Why is Africa so poor?

+47 votes
asked Apr 20, 2015 in Culture & Society by Cassandra (1,080 points)
retagged Oct 9, 2015 by Kris
They are a huge continent, which means lots of resources. They have the people to work with too. They shouldn’t be in poverty for so long. What caused the poverty in Africa? All the diseases are spreading I constantly heard about? Terrible government? Civil war and religion disputes? Or just of education? They have everything they need to be an economic powerhouse, so what gives?

11 Answers

+24 votes
answered Oct 3, 2015 by LynneBingham (350 points)

The BBC tried to answer this question back in 2009. One of the major factors their reporter found to be a cause was actually the richness of Africa. Because Africa is incredibly rich in natural resources (gold, diamonds, oil, minerals, etc.) it has been attracting the greedy for hundreds of years. This, in turn, has led to the land being occupied by outsiders whose first priority was to exploit as much of the wealth as possible, to be exported back to their own country. This in turn led to conflict, both international and tribal, as various countries, factions and tribes have fought for control of the rich natural resources. And where there is conflict, there is also grinding poverty.

Another factor was ongoing corruption, which is so difficult to control that one President of Liberia was quoted as saying she should have “sacked the whole government” when she came to power.

So, in summary: greed, conflict and corruption have led to a continent that is struggling to overcome extreme poverty in almost every country. 

+13 votes
answered Apr 26, 2015 by Magdalena (1,270 points)
As a matter of fact, poverty in Africa is really complicated in nature. Different parts of Africa suffer from a different cause that leads to their poverty. Although, not all of Africa is equally poor. In fact, their economy is growing faster now, so we have that going, albeit their poverty is only improving slowly. Globalization plays a huge role in ensuring a country to be rich these days, however, Africa doesn’t gain much in relation to other countries. African countries that are rich in oil are more likely than not to be exploited by powerful foreign corporations, Africa receiving very little in return, not even in the form of taxes. In terms of poverty distributions too, so many of her countries are just too poor to help her own people. The African countries can’t help each other and would need to rely on international aids to even improve.

