Contents - Previous - Next

This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at

The urban areas

The strategy for the urban areas will be closely related to the rural development strategy, so that the two strategies are mutually reinforcing for a harmonious and balanced development.

To date, industrialization has affected only the urban centres in most countries. That encourages the rural exodus, even though the supply of industrial jobs is low and in no way corresponds to the numbers involved in the exodus. That is due to the policies which are currently being pursued and which manifestly lack imagination.

What is needed in most cases is to devise the conditions for a movement in the opposite direction. What is needed is to initiate and encourage an urban exodus so as to reduce considerably the population of the towns. A well thought out policy with a variety of axes might make it possible to attain that objective. A complete decentralization of the industries currently concentrated in the towns, sometimes even in the capital alone, could be a major axis.

The goal of industrial production must be twofold. First, the production of agricultural inputs through a host of small local industries scattered all over the country. Second, the processing of the raw materials which an expanding agriculture supported in that way could produce to ensure that these industries run at full capacity.

Without going into too much detail, it is reasonable to think that the small production industries could, for technical matters and management, come under the basic structures while the relatively heavier processing industries could mainly come under the central government. Thus, processing industries, like mining industries, would be nationally owned, whereas small industries which will initially include a not insignificant amount of crafts, would be owned by the basic structures.

The creation in the rural communities, of vital infrastructure (in education, health, sport, etc.), linked to the development of small rural industries might halt and even reverse the rural exodus. The great mass of the urban unemployed of rural origin, who suffer from malnutrition and poor health, would surely return to the countryside where they would henceforth be guaranteed a job and all the material and psychological conditions that provide a family with security. In addition, the costs of building this rural infrastructure would be very low, far less than the costs of the excessive luxury that marks some sectors in most of our cities.

The marginalized urban craft sectors could be grouped together and properly structured in order to meet urban demand efficiently, and so greatly reduce imports. We are thinking, among others, of the construction sector, furniture manufacture, etc. They could thus constitute a real industry and guarantee regular work to those working there.

The central authorities have an important role to play in the reorganization of these sectors and in facilitating the acquisition of some machinery.

The activities of countless petty traders which often conceal hidden unemployment must be rethought. Increasing the number of people's shops in the towns catering for all everyday consumer products might make it possible to recycle a good proportion of these semi-employed people.

The administration should be as decentralized as possible. In addition, to avoid the plethora of officials barricaded in their offices in towns, the teaching profession must be entirely reformed, eliminating all the sequels of the colonial period so as to adapt it to the new economic and social realities.

The training of cadres at all levels cannot remain unorganized. It must be strictly planned so as to respond to the needs of the rural and urban economies and the services essential to them. Thus, teaching and training will be mainly directed towards the productive system.

Organizing the suggestions

This problem is the key one and one that is difficult to resolve because of the numerous dangers to be avoided; risk of bureaucratization, lack of congruence between decision-making centres, decisions emanating from the base structures, and provisions adopted by the central authorities of the popular alliances. We shall simply put forward a few thoughts. First, the question may be asked whether the plan will be simply indicative (in which case the state intervenes in the economic arena in only a limited way), or binding (the state then has a very extensive field of action). We think that the strategies sketched out can only be developed in the framework of a binding plan. This binding plan must, however, be sufficiently flexible for the base structures to retain considerable initiative. But it is absolutely necessary that the state established by the popular alliances intervene and coordinate minutely all economic activities: budget, investment, income distribution, wages, prices, etc. This is necessary so that all social strata may receive fair rewards for their labour and so that all can enjoy their full rights. This plan should aim to reduce considerably the capitalist sectors that would remain in this transitional economy, and subject them to strict control.

The problem of employment and the fixing of prices and wages must be settled by the central bodies in terms of the necessary transformation of the structures of the economy and improving the living conditions of the whole population. At the relatively primary stage reached by most African economies, there does not seem to be any need for complex models based on very detailed economic calculations in order to prepare a completely coherent plan taking account of the various imperatives. Trial and error and intuition will still have an important role to play in the success of a plan which, to repeat, cannot but be holistic and centralized, contrary to the catalogues of projects that are currently presented in most countries as being plans.

For its financing, the plan must rely predominantly on domestic resources. This is necessary to ensure economic independence and will be made possible through the systematic elimination of waste of all sorts, and the end of prestige expenditure that is as useless as it is costly. Given the high level of corruption among some highly paid strata in Africa, there will certainly be reason to investigate fortunes, especially large fortunes, to retrieve illicitly acquired gains for the benefit of the nation and the people. That said, the question of financing the plan remains to be solved. Given the nationalization of external trade and the steep reduction of imports, customs receipts will be very severely limited.

We believe that the investment funds should come mainly from taxes paid by state and private enterprises and from a wealth tax. A subsidiary source will also be taxes paid by workers based on their income and the standard of living to be guaranteed them. In addition, funds could come from income from exports of resources that would have to be exported, either because they could not yet be processed on the spot or because their supply exceeds domestic needs.

Finally, to encourage and sustain the sectors vital for the transformation of structures and begin true development, the fixing of prices and wages will play an important role both in allocating manpower suitably and in controlling consumption.

To summarize, we have here simply put forward a few ideas that are the conditions of, and may make possible, a true alternative to the present crisis situation. It all calls for a vast effort of organization and thought. It goes without saying that success can only be assured by a strong mobilization of the mass of workers freed from exploitation and oppression, and giving free rein to their creative initiative.

Contents - Previous - Next