Poverty in Africa

POVERTY IN AFRICA 14

Povertyin Africa

Povertyin Africa

Abstract

Theeconomicgrowthof theSub-SaharanAfricahas showntremendousgrowth,forecastedto be 5.75% in 2015, pickingup from 5% in 2013-2014. Thishasledto theranking of African countriesas among thefastestgrowingcountriestheworldby theWorld Bank. Buoyed by theeverincreasinglocalandinternationalinvestmentsandremittances,reachingtheheightsof thirty-three US billion dollarsper yearly,theGDP growthin Africa will continueto increaseattractingmoreinvestors in theregion.Among thesectorsthat are supportingthebulkof theeconomicgrowthin Africa includethemineral,agriculture,andtheservicesector.Despite theincreasedinvestmentsin thecontinent,povertyandinequalityremainunacceptably high,with therateof reductionremainingslow.Almosthalfof theAfrican populacelivesin extremepoverty,butoptimisticstatistics attests thattherateof povertywill dropby thirty percent by theyear2010. However,thispositiveoutlookis overshadowedby acutedifficultiesamong African countriessuchas diseaseoutbreaks,insecurityandtechnological backwardness that exactsheavyeconomicandhumantoll,predisposingthecontinentto poverty.Additionally, mostAfrican countriesare ledby dictatorialregimes,oftenwith corruptandgreedyleadersthat preventtheequaldistributionof resources.

Povertyis thegeneralscarcityof resources,includingthestateof lackingmaterialprocessionssuchas money.Itis a multifaceted conceptthat includesthesocial,politicalandeconomicelementsof thesociety(Hope,2008). Chronicandchangingconceptthatchangesaccordingto technological changes,socialconcepts,andconsumptionpatterns,hencehas closerelationsto inequality.Povertypresentsitself in two formabsolutepovertyandrelativepoverty.Absolutepovertyis thedeprivationof thebasichumanneeds,includingwater,medicalservicesamong others. On theotherhand,relativeinequalityarisesfrom theeconomicinequalitiesin thesocietyin comparisonsto others, whoare consideredwealthy.Today,thesub-Saharan Africa, henceforth Africa, is thepoorestcontinentin theworldwith themajorityofpeoplelivingon lessthan one dollarper day.Theper capita incomeof thepoorestcountriesin thecontinentsuchas Sierra Leone andEthiopia significantly differsfrom theper capita incomesof theprosperousOECD countries.Thistranslatesinto significantdifferencesin economicopportunities,healthandotheressentialservices,as wellas lifechances(Fox&amp Liebenthal, 2006).Thisarticlegivesan overviewof thevariousinstitutional, geographical,culturalpoliticalandeconomicfactorsthat makeAfrica remainpoor,despitetheincreasedattemptsby donorto alleviatethecontinentfrom poverty.In addition,thearticlewill outlineappropriatestepsthat should be implementedeffectivelyto combat the menace of poverty from the continent and the world atlarge.

ResearchQuestions

Thispaperwill explorethecompelling puzzlethat despite thevariouseffortsby theinternationalworldto helpthecontinentin fightingpoverty,levels of povertyin thecontinentremainsexcessivelyhighly,gettingworsethan in previousyears.Thiswillbeachievedthrough a criticalresponseto theseresearchquestions

  • How did Africa get itself into such predicaments?

  • What are the main factors needed to help end poverty in Africa?

  • How would politics and leaders in Africa affect these issues?

  • Can the world and Africa ever be free of poverty?

Povertyin Africa

Economicdevelopmentis theaptestwayof fightingpovertyin anycountry.However,to generatetheappropriateeconomicdevelopmentrequirestheformationof centralized polities,as wellas theremovalof patrimonialand absolutismtendenciesof suchpolities(Hope,2008).Theseare thefactorsthat playedout in Europe during thefamousrevolutions,culminatingin economicdevelopmentthat ledhelpedendpovertyin thesescontinents(White&amp Killick, 2001). Theindustrialrevolutionledto thedevelopmentof industriesthatpromotedeconomicgrowthn Europe. Further,thiscreateda perverseinstitutional dynamics that precludedthewestandtheAfrican continentfrom takingadvantagesof innovationsin theeconomicinstitutionsfrom takingplace.Thiswasfurtherreinforcedby colonialism, which threwthecontinentinto reversenascent economicmodernization in Sub-SaharaAfrica andcutoff thepossibilitiesof endogenous institutional reforms(UnitedNations 2005).

