Why African Nations Are Poor, And Others Are Wealthy
The world is estimated to have around 196 countries today, with about 25 of them being termed to be extremely wealthy by having an average per capita wealth of each individual sitting at over $100,000 a year, while 20 of the poorest countries in the world are located in Africa, with the average per capita wealth sitting at less than $1,000 a year.
While the planet today is a very prosperous one with great potentials to make the lives of everyone in it better than average, many countries continue to fall behind, with some being even over 2,000 years in growth behind the elite nations of today.
It is no surprise that most of the poorest countries in the world are domiciled in Africa, with the average American being 40 times wealthier than the average African who survives at under $3 a day.
These extreme problems creates protests on the continent, increases crime rates, creates poor access to education, electricity and healthcare, and much more problems, which have led to countless attempts by millions of Africans to try to illegally flee the continent by road, sea, and air in search of a better future in the Western World, leading to the death of thousands in the process.
What is the cause of this problem that has plagued the continent for so long and appears to have no apparent end? And what can be done to chart a course of inevitable growth for the poor African nations and Her citizens?
In this article, I highlight 5 key problems or curses as some people in Africa prefer to call them, that are plaguing the continent and preventing the growth of the nations in it:
1). Poorly Managed Institutions:
The primary objective of every country’s government is to create an enabling environment that ensures human capital development, industrialization, security, and much more. But these objectives have always been poorly executed by African nations.
African countries have continued to run grossly mismanaged institutions which have led to bad policing, poor tax collection, pitiful education standards, poor healthcare, terrible transportation networks, little to no access to electricity, and much more.
Institutions form the foundation of every country’s growth and development, and when they’re poorly managed or even ignored, the country continues to fall into worse states than it already is.
The wealthy countries have great institutions which have been built over time from a well-managed and carefully monitored tax-collection system. The institutions they manage to build up for themselves range from an uninterrupted access to electricity to world-class education, effective healthcare services, good policing which invariable guarantees security to a great extent, excellent transportation networks, and much more.
The institutions they build creates an attractive haven for foreign investors who are assured of a security of investment, and so, are willing to invest their money into these nations, while providing more jobs for the citizens at the same time.
African nations, on the other hand, appear to have no clue on how to manage the resources because too many people are always fighting for power, and so, keep their minds off the ultimate goal of truly serving the people.
They have poor tax collection schemes, and so, cannot properly develop their nations since the funds required to do so have either not be adequately collected, or have been squandered through corrupt practices.
Corruption continues to kill African nations, and so, it’s a no-brainer that the least corrupt countries in the world are the most successful, while the most corrupt countries in the world are the least successful.
2). Religious, Tribalistic, and Nepotic Sentiments:
Religion, tribalism, and nepotism are some of the biggest problems facing the African continent.
Most people in Africa choose not to work hard or better their lives because they have the connotation that the physical world does not matter, but rather only what lies in the afterlife. While there may be nothing wrong with that school of thought, they forget they’ll be leaving behind children who will go on to suffer because their parents chose to be grossly negligent.
A way to approach this way of thinking is to know that your hard work and effort to build wealth and grow a prosperous nation in the world you’re in isn’t because you want to be materialistic, but because you want to ensure that everyone who comes after you never has to suffer because of your myopic mindset.
A deeper look at the situation also shows that most people who think this way are those who believe they’ve either already failed in life or can never be wealthy. And since they’ve unconsciously accepted defeat, they decide to feign a feeling of contentment by deeply honing those values and passing their unfortunate failure to the next generation.
Another angle that Africans have misrepresented religion in is the fact that all they do is pray, but put in little to no real efforts to fix their problems. Whenever there’s a personal or nationwide problem, the whole country is called into prayer, but people do little to no effective action on the issue. They expect manner to fall from heaven without them planting the seeds of progress in the ground and watering it till its fruits sprout.
The religious problem comes to more light when extremely religious countries are compared with countries that are less religious or that are neither Christian nor Muslim nations. It is interesting to also know that out of the top 25 richest countries in the world, over half of them are neither Christian nor Muslim nations.
Does this mean that God isn’t answering Africa’s prayers? Absolutely not! It means one thing: And that is most Africans lack an understanding of how things work!!
But what about Tribalism and Nepotism? How do they collectively work with wrong Religious beliefs to affect Africa’s growth?
Growth occurs when there’s a collective impartial effort put in by everyone irrespective of their tribe, family ties, religion, or race.
On the African continent, the opposite appears to be the case as jobs, political appointments, contracts, and much more are awarded to people based on what tribe, family, or religion they belong to, instead of whether they’re more qualified for the job than the other guy whose dad is the second cousin to the CEO of the organisation.
