which concentrated on stabilization measures: getting rid of budget deficits, bringing down inflation, getting prices right, unleashing the market, and liberalizing trade. Balancing budgets involved cutting subsidies to agriculture and reducing allocations to social programs, including education and health. Unleashing the market meant doing away with protection of infant industries and rolling back the state from economic activity. The results were devastating: education, medical care, health, nutrition, rates of literacy, and life expectancy all declined. Deindustrialization set in. Redundancies followed. Even some of the modest achievements of the nationalist period were lost or undermined.” 

+  “The financial institutions of colonial Africa—banks, insurance companies, currency boards—were scandalously neglectful of indigenous interests.” From Walter Rodney’s classic 1972 text How Europe Underdeveloped AfricaLink

+  “Should not Tanzania’s socialist moment constitute a very real learning experience for a continent that has still not fully confronted the threat of continuing subordination by global capital?” By John S. Saul. Link. And Essays on the Political Economy of Africa, by Saul and Arrighi. Link.

+  Shivji’s classic 1970 essay “The Silent Class Struggle,” with responses from Rodney, Saul, Kassim Guruli, Tamás Szentes, and Justinian Rweyemamu. Link. And Mahmood Mamdani on the history of the African University. Link


Suburban commutes

JESSICA GALLANT is a Ph.D. candidate in economics at the University of Toronto. In her job market paper, she explores how time costs affect the demand for free HIV care in Malawi. 

From the abstract

“Despite the wide availability and free provision of antiretroviral therapy (ART), a life-saving treatment for HIV, keeping patients in care is a challenge across Sub-Saharan Africa. In this paper, I provide evidence from Malawi that time costs are a key barrier to adherence to ART. My staggered difference-in-differences empirical strategy exploits the random timing of appointments relative to floods, which generate exogenous variation in the value of patients’ time. Floods have heterogeneous effects on income, but consistently reduce agricultural labour by 45%. I show that this negative labour shock is an important determinant of demand for ART. Floods cause a 50% reduction in the number of patients who miss appointments to refill their medication, and lead to better long-term adherence and lower mortality. Having an appointment in the weeks following a flood, compared to just before, causes a 2 percentage points lower likelihood of stopping ART for three months or longer and a 20% lower risk of death within a year. My estimates suggest that reducing the likelihood of three-month treatment interruptions from its peak in the busy rainy season to its low in the dry season could decrease mortality rates by 15%.”

+ + +

+  “Two types of images are key to understanding current debates about economic globalization: the hockey stick chart, representing the stunning and inexorable growth of some phenomenon; and the cross chart, whose lines represent changes in relative power and prosperity.” New on The Polycrisis, by Anthea Roberts and Nicolas Lamp (with visuals by Yusuf Khan). Link.

+  Why the Fed and the ECB diverged on climate. By Monica DiLeo, Glenn D. Rudebusch, and Jens van ‘t Klooster. Link. See also: DiLeo on the achievements and limits of the Bank of England’s climate policies. Link.

+  Mohamed Kheir Omer on the “resource politics” behind the coup in Niger. Link.

+  “An abrupt correction of asset values is possible once markets recalibrate the likely impacts of climate change… Steve Keen also predicts such a ‘Minsky moment’ and warns it will be ‘unpleasant, abrupt and wealth-destroying.'” Vanessa Houlder and Nathalie Thomas in the FT on mispriced physical risk and the threat of a “climate Minsky moment.” Link.

+  A report from Private Citizen on how buyout firms promote oil and gas drilling on public lands. Link

+  “Every barrel of oil Iran is currently selling to China is increasing U.S. leverage for future talks.” By Esfandyar Batmanghelidj. Link

+  Maurizio Totaro on “oil, labor, and authoritarian neoliberalism in Kazakhstan.” Link

+  “The formative years of the bop pioneers’ careers were bounded by two crucial historical events: the boom and bust cycle of the Swing Era and the outbreak of the Second World War. The Swing Era defined the ‘art world’ within which they would live and work. As we have seen, the startling expansion of the music industry shattered the older, more static role of the dance musician, holding out the tantalizing prospect of unprecedented reward. Those coming of age after 1935 naturally had higher expectations than their predecessors, for they could see firsthand the profits being made. They were predictably frustrated when the economic contraction after 1939 forced them into unequal competition with both their white counterparts and older, better-connected black musicians for a share of the shrinking pie. The onset of war partially salvaged the situation, by stimulating the economy with new defense spending and creating a nearly hysterical demand for entertainment on the home front. But the fabric of American life was warped by war into unpredictable patterns. The resultant chaos undermined the status quo, making it easier for the imaginative and ambitious to challenge it.” By Scott DeVeaux. Link

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations:

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