Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture

Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture No. 1/11

Lessons from Structural Adjustment Programmes
and their Effects in Africa

Franz Heidhues
University Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany, and

Gideon Obare
Egerton University, Egerton, Kenya


After independence around 1960, African countries started with high hopes for rapid growth and development. Whereas the initial performance was remarkable, economic development slowed in the 1970s and stagnated in the 1980s. In response, the states’ attempts to reinvigorate economic growth through state-led investments and import substitution industrialisation strategies were unsuccessful. The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and Western donors developed and advocated Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs), which emphasised macroeconomic stabilisation, privatisation and free market development. The SAP approach has generated considerable debate within African countries and development circles. While proponents argued that the reforms were essential and without alternatives, critics charged that SAPs paid insufficient attention to the social dimension of development and to the institutional weaknesses of developing countries. The debate continues. This paper discusses the pro and contra arguments of the debate, presents lessons learned, and draws conclusions for future policy priorities.

Keywords: Africa, economic development, agricultural policies

JEL: D72, E61, N17, O13

Vol. 50 (2011), No. 1: 55-64