EuropeanColonialism

Colonizationof Africa in the19th centurysawtheintroductionof theforeignrule,which broughtinstitutionsof westernoriginto helpin therunning of thecolonies.Thecreatedinstitutioninhibitedanyendogenous institutionreformsin Africa, hencepreventedAfricans from creatingtheir formsof development,which would combattheir poverty(Fox&amp Liebenthal, 2006). During colonization,mostof theAfrican landswastakenby thecolonizers, denyingtheAfricans their onlyfactorof production,therebypredisposingthem to poverty.Thoughothercontinentswerestillcolonized,Africa borethebrunt of colonizationsince othercontinentsattainedtheir independenceearlierthan Africa, givingthem timefortheir reconstruction(Hope,2008). Countriesin theLatin America gainedtheir independencein the1620s givingthem moreroomfordevelopmentandeconomicrestrictionthat helpedin eliminatingpoverty.On theotherhand,African independencestartedin 1950s, a factorthat has ledto increasedpovertyin thecontinent.After independence,mostof thelandwastakenby therespectivegovernment,with others remainingunder thecontrolof thewhites. Asa result,themajorityof thecitizensremainedlandless, a factorthat pushesAfricans backto their poverty,evenwith thenotableeffortsby thetheninternationalcommunityto alleviateAfrica from poverty(UnitedNations 2005).

TechnologicalBackwardness

Mostpartsof Central andWest Africa hadintensifiedactivitiesof theslavetrade,which ledto thedeteriorationof theeconomyat thetimewhenthecontinentlaggedbehindin industrialization. Priorto theAtlantic slavetradein Africa,technologywasadvancedIn Congo, there wasthewheeltechnology mostlyusedformilitaryvehicles(White &amp Killick, 2001). However,thistechnology failedbecausetheCongolese werenot quitefamiliarwith thetechnology, andinsteadof developingthistechnology, theyadaptedfirearmsthatwereusedto captureslavesandsellthem to theEuropeans. Adoptionof theEuropean technology provedcostlyfortheAfrican countriesandisone of themajorfactorsthat haveseento their technological backwardness to date,reducingtheexploitation of resourcesin thecontinent.Thetechnological backwardness has slackenedindustrialization, therebyreducingthelevels of employmentin Africa, predisposingAfricans to poverty(Hope,2008).

Inaddition,mostAfrican countrieshavedualeconomies,operatingboth thetraditionalsectorandthemodernsectoreconomy.Themodernsectorincludesurbanlifeanduseof technology, whereasthetraditionalsectorincludestheuseof agriculture.In countriessuchas Tanzania, landis communally owned,which reducesagro-production. In communitieswherelandis privatelyowned,there is highpopulationgrowththat leadsto landsubdivisions,promotingsmall-scaleproduction.Amajorityof thefarmersengagein foodcropsratherthan cashcrops,a factorthat deniesthem from leapingfrom agriculture.Mostfarmersin thecontinenthavenot yetembracedtechnology in agriculture,a factorthat leadsto a significantreductionof agro-production, henceincreasedpovertyamong thefarmers(UnitedNations 2005).

