In the case of Africa, where the World Bank has been most active, in 1994 an optimistic review of development programmes sponsored by it was criticized as utterly contradicting the experience of people in the countries in question. In its previous review in 1989 it had called for a growth in sub-Saharan economies by 4.5% per year, whilst accepting that in comparison with past performance this seemed highly ambitious. The 1994 report called for a growth rate of 4.7% to ensure a modest improvement of living standards, especially amongst the poorest. This was itself far in excess of the 0.8% growth rate of the 1980s and even of the 3.3% projected for the period to the year 2000. The report accepted that even the best performing countries of Africa would not significantly reduce poverty over the following 20-30 years, with the average poor man unable to cross the poverty line for another 50 years.
In the case of the World Bank, whose programmes have been severely criticized, its standards are stringent. If a project does not have an economic rate of return of at least 10%, it is judged unsatisfactory. Such unsatisfactory performance would however be considered quite acceptable using different standards. Furthermore, in many cases projects that failed to achieve an acceptable rate of return have nevertheless been of considerable value to the borrowing countries through institution building and other benefits.