Their budgets strained by ever-rising energy costs and declining revenues from exports of commodities, most black African countires face a bleak future. With few exceptions, poverty conditions spawn festering social problems, and the situation is exacerbated in some places by pervasive corruption or mismanagement.
A typical example of a major problem country is Liberia, which suffered a political coup last April. Just barely able to meet its bills for imported oil in August, Liberia is on the verge of bankruptcy.
U.S. State Department officials are hopeful that as confidence grows in the new Liberian regime, American banks will keep a flow of funds moving into the country. The Carter administration itself plans to help Liberia with donations of rice, Liberia's staple, through the PL 480 program.
In addition to all its other problems, Liberia recently has faced still more competition from Brazil and Australia in its major export-earner, iron ore.
Ghana's economy is comparable, where the situation has been deteriorating for years, and now is complicated by the fact that the price of cocoa -- Ghana's main export -- has dropped on world markets.
International Monetary Fund officials have indicated they will withhold assistance to Ghana until the present government devalues the cedi, the Ghanian currency.
The brighter spots are the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and Nigeria, which have been helped by discoveries of off-shore oil. Nigeria, of course, with its huge oil production, is the major power in black Africa. But it, too, faces great problems with a 15 percent inflation rate and a serious mal-distribution of its wealth.
Nigeria has the largest population in Africa, somewhere between 90 million and 100 million, only a tiny minority of whom share in Nigeria's oil bonanza.
Moreover, Nigeria has become a net food importer rather than a food exporter -- a $1 billion drain on Nigeria's balance of payments. On a recent mission to Nigeria, Vice President Walter F. Mondale discussed an ambitious agricultural development program with the year-old civilian government -- the first civilian government in 13 years.
The U.S. government would like to increase its shipments of agricultural equipment -- among other goods -- to help cut down the enormous U.S. deficit arising out of Nigerian crude oil sales.
The deflation in cocoa prices has also been a blow to the Ivory Coast. But the Ivory Coast was lucky with new oil discoveries, and is expected to begin production later this year that will take care of about one-third of its needs. Beyond that, a very recent find could yield enough for all domestic needs and at least a small exportable surplus by 1983.