Why is Africa so poor yet so rich?

By McIntosh Ngwenya

Just as Africa’s real roads are laced, impaired and decrepitude with potholes, so is Africa’s metaphorical road towards political stability, good governance and economic growth strewn with massive impediments, which are a major drawback towards development.
Africa! Yet so rich in potential, minerals, fertile lands and oil deposits – is the home of the malnourished, wars, corrupt elites and economic enslaved masses. WHY?
-Why is Africa characterized by unemployment, poor infrastructure and poor health?
-What are the key factors which thwart and hinder development in sub-Saharan Africa?
-How can those barriers be identified and be confronted for a better, developed, vibrant, political stable and economic thriving continent?
While doing my research on the above mentioned subject matter l encountered a plethora of catastrophic factors which handicap development in Africa. After an intense research, l came up with three mildew factors which are a cul-de-sac to development – and these are;

1) Corruption and political instability
2) Unfair trade deals
3) Poverty, inequality and unemployment

Corruption and Political Instability
The Longman dictionary defines corruption as, ‘dishonesty or immoral behaviour by people in important official positions’. What l can deduce from the above description is that corruption is the process of decay, putrefaction, lack of principle, turpitude and fraudulent conduct by those in power for personal gain, typically involving unethical crooked deals. On the other hand, political instability is the incidence of political upheavals, violence in a society which yields social ills and civil unrest. In essence, nearly all African countries are fraught with corruption and it obstructs developmental progress.
Corruption is rife among most African governments. The budget meant to develop different sectors ends up disappearing in the hands of those in power. The greedy and corrupt elites temper with public funds meant for development, they divert it for personal gain. Selfishness, cronyism and the obstinacy of ex-African presidents like Mobutu SeseSeko and Robert Mugabe who both used state funds to enrich themselves instead uplifting and ennobling the masses, reflects that corruption of all kinds, especially the venal large-scale fraudulent conduct which prevails so widely in Africa distorts national priorities and reduces mass confidence in governmental legitimacy. In the landscapes of South Africa, the recent debacle within the Democratic Alliance where Mayor Patricia de Lille (News 24 online, 15/01/2018) is the centre of controversy, reveals that weak rule of law, lack of accountability and disrespect for fundamental human rights all contribute to poor governance and its counterpart, slower economic growth.

Unfair Trade Deals
Decolonize Africa – Africans might be politically liberated but they are still economic enslaved. Imperialism only changed form, hence economically developed countries are the main stakeholders of the economic-pie. In the economic barriers l interviewed Inge Lamprecht, a seasoned financial Journalist at Moneyweb. She writes in a wide array of topics including tax, markets and investments, and has a Master’s degree in Journalism and Bachelor of Accounting both from Stellenbosch University. She highlights that South Africa is not growing like other developing economies despite its sophisticated infrastructure and business capability, because of its dependency on unreliable sources of foreign investment to finance its growth. The tax and markets writer add that inability of the state to lead a structural economic reform project is another hindrance. The much-publicised radical economic transformation is still a pipedream than an imminent reality.

Furthermore, to counter the surge of African development, (Tadoro et al, 2009:123), mentions the neo-colonial dependence model which is an outgrowth of Marxist thinking. This dependence model attributes the existence and continuance of underdevelopment primarily to the historically evolution of a highly unequal international capitalist system of rich country – poor country relationship. Karl Marx (1818-1883) outlined that within such a global system of capitalist exploitation, the underdeveloped countries are described as on the periphery, and the developed countries considered as being at the centre of the world’s economy (Servaes 1999:34). The underdevelopment of many African countries is a result of a deliberate exploitation of market forces of the global economy. Through the domination of African states by their colonial masters, the sub-Saharan African countries like DRC which is rich in diamonds, gold and copper – produces cheap raw material for the factories of the developed nations. Such an export-based and unfair trade deals is one of the toxic factors which handicap development in Africa.

Poverty, Inequality and Unemployment
In 1996, in the Conference on Infrastructure Investment held in Cape Town, Thabo Mbeki famously said, “Inequality, unemployment and poverty will destroy the political gains we’ve made thus far, unless they are addressed urgently. The scourges that blight the enjoyment of freedom for a large majority of our people. They are therefore a weight on the conscience of every one of us here today.” (Mbeki 1998:133). When Mbeki expressed his remarks on poverty in 1996, unemployment rate in South Africa was 21%, now twenty-two years later it stands at 26,7%, of which the youths also feel the heat. According to Statistics South Africa, youth unemployment is still high in the first quarter of 2018. Initially, unemployment rate amongst young people aged between 15-34 is estimated to be 38,2%.

While scrutinizing on unemployment, inequality and poverty, l did my case study at Mushongoville informal settlement in Krugersdorp. The place is characterized by lack of electricity, overcrowding and poor sanitation. Crime, lawlessness and alcoholism is prevalent. I interviewed a senior citizen Carl Khumalo about his views on sluggishness in development, of which he stated that,”…community development requires a collective participation and cooperation between the government and locals on tackling a myriad of overwhelming challenges which halt development.”.

Tadaro, MP, Smith, SC. 2009. Economic Development. 10th edition. Essex: Pearson.
Mbeki T. 1998. AFRICA –the time has come. Cape Town: Tafelberg.
Interviewed Inge Lamprecht and Carl Khumalo.

edited by Zekey

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