Summary: To reverse the economic decline that began in the 1970s, many sub-Saharan African countries have undertaken structural adjustment programs. These programs are designed to pave the way for long-term development and prosperity by fundamentally restructuring African economies. Continent-wide growth of gross domestic product (GDP) per capital remains low, however, leading many to question the effectiveness of adjustment efforts. But is this poor performance the result of a failure to reform policies or a failure of those policies to restore growth? To address this question, this book examines the extent of policy reforms and their impact on growth and poverty in twenty-nine sub-Saharan countries that were undergoing adjustment in the second half of the 1980s. How much have policies actually changed? This book marshals a wealth of data to assess progress in improving the macroeconomic framework, liberalizing trade, deregulating markets and prices, privatizing public enterprises, and strengthening management of the financial and public sectors. One of the report's key findings is that improving policies paid off in higher GDP and sectoral growth rates, which are vital to reducing poverty. In countries where policies deteriorated, economic performance generally worsened. Part of the explanation, then, for Africa's disappointing aggregate growth is the lack of sustained reform, not a failure of the reforms themselves. The challenge for the future is to pursue policy reforms with stronger commitment and with a rethinking of the adjustment strategy in the areas that have met with least success. Although adjustment can work in Africa, the report recognizes that it cannot work miracles. Achieving long-term, equitable growth also requires more investment in human capital and infrastructure, greater expansion of institutional capacity, and better governance.
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