PoorGovernance

Establishedinstitutionsin theAfrican continentaremarredby corruption,which threatenstheextemporal performanceof thesestates.In mostcases,personsare forcedto bribe,ratherthan usetheir meritto getemployment.Nepotism is one of thekeyfactorsthat influencetheemploymentpatterns,with thepowerfulpersonsusingtheir wealthandinfluenceto helptheir familiesto gainemployment.Further,thecorruptregimeshavemisusedthemonetaryaidthat issentto their countriesforeconomicdevelopment(UnitedNations 2005). Asignificantportionof themoneyendsup in thepocketsof fewindividuals,with theremainingbeingspenton weaponsandothernon-developmental materialproperty,that donot helpin thealleviation of poverty.Corruptregimeshavepromotedgrabbing of land,themainfactorof productionfrom thepoor.Thiscausesdisorientation among thepoor,predisposingthem to povertysince theydonot ownthefactorsof production(Fox&amp Liebenthal, 2006). ManyAfrican governmentshavepooreconomicplanningstrategiesthat makethem losehugeamountsof moneyon projectsthat havenosignificanteconomicvalue.Othercountriesundertakehugedevelopmentprojectsthat donot haveeconomicvaluein thelong-run. Thisisevidenced by countrieslike Ghana, which wastherichestcountryin Africa after independence.Thecountryspentmostof its moneyon megaprojectssuchas theAkosombo damandthecocoa storagesilos.Inthelongrun,theseprojectshavenot yieldedvaluableeconomicreturns,despite thehugeresourcesspent(Cullen,2010)

Insecurity

Thecontinentisfacedwith unendingconflictsandcivilwarsthat createuntolddesolationsandpovertyamong thepopulace.RecentArab uprisingsin thenorthernpartof thecontinent,andtheIslamic extremistssuchas theBoko Haram in Nigeria andAl-Shabab inEast Africa, are among thesignificantconflictsthat haveimpoverishedthecontinentin therecentpast(White&amp Killick, 2001).Increasedinsecuritiesleadto massivedestructionof establishedinfrastructurestherebycontinuingthecycleof poverty.In addition,itdiscouragesinvestmentsleadingto sloweconomicgrowthanddevelopment.Further,thecontinentfacescontinuousnaturaldisasterssuchas droughtsandfloodsfurtherimpoverishingthestate.Forinstance,in 2006, Lesotho experiencedtheworstdroughtthatforcedthegovernmentto declareita nationaldisaster.Conversely, Mozambique has beenexperiencingdevastatingfloods,which has increasedpovertyin theregion.Mitigationof thesenaturaldisastersconsumesa significantportionof nationalwealth,which would otherwisebeusedin improvingtheeconomicstateof thecitizens(White&amp Killick, 2001).

Dependency

Africanculturesplacesignificantvalueon children,a factorthat has ledto overpopulation in thecontinent.Overpopulation has worsened thelevels of povertysince theeconomyisnot developedenoughto supportthewholepopulation.There is highdependencyratiowith theemployedfewsupportingthemajoritywhoarenot employed,impoverishingeventheemployedpersons.In timesof disasters,theneedforfoodin thewell-offcitiesdrawsfoodfrom theneedyareas,leavingthepersonslivingin theseareaspoorer.Otherthan personaldependencycreatedby thehighpopulationin Africa, countriesthereinestablisheddependencysyndromeafter gainingtheir impendence (UnitedNations 2005). After their independence,African countriesstartedlookingforaidsandgrantsoutside their countries,a factorthat has increasedtheir internationaldebt,furtherimpoverishingsuchcountries.In addition,someforeignaidscomewith attachedpolicyrecommendationsthat oftenimpoverishthecountry.Forinstance,countrieslike Kenya wereforcedto retrenchhugenumberof publicservantsin 2000/01, as a directive from theIMF, foritto acquirefunding. Theseloansandgrantsoftenrequiregovernmentsto reducespending, affectingmajorsocialsectorssuchas thehealthandeducationsector.Assuch,thedependencysyndromeimpoverishestheAfrican continent,ratherthan alleviatingitfrom poverty(Fox&amp Liebenthal, 2006). Otherfactorsthat haveledto theimpoverishment of theAfrican continentincludetheslowinfrastructural developmentsthatlockout investors, poorlandutilization,aswellas diseasesandpandemics (Barrett,Little &amp Carter 2013).

