Countries General Knowledge

Poverty in Africa: Possible causes and questioning its basis

Question your mind, are there any backward countries in the world? What are their names? The world backward might produce a trajectory of ideas, the neural connections so-generated would probably take you to the economic side of question. The name of the region which would popup in your mind would be Africa. Poverty in Africa is a concern of global community. The West has a perspective regarding poor countries in Africa; tribalism, disease, lack of basic amenities, pandemics and anarchy are a part of that particular perspective. Poverty can be explained from different perspectives, the best explanation is the one which can easily conform to the truth. Facts and truth is after-all the most sought after.

Why poverty is Africa matters?

Why on should seek a solution when a problem doesn’t exist? Therefore, it’s important to get a perspective regarding poverty and Africa. The relevancy can be proved through different reasons.

Firstly, International community strives to become egalitarian and idealistic. Liberalism is the world’s leading theory at this time, as USA follows a liberal order. Liberalism, gives equal footing to human rights and opportunities.

Secondly, pandemics in Africa are often needed to be contained, since a non-prudent attitude can bring the disease to entire world. Poverty and disease is particularly linked, better money means better health facilities. World Health Organisation (WHO) is constantly trying to contain different diseases in Africa, like ebola.

Thirdly, International Law in the shape of United Nations attempts to achieve 17 goals (Sustainable Development Goals) by 2030. Poverty alleviation is the number one goal of United Nations.

Possible Causes and Reasons behind poverty in Africa:

After knowing that low standard of living and the causative poverty are some important problems in Africa, one can easily strive to find the reasons causing such a massive economic decline. An Independent report indicates that the entire GDP of Africa is just equal to that of France.

Colonisation and imperialism of past

Africa faced colonisation and imperialism, today a term Global South has been used by major political scientists to represent the other half of world struggling to run from the shadows of colonisation. The colonised states used to give raw material to the colonisers while technology transfer for value addition to that raw material wasn’t carried out by the colonisers to the colonised states.

Unable to keep up with Capitalism; economic stagnation

Africa is not stable with the global capitalistic order, capitalism needs creating demand out of thin air; however, Africa lacks proper structure and technological breakthrough to keep on with the growing demand trap of capitalism. In that regards, exports of Africa can be analysed; as an indicator of Africa adding value to the existing capitalism. World Economic Forum, an NGO, has published distribution of major exports from Africa. The distribution shows, gold, diamonds and natural gas & oil as major exports of Africa; all in raw form. A global slump in commodities and fluctuating oil prices are possible causes of African poverty.

A slow shift towards democracy

Lack of Democratic values is another thing which has mostly supported ruling elites of Africa. Hopping onto African newspapers, one thing becomes clear that a majority of African countries have faced dictatorship. Arab Spring, no doubt, started in Tunisia, a northern African country. One man burning himself out of economic vows became an immediate cause of the political movement which spread across middle east. Tunisia today can serve as a sole role model in Africa, which transitioned into constitution based democracy in 2014 after a transitional phase starting from 2010 Arab Spring. US today continues to throw its weight behind maintaining Tunisian democracy.

Bad law and order situation, rampant corruption

Law and Order situation is not pleasant in Africa. Violent extremism continues to surprise the residents who are the ones to face economic turmoil which ensues later. Tourism potential of the region having the world’s largest Sahara desert of warm temperature is declined owing to the violence. This point explains the international aid programs meant for Africa to alleviate its poverty so that African residents might not find salvation in extremism. Mass corruption is one of the reason behind poverty in Africa, because of a lack of accountability. Dos Santos family from Angola has been ousted from power (had ruled Angola for nearly 40 years), the same family is still confronting allegation of mass corruption in Angola’s oil field. Jacob Zuma (past ruler of South Africa) also faces similar allegations; Ramaphosa his successor in 2018 created a governmental level commission to investigate the corruption.

Questioning the very poverty in Africa: post-structuralist analysis and on ground realities

Poverty as mentioned in the start of this article, which attempts to find reasons behind people living below poverty line in a broad spectrum of things, has different meanings. After 1980, academics have started to question the very term and its epistemology, often called as structuralism. The ontology of every term varies and things can become really relative in the world of post-structuralism. Poverty for Africa might not be same as poverty for Europe. It is often gauged in terms of money and success. However, African population which comes second in number in the entire globe would defy such definition of poverty. The African people simply exist amidst all the so-called-chaos.

Poverty for some segments in Africa means not the absence of capital goods, like cars, aircrafts and other stuff which First World countries develop. To some, the richness is all about tribal values and respect. It can be termed as social-richness or social-poverty, clashing with the concept of monetary-richness and monetary-poverty.

For example, some alternate answers collected from visitors to Africa and people dwelling in Africa, show a supportive perspective of this particular monetary and social-relations based poverty or richness. Peasants and growers in Africa, often own land as they cultivate crop and eat the food produced. They live in mud huts and live below their means, they do not come across growing legislation and regulation. They are free of any struggles which major capitalistic economies have to bear. However, a critique of disease spread can be postulated against this particular lifestyle; anyhow if the dweller has different meaning of poverty and is really happy with all the lifestyle that he has acquired, then such a critique can be left behind.

“Africa is not poor, it is poorly managed”. – Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Further, a structuralist view is often supported when looking into the research reports of NPR: $500 American Red Cross aid which failed to deliver and Oxfam scandal. These two stories show the misuse of aid and certain NGOs which aim to help reduce poverty in Africa. Maybe poverty is not all about monetary-poverty. Further, having a look into Ghana, Ethiopia and Cote d’Ivoire capitals, it appears some of the African countries are not that poor as portrayed in certain media outlets. Therefore, monetary-poverty concept is also put into question at times. The post-structuralist analysis brings to a point that maybe lifestyle of African countries is different as compared to the west, but is it causal or non-causal in nature to poverty? The question arises. However, if satisfaction to a common person is guaranteed in that particular lifestyle then the question lacks its credentials.

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