This problem also plagues federal government political appointments with over 80% of the critical appointments going to people of a specific tribe, religion, or nepotic ties, with the justification that they’re hiring the best people for the job. If appointments are based on choosing the best people for the job, then it should be spread across the nation, not searched within one group.
When religious, tribalistic, and nepotic sentiments come into play, growth is halted because it is first sentimental, and as such, confined to a specific group. Secondly, it makes the other parts of the nation angry, and in the process drives them to sabotage whatever little to no efforts the people appointed from sentimental decision-making processes are trying to achieve.
What’s even worse is when a leader appoints people from a different tribe, religion, or nepotic ties outside what he or she belongs to, his or her clan begins to chastise the leader for not greatly favouring his or her own people instead. In the end, causing the act of ignoring sentimental values and also the act of enforcing sentimentalism to both be a sin to the people living in the country.
3). Geographical Challenges:
Geographical challenges and restrictions are another key growth metric for nations around the world. Most land-locked countries, for instance, are some of the poorest in the world, with their African counterparts experiencing even worse situations with about 15 countries in Africa being land-locked nations.
The problem with being a land-locked country is that transportation of goods is extremely difficult, causing demands from international buyers to such countries to be really low and the cost of transportation to be extremely high.
Asides land-locked problems in terms of the geographic outlook, most parts of Africa suffer from negative climate changes which lead to poor crop growth and also have a large infestation of pests and diseases which renders farm animals useless and unable to work in the farm.
With these geographical problems hitting hard at several countries on the African continent, growth and development become increasingly difficult when combined with other negative factors.
4). The Natural Resources Trap:
An abundance of natural resources which has long been presumed to be the eventual ultimate saviour of the African continent in terms of revenue generation has ended up becoming one of its largest curses.
Most African countries have abundant natural resources, but the revenue generated from their export gets mismanaged for personal gains by most government officials.
Another problem is that the number of people required to work in the mines and prepare the goods for export are far lesser than the number of people that could be working in the factories manufacturing one thing or the other.
When entrepreneurs run mines and export the raw materials, they legally make so much money with so little labour face, recurring monthly for one to 5 years, depending on the client they’re supplying to. But if they could be made to process the raw materials mined into further forms before export, they could provide jobs for thousands of people, while raking in far higher returns than just exporting the original raw materials.
Understanding this and enforcing it is something African governments have failed to look into. Organisations who mine and export metallic ores, for instance, could be given special loans and incentives to drive them to build smelting facilities, to process the ores further into highly demanded alloys like FerroNiobium which have far higher values on the international market.
But instead of the governments to ensure things like this are in place, they go on to battle with their political opponents for the periods of their tenures, only to finish up worse than they initially met the country’s state of affairs.
Well managed capitalism will invariably develop African nations, and local organisations need to learn now that beyond just earning millions of dollars from the global trade business by exporting the continent’s natural resources to international buyers who go on to refine them and re-export to European buyers at far higher costs, the local organisations could build these facilities locally, refine the resources, ship the refined products (e.g alloys) to international buyers at lesser prices, make far higher profits than they initially would have made, and in the process, provide jobs for millions of people who would work actively in the production process.
Until the natural resource trap mentality has been removed from the African mind, poverty and an unequal distribution of wealth will continue to taunt the continent.
5). Greedy And Self-Centered Leaders:
African nations are largely poor because the people who have the power to make the key decisions that can create wealth, choose instead to make the decisions that enrich themselves and create widespread poverty. Every political appointment gotten in Africa is always celebrated by the person’s family and friends because they all see it as an avenue for them all to become extremely wealthy.
This mentality isn’t just with the politicians but is with the grassroots because they all want an opportunity to get into a political office and finally get to enrich themselves or have a friend or member of their family get into the position for the same greedy ambition.
Since the grassroots’ minds are already corrupt, the head which is the leaders is rotten, and so, the continent remains doomed.
Ultimately, before you can change the African continent, you need to empower the people living on the continent, and the first step to do that is to promote total inclusiveness in the entire leadership selection process.
The people should be able to first determine who wins the primaries free and fair before having to choose who wins the final elections. But since party chieftains determine who wins the primaries, the continent will continue on a merry go round till the wheel is finally broken.
About The Article
This is an opinion and analysis posted by Stan Edom, a Nigerian citizen and Editor In Chief of Startuptipsdaily.com.
The Opinion and Analysis section is committed to nation building efforts through empowering expert writers to air their views on the best ways to solve national issues and move nations forward.
Opinions and Analysis will be published every Friday.
What are your thoughts on this article on why African nations are poor? Let me know by leaving a comment below.