TheCase for China

Chinais a best example evidencing that poverty can be eradicated with theimplementation of appropriate reforms. Barely twenty years ago, wereover four hundred million Chinese living in extreme poverty. By 2001,China undertook reforms to eliminate poverty, through meeting all theMillennium development goals, fifteen years ahead of the target date.Between early 1980s and 2001, the level of poverty in the country hadfallen from fifty-three percent to just eight percent, owing tovarious reforms that were implemented in parts. The 1978-84 povertyreforms targeted the agricultural sector, which had been longneglected by the communist party. The communal land ownership wasreplaced by private lands, with the farmers retaining part of theirproduction after remitting some to the state. This increasedagro-production, which in turn increased the living standards ofmillion farmers. The increased agro-production stimulated theestablishment of rural industries, increasing the employment levelsin the country. Further appropriate steps were taken to stopcorruption, with tough legislations against corrupt governments.Further, most of the state-owned enterprises were privatizedenhancing their performance hence increased revenues for thegovernment. The increased revenues were used to fund infrastructuraldevelopments, which, together with security, helped in attractinginvestors (Barrett, Little &amp Carter 2013). The seven–year-priority poverty alleviation program (1994-2000), wascentered to mobilizing all resources, financial, material and humanresources, concentrating them to solve the problem of food andclothing in the country. Social undertakings were developed to curbthe menace of overpopulation in the poverty stricken areas reducingcompetition for resources. Further, the government providedaffordable education, thereby reducing illiteracy among the young andthe middle-aged, which proved vital in combating poverty in thecountry. The government started programs that were meant to reducesocial and economic shocks of the poor people. Today, China is thesecond largest economy by Nominal GDP and the greatest economy bypurchasing power, with unemployment dropping from fifty-three toeight percent (Barrett, Little &amp Carter 2013).

Reducing

Thepovertysagain Africa has beenallowedto driftforfartoolong,allowingthedeprivationof thepoorestcitizensof thebasicservicessuchas educationandhealth.Theeconomicmalaiseis self-perpetuatingengenderingmorediseases,corruption,misgovernment,andwarfare.GivingAfrica,monetaryaidis not an effectivewayof endingpovertyinthecontinentsince theproblemof Africa is not thelackofmoney,butrathertheinabilityto managetheavailableresources.Assuch,solvingtheproblemof povertywould involvechangingformsof governance andendingcorruptionin theseAfrican states(Barrett,Little &amp Carter 2013).Povertycan onlybeeffectivelycombatedin thepresenceof stronginstitutionsandeffectivegovernance, which will promoteequitabledistributionof resources.Thisrequiresnon-corrupt governments,as corruptgovernmentshavebeeninhibitedtheimplementation of poverty-fightingprograms.Governmentsshould takeappropriatemeasuresto endcorruptionsin their respectivestates,ensuringthatresourcesdoesnot endupin thepocketsof theminorityaristocraticclassbutis usedto benefitthewholecountry.Otherthan fightingcorruption,governmentsshould financeandprovideaffordable basicfacilities,suchas health,educationsecurityamong othervitalservices(White&amp Killick, 2001).

Goodgovernance andleadershipwill proveaptin reducingthearmedconflicts,which is keyto addressingpovertyin Africa. Theaptestwayof will be thecreationof enablingenvironmentthat will promotethecreationof employmentamongst theyouths,which forma significantportionof thepopulace.Insteadof aidsandgrants,monetaryinstitutionsanddevelopedcountriesshould liaise with African governmentsto financeandprovideaffordable educationsothateventhepoorchildrenaccesseducation,enablingthem acquireorcreateemployment(UnitedNations 2005). Provisionof health,cleanwaterandsanitationwill proveaptin raisingthelivingstandardsof thepopulace.Conversely,infrastructural developmentandprovisionof securitywill proveaptin attractingforeigninvestors, which is vitalin improvingthevariouseconomies.Further,there should be heavyinvestmentsin theagriculturesector,to promoteagro-production. Additionally, industriesshould be setup to processtheagriculturalproducts,which would fetchmorethan therawproductssentabroad.Importantly, governmentsshould enlightenthepopulaceon familyplanning,which will be aptin controllingpopulationgrowthhenceeliminatepovertyin thecontinent(Cullen,2010).

