Causes of Poverty in Africa


Authored by Douglas Mefford in Africa 
Published on 05-25-2009

For a continent so rich in natural resources and the population to work them, Africa seems to be perpetually mired in the most debilitating levels of poverty in the world. The reasons for this are many and often interrelated but a few major problems stand out to prevent this ancient land from rising to the levels of modern life it should have.

War breeds poverty as no other product of man can do. One in every five Africans live in a country rife with armed conflict. From local warlords seeking to expand their control to national armies clashing with their neighbors or their own citizenry truly the people can barely grow food enough to feed themselves. War destroys the infrastructure and prevents a buildup of any beneficial works that may raise their people out of their condition.

The basic farming policies of most of the nations of Africa are set up, not to promote and subsidize increases in agriculture and higher yields, but to milk all the profits possible from outmoded methods and subsistence farmers. With increasing export and commodity taxes levied against what crops are raised, the level of production drops and the overtaxed farmers fail to keep up with basic food growth for themselves. With perpetually empty treasuries, many African nations have to sell what little they do produce just to keep up with the loans they have made from international banks. This leads to less availability to the credit needed to invest in improvements to their country’s basic services.

The great incidence of disease coupled with little or no health care also takes a toll on the population and their ability to increase their efforts to rise out of an endemic poverty. According to the United Nations, easily two million people die annually just from AIDS with another 24 million becoming infected with the HIV virus. Poor sanitation methods add another two million deaths a year, mostly with their young, from malaria. With the new generation being at such high risk and a lack of hope for a long and productive life there is less incentive for striving beyond the day to day existence.

The lack of education hampers the rise out of poverty for the continent’s people. Knowledge can find solutions to many of the problems facing Africa’s people, but the never-ending wars, disease, social problems and lack of infrastructure prevent them from being able to gain the insights needed. What schools that do exist usually require fees that are above the average family’s ability to pay. Barely half the school-aged children ever get to attend even the most rudimentary learning facilities. This makes an estimated 40 to 45 million children who will never be able to find any but the most basic subsistence employment.

The world tries to help all it can but there is only so much outside aid can accomplish. It is ultimately the responsibility of Africa’s people to end the wars and petty struggles that keep industry as impoverished as its people.


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