Moreover, free trade agreements are all working against Africa. Africa has to compete with Europe, the USA and now, China and the rest of Asia. Africa is losing in the global market, due not being as competitive. Maybe if she can utilise one of their stronger export, i.e. oil, she could be in a much better position, unfortunately, those oils are “owned” by her competition. Not to mention with the current trend on superfoods, such as quinoa, only worsening the problem. Increasing prices, making it too expensive for the locals to even buy what used to be a staple food. We then have the classic problem where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, with Africa receiving the short end of the stick.
+11 votes
answered Sep 19, 2015 by DelorasCough (400 points)
All of these resources, like you mentioned, that make the land so rich are actually one of the reasons why economically the continent is poor. The large amount of war, slavery, and colonialism has caused the poverty in Africa. So many other countries that have fewer resources want the ones in Africa, and after many centuries of oppression from these countries the Africans have been completely put at a disadvantage. When all these outsiders invade the area, the natives can’t recover and make use of their own resources because it continually gets stolen from them or the people are killed/enslaved. Having expensive and valuable things seems nice, but eventually other people are going to want those things and try to take them! It’s just human nature.
+10 votes
answered May 25, 2015 by RonnyHarpste (340 points)
There is a lot of government and social corruption that causes the poverty in Africa to grow more and more. Just like anywhere else, there is a very rich and powerful class of people in Africa, and even though they are a minority they have the power to keep the wealth to themselves. Those in the government choose to protect their own money and enforce laws that help them make even more money instead of helping the whole community. This is a vicious cycle that has the people divided between class extremes even more than normal in a country, and because of this we see a lot more extremes of poverty in Africa.
+10 votes
answered Jun 3, 2015 by LynwoodSwann (400 points)
There are a lot of diseases in Africa, one of the most well known being HIV-AIDS. I think this is a big reason why is Africa so poor. These diseases are just as toxic to the economy as they are the body. Poverty in the first place tends to lead to disease because people can’t afford to take proper measures against it, and then the disease itself leads to more poverty because of the inability to work as well and the cost of medical help.
+10 votes
answered Jun 14, 2015 by LethaNorth48 (450 points)
A big issue that economists are saying is the reason for why is Africa so poor is that it is unable to compete on an international market. With globalization, trade agreements are becoming more and more important. But some of the biggest exports Africa has to offer (for example, agriculture) are excluded from trading to protect the interests of Europe and the United States. So, Africa can’t successfully trade with richer nations = Africa can’t boost their economies = Africa continues to face extreme poverty.
+7 votes
answered Aug 18, 2015 by KishaBuzacot (290 points)
Whilst the above answers do address some of the main causes of poverty in Africa, let’s not forget the environmental factors at play as well. The continent’s environment is being bombarded from all sides. Whether it is drought, deforestation, erosion, encroaching deserts or the much bigger issue of global warming, all of these factors impinge on the earning potential of everyday people trying to make a living in Africa. Add to this the population explosion of the last 60 odd years (from 221 million to 1 billion) and you have a severely strained environment struggling to feed more and more people.
+6 votes
answered Apr 27, 2015 by Danelle (760 points)
Distributing resources across Africa is difficult geographically. Most of the countries are landlocked, with coastal countries doing much better than their counterpart. Since Africa is too poor to even build proper infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, the poverty of the landlocked countries remained. Africa has the problem of being lack of proper or easy accesses to the resources for the locals to utilize them. However, the foreign multinationals would come in and build all these roads to that resource, only to leave the local with very little.
+3 votes
answered Apr 27, 2015 by AHMED (690 points)
If you are wondering why is Africa so poor, don’t forget about the corruption and generally terrible government body in Africa, which have always been a major problem. Leaders of Africa often failed to improve their country, only worsening them, especially on the poor. International aid can only help so much if the local leadership system is still incompetent and easily ruled over by money. Only recently do we see improvements, with fair democratically elected government, thought only showing a slow recovery. Africa will continue to have problems trusting the government that easily.

One of the prime examples would be Robert Mugabe, the current president of Zimbabwe since 31 December 1987, considered as one of the modern day dictators, known to violently get rid of the opposition to his government, with their own version of the Nazi Gestapo. He was initially respected by the people, holding him in high hopes to deliver the promised “New Africa”, which he did at first, only to slowly contribute more and more to worsen the health and economic situation of Zimbabwe. It’s safe to say that Africa won’t held any more high hopes for the government to carry them out of the poverty line.

International aid could still be ridden with corruption and embezzlement. Ensuring that the ones that needed the help the most is still a work in progress. There is also another issue of how the money should be spent on. Everyone wants to help the poor and hungry, but what is the best way to do so is a different problem altogether. There isn’t the best way to get Africa out of poverty. They could educate the people and encourage the local entrepreneurs, hopefully in the future raising the living standards and income level.  Africa is not poor, she is just poorly managed.
commented May 4, 2015 by keshis (500 points)
That’s a golden summary to why is Africa so poor: Africa is not poor, she is just poorly managed.
+1 vote
answered Apr 24, 2015 by Carmen (840 points)
Diseases run rampant across the population in poverty, due to lack of proper healthcare and water-borne illnesses. Diseases pose a major threat to development, impoverishing resources into treating a single disease, only for it to come up again, because of the sheer lack of proper healthcare. Also, diseases prevent people from working, so the economy is not going as it should be. Malnutrition due to unbalanced meal coupled with the lack of access to clean water contributes further to the death of many Africans. Unsurprisingly, the larger populations in Africa are the ones not ridden in HIV and other illness.

Then there is the major lack of hygiene and sanitation. Toilets and clean water that we took for granted. Knowing and practicing hygiene habits have been proven to be effective to reduce deaths across the world. Education campaign could alleviate the problem. With healthier population, more effort can then be channeled towards the country, then alleviate poverty. Meanwhile, the poor will remain poor while the well-off will hopefully continue to remain so.
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