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There are no strong reasons to expect, Mengisteab maintains in the final analysis, that the prospects for the transformation of the global South and for the alleviation of global poverty will improve under the unfolding deregulated and export-based system, in which global production is engaged in a cut-throat competition for access to the nearly saturated markets of the developed countries. The export-promotion strategy appears to face the paradox that the more it succeeds initially the more likely its eventual failure becomes.

The "new capitalism" generates a number of problems for the North as well. Increased exports threaten certain low-tech and labour-intensive industries and the jobs they create. By encouraging the export of capital as well as technological advancement, the strategy also generates a loss of jobs, and balance of payment problems. Under these conditions an auto-centric development strategy that cultivates markets in the largely untapped potential markets of the South by coordinating production with social needs appears to be a viable safety net with considerable potential to alleviate poverty in the South and to stimulate a more rapid global economic development. As emphasized by Samir Amin (see above), auto-centric development does not imply autarky nor does it discourage imports or exports. Rather it is a development strategy that emphasizes domestic needs as sources of its dynamics over excessive reliance on external demand and in so doing diversifies the source of dynamics for global development.


Such an approach to development, which involves the empowerment of the poor and the deprived segments of society, faces nearly insurmountable obstacles at different levels. At the national level the elite classes are not likely to surrender their privileges in order to create access to resources for deprived groups. Regional cooperation and integration schemes in the South have also been undermined generally by a number of factors, especially the dependent development that has prevented complementarity among their economies.

The end of the Cold War has led, at least in the short run, to further consolidation of the North's control of the global process of capital accumulation and to intensification of the liberal economic regime. African countries can no longer let the global system determine the prospect of their development and survival.

They have to take charge of their own fate and establish internal dynamics for their development. They have to extricate themselves from the feudal – in Mengisteab's terms – hierarchical relations with the multilateral financial institutions. An auto-centric approach that fosters internal integration, collective self-reliance through regional integration, and foreign policies that promote South-South cooperation seems to be amongst their best options.



According to prevailing development models that guide policy in Africa, for Mengisteab, African development currently hinges primarily on external dynamics. These models, while attempting to bring about close integration of the global economy with a free enterprise market system, grossly neglect Africa's internal dynamics. He has therefore attempted to demonstrate why such development models are inappropriate for the specific cultural conditions that characterize African countries.

There is little doubt that external dynamics can be an important source of development. In some cases they may even be the primary driving force for the economy. Botswana and Mauritius are relatively good examples in Africa. To be successful, externally-driven development requires a number of preconditions, including the ability to attract a considerable amount of foreign investment, the ability to produce competitive export products with reliable external demand, the ability to obtain access to foreign markets, the ability to maintain favourable terms of trade, a reasonable degree of control over the national process of capital accumulation, and the involvement of significant proportions of the general population in the production of tradeables either directly or through linkages. The more diversified and competitive the production system becomes as a result of these conditions, the more integrated the internal and external dynamics of an economy become. In other words, the external dynamics, by promoting economic growth and raising the standard of living, expand internal dynamics to the point that over time the two become closely enmeshed.

The conditions essential for externally-driven development are largely absent, according to Mengisteab, in most of Africa. Most African countries are too small, have insignificant purchasing power, and are often too politically unstable to attract foreign investments. Moreover, African countries are disadvantaged by the lack of diversification of their exports and by their inability to exert influence over the prices of these products. As a result, terms of trade are generally tilted against them. These conditions, in tandem with a host of other factors, including technological dependency and lack of food self-sufficiency, have hindered their ability to control the process of accumulation.

Thirdly, the image of Africa in the advanced, capital-rich countries is so negative that changing it and cultivating the requisites for externally-propelled development are onerous uphill battles. Last, even if African countries modestly diversify their exports, foreign markets are susceptible to saturation and protectionism, rendering the foreign- demand-propelled development strategy rather risky for countries coming late to industrialization. In this context, a development model that relies on external dynamics to the near exclusion of internal dynamics (as African countries currently do) amounts to putting all one's eggs in a single, highly dubious basket.

The aim of an auto-centric approach, after all is to gear a country's development process primarily to internal and regional dynamics while utilizing external dynamics whenever necessary and available. One critical priority of this approach is ending the fragmentation and duality that characterize African economies by transforming the subsistence sector into an active exchange economy. Transforming the peasantry is, of course, tied to transforming the agricultural sector. At least initially, an auto-centric approach involves rural-based resource- allocation patterns. Extension services that promote the productive capacity of the peasantry are among the critical initial priorities. Such measures mobilize the productivity of a large segment of the population and thereby cultivate an internal market.


A related characteristic of an auto-centric approach is promoting agriculture-linked industrialization. With the peasantry becoming a more active participant in the exchange economy, agriculture-led industrialization that primarily services social needs becomes a more promising option. These industries are likely to begin as small-scale but they are the type of industries that are positioned to grow with the communities around them. With regional integration their growth potential becomes even greater. To have a chance for success in an auto-centric approach, for Mengisteab then, would have to be rooted in regionalism and collective self-reliance. This involves a number of changes, including restructuring Africa's extroverted production, transportation and communication systems inward in order to serve internal needs and to foster regional integration.


It is too risky, moreover, for Africa, in the final analysis, to rely either on dictators or on outside saviours, Mengisteab says, to pull itself out of its present general crisis. Only democratic reorganization – which can unleash popular participation, mobilization and internal dynamism – is a dependable prospect.

The type of democracy, then, that is likely to be more appropriate for African countries is one that promotes a system of governance in which all the different ethnic and religious entities participate in setting the rules of the game, including the terms of integration of the different entities, how decisions are to be made, and where the boundaries between public and private decisions are to be drawn. Africa has to invent its own democratic procedures out of its historical and cultural context. It has to revisit its grassroots consensual decision-making tradition.

Ultimately, for Mengisteab, the extractive enclaves, the self-serving state functionaries, and the external domination of policymaking can all be expected to give way to internally more integrated economies and an autonomous state that promotes societal interests, which are essential for an auto-centric approach. An auto-centric development approach to navigating our way towards what we term an integral polity, therefore, is no longer an unrealizable dream. It is rapidly becoming a credible alternative, although it remains a difficult one. To be successful, Mengisteab says however, this approach has to be ingrained in all facets of African societies, including culture. In the final chapter, that now follows, in this "Southern" integral context, we shall see how nature and culture, society and economy, integrally and effectively, are brought together, through Chinyika.

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