On January 18, 1908, Winston Churchill confessed to the National Liberal Club, London that he had never seen countries so fertile and beautiful outside of Europe as those of East Africa. “There are parts of the East African Protectorate which in their beauty, in the coolness of the air, in the richness of the soil, in their verdure, in the abundance of running water, in their fertility-parts which absolutely surpass any of the countries which I have mentioned, and challenge comparison with the fairest regions of England, France, or Italy. I have seen in Uganda a country which from end to end is a garden-inexhaustible, irrepressible, and exhuberant fertility upon every side, and I cannot doubt that the great system of lakes and waterways, which you cannot fail to observe if you look at a large map of Africa, must one day become the great centre of tropical production, and play a most important part in the economic development of the whole world.”
The system of comparative advantage has condemned the continent to the production of low value commodity exports. In the process, Sub-Saharan Africa has been excluded from industrialization which is essential in combating poverty and its negative offshoots. Development programmes since the 1950s have largely bypassed the poorest and the most needy Africans.
Africa, the second largest continent in the world, with a vast and laregly untapped human and natural resource base, has entered the twenty-first century as the poorest region, with unsustainable levels of external debt. The continent is also the most technologically backward, the most ravaged by conflicts, malnutrition, disease, iliiteracy, unemployment, increasing corruption, abuse of human rights and undemocratic governance.
Eric Kashambuzi, in his incisive and well-researched third book on African development challenges and opportunities, has analyzed, with reference to nutrition, health care and education-the fundamentals of development-the various explanantions for Africa’s lost twentieth century. The author has de-emphasized population growth and natural calamities as the primary cause of undernutrition, has emphasized preventive approaches to health care and stressed balanced diet and good health, along with adequate facilities, qualified and motivated teachers and sufficient instructional materials, as critical elements in the education of African children.
Overall, Africa lost the twentieth century because of imperfections in the economic and political system under the colonial and post-colonial leadership that has undermined the efforts of the hardworking people to improve the quality of their lives. The author makes strong recommendations for tackling food insecurity, improving healthcare and the educational standards of the African children-especially girls.
Since the 1960s, thanks to the green revolution , food production has grown faster than population. Yet, over 800 million people, including 200 million children, do not eat enough for a healthy and active life. Moreover, Sub-Saharan Africa is nutritionally worse off today than it was over 30 years ago, in spite of its abundant resources.
The author has used the term, “food insecurity” to characterize various types of hunger problems in developing nations around the world, but especially in Africa. He shows clearly that hunger is not a production problem, but a political and/or policy problem. Mr. Kashambuzi presents the details to back up this conclusion.
We are struck by the glaring truth that in some countries overwhelmed by starvation of their inhabitants, at the same time their main exports turn out to be foodstuffs!
Mr. Kashambuzi has examined export-oriented policies and conflicts of developing countries. Alone or in concert, policies and politics have aggravated poverty, which is the main cause of food insecurity, and caused localized food shortages or have caused the production of nutritionally inferior staple crops and damaged the environment.
What factors are responsible for the poor economic performance in Sub-Saharan Africa? Is it geography that isolated Africa from the civilizing influence of the rest of the world or the climate, soils and diseases that have sapped the energies of the African people? Is it the culture that has undermined Africa’s technological advancement? Is it the “exploding” population that consumes more than it produces, damages the environment and causes poverty in the process? Is it the integration of Africa as a weak partner in the international economy and the exploitation of her resources and people since the days of the slave trade, or is it a combination of all these?
Eric Kashambuzi has analyzed in a historical and integrated manner the challenges of development, drawing on his vast experience in the political economy of Sub-Saharan Africa and his varied academic background. With a view to finding a common theme that explains Africa’s poor performance in all areas of human endeavor, the author has examined critically the issues of food insecurity, population growth, external debt, geography, climate, soils, diseases, education and land use to determine the extent to which each may have undermined African development.
Eric M. Kashambuzi, Ugandan, graduated in Geography; Economics, Demography, International Law and Diplomacy, and Sustainable Development.
He taught Geography and Economics at the Universities of Nairobi and Addis Ababa in Kenya and Ethiopia.
He worked as an Economist in the East African Community and in the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP) Secretariat.
He then joined the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and worked in various capacities and in different areas in Ethiopia, Zambia, Swaziland and in New York, covering Country and Regional Programs activities. He worked closely with national governments, African Ambassadors in New York and with intergovernmental organizations such as the African Development Bank, Economic Commission for Africa, the Organization of African Unity (now African Union), Southern African Development Community (SADC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD); the United Nations General Assembly including its plenary meetings and those of the Second and Third Committees on financial, economic, social, environmental, gender and humanitarian issues as well as the work of its main organs such as Economic and Social Council and the Security Council; as well as the Executive Board of UNDP and UNFPA.