Chronically,thepoorpeoplehavelimitedabilitiesto absorbtheagronomic, local,political,economicorsocialshocksas comparedto thewealthyindividuals.Often,itis not thesingleeconomicoccurrencethat drivesthepoorbackto their poverty,ratherthan rapidsuccessiveoccurrencesof shock.Education,promotionof agriculture,as wellas theestablishmentof non-farm businesseswill proveaptin reducingshocks,therebyalleviatingpoverty.In addition,governmentsanddevelopedcountriesshould providethesocialsafetynets,programswhich cushion thepooragainst economicshocksandreducetheir overall poverty.Socialsafetynetsare costeffectiveinsurancesagainst therisksthat could deraildevelopmentsallover theworld(Fox&amp Liebenthal, 2006). Theseprotectionprogramshelpensurethatthefamilieswith lesserincomedoesnot fallbackinto extremepovertywhenthebreadwinnersfallillorwhenthere is droughtorfoodis unaffordable becauseof pricehikes.Socialsafetynetensuresthattheparentscontinuesendingtheir childrento schoolin spiteof economicorhealthshock.Theseprogramsare distinctiveto eachcountry’sneeds,with someservingas a supportsystemforthoseon thebrinkof poverty.Othersocialsafetyshockstarget specificpopulationwith lessdefined needs.Thesocialsafetyshocksrequirelessresourceinputandtheir benefitsaccrueto all thecitizens.In addition,theyeasethetransitionfrom inefficientgeneralsubsidiesto self-sustenanceof a country,addressingall thedynamics that fuelcycleof povertyin Africa (Barrett,Little &amp Carter 2013).

Additionally,African governmentsshould extendtherightsof povertyprotectionto thepoor,includingland,which is thebasicfactorof productionin thecontinent.Accordingto theworldbank,extendinglandprotectionrightsis keyto increasingthewealthof thepoor,since itinsuresthepoorof theprotectionof their land(Fox&amp Liebenthal, 2006). AlthoughtheWorld Bank remainsvariedon theapteststrategyto ensureprotectionof land,itis notedthatChina andIndia havesignificantly reducedtheir povertylevels by adoptingtheappropriatelandownershipmeasures.Chinese abandonedthetraditionalcollectivefarmingmethodswhileIndia cutthered-tape legislationsthat promotedcommunallandownership(Cullen,2010).

Asaforestated,povertyis a global menacethat has significantly affectedthedeveloping countries,especiallyin Africa. In Africa, theissueof povertyis as a resultof multifaceted factorswith rootsfrom colonialism, with factorssuchas poorgovernance andcorruptionworsening thesituation.OtherfactorspredisposingAfrica to povertyincludeoverpopulation, naturaldisastersandeverincreasingconflictsandcivilwarsin thecontinent.Theproblemhas intensifieddespite variousstepstakento changethetrendsowingto thefailedgovernmentsthatinhibitimplementation of poverty-alleviation programs.Currentpovertyalleviation strategiesare inapt since corruptionin variousinstitutionsensuresthatmostof theresourcesendup in thepocketsof thefewpowerfulpersons,with thepoorpeopleremainingpower.In addition,thecorruptandpowerfulpersonsinfluenceemployersto employtheir familymembers,therebycontinuingthecyclical cycleof poverty.Assuch,theaptestwayof combatingpovertyin Africa would be institutinggoodandnon-corrupt governmentsthat would promoteequaldistributionof resources.Thenon-corrupt governmentwould be essentialin providingaffordable basicservicessuchas medicalservices,educationas wellas sanitation,which will be essentialin reducingpovertyin Africa. In addition,thegovernments,in liaisonwith donors,should increasethelevels of employmentin thecontinent,which will be aptin reducinginsecurityandcivilwarsin thecontinent.Thiswillbe effectivein eliminatingabstractpovertyin Africa, riddingtheglobeof theproblem.

References

Barrett,B. Little, P. &amp Carter M. (2013)Understandingand Reducing Persistent . London. Routledge

Cullen,R. (2010). ThePoverty of Corrupt Nations.Toronto: Dundurn Press.

Fox,L., Liebenthal, R.(2006). AttackingAfrica`s poverty: Experience from the ground.Washington, D.C: World Bank.

Hope,K. R. (2008). Poverty,livelihoods, and governance in Africa: Fulfilling the developmentpromise.New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

UnitedNations. (2005). Economicreport on Africa 2005: Meeting the challenges of unemployment andpoverty in Africa.Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Economic Commission for Africa.

White,H., &amp Killick, T. (2001). Africanpoverty at the millennium: Causes, complexities, and challenges.Washington, D.C: World Bank