Urban Planning Development

Except-Africa: Remaking Development, Rethinking Power by Emery Roe

By Emery Roe

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Narrative 3: Marginal lands are marginal. 4 Well after Independence, some dry zones of sub-Saharan countries had faster rates of growth in per capita income, wage employment, and informal sector growth than did some of the agroecologically high potential areas. Although the percentage of the population in wage employment in Kenya's arid and semiarid lands (ASALs) was less than half that in non-ASAL areas, its annual growth rate was almost 50 percent higher. A similar trend was found in wage earnings per capita in that country.

As noted in the introduction, the more uncertain things seem everywhere at the micro-level, the greater the perceived scale of uncertainty at the macro-level and the greater the perceived need for explanatory narratives that can be operationalized into standard approaches with widespread application. Thus, the failure of projects and programs based on development narratives often serves only to reinforce, not lessen, the appeal of some Page 14 sort of narrative that explains and addresses the persisting, now increasing, uncertainty.

What is needed, and what the multinational donors and their critics have so far not provided, are the counternarratives that stabilize policymaking so that these estimates or their alternatives can be supplied at the level(s) where they are the most meaningful, realistic, and helpful. The recent literature goes a considerable way in criticizing the many pernicious development narratives dominating rural development in Africa today (one thinks again of those myriad critiques of structural adjustment).

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