The development crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa was intensified by the end of the 1970s, and the macro-economic imbalances of the countries in the region tended to become worse. The World Bank embarked upon structural adjustment lending (SAL) to African countries from the beginning of the 1980s. SAL has been developed with long-term objectives in mind, it is expected to have more enduring effects than the crisis-oriented operations that were characteristic of the Bank's program lending in the past.
In the beginning the Bank made mistakes by designing uniform conditionalities. A two year Special Assistance Program was began in 1983 for expanding SAL in Africa. It proposed three important measures: first, an intensified policy dialogue with recipient government; second, introduction of sector-based SAL rather than comprehensive SAL; and third, encouraging donors' cofinancing SAL with the Bank. The Special Facility for Sub-Saharan Africa began its operation in 1985, and “Africa Facility Credit” was set to help quick-disbursing lending operations in support of structural and sectoral adjustment, rehabilitation and emergency reconstruction. In 1987, the World Bank introduced the Special Program of Assistance (SPA) and IMF set up Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF). SPA covered 23 countries and ESAF assisted 34 countries by 1990. Meanwhile, the Bank called for adoption of Program of Action to mitigate the Social Cost of Adjustment in order to help economically weak groups which were hit by the implementation of structural adjustment programs.
It is thought that the lack of good governance, the lack of economic competence, and the lack of development have been affecting to each other in Africa. Thus, economic liberalization and political democratization have become a twin objectives of designing conditionalities in lending operation of the World Bank. But the World Bank found that African countries are lacking capacity to produce, and implement, policies conducive to the attainment of these objectives. It is proposing an African capacity-building facility in 1990.
The World Bank has finally reached a conlusion: “To be effective, policies must be sustainable. Policy sustainability, in turn, requires a strong sense of African ownership. There is no better way to foster this sense of ownership than to produce these policies by building up the capacity to produce first-rate indigenous research and design effective policies.” It took nearly one decade for the Bank to appreciate the fact that policy reforms have to be designed within the capacity of African governments.