Why Is Africa So Poor?

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The 54 sovereign nations of the Continent have a total population of 1.07 billion. The World Bank in 2013 while describing it as the world’s poorest inhabited continent has also declared it as the world’s fastest growing continent at 5.6% annual growth rate . Between 2013 and 2023 the Continent’s GDP is expected grow by an average of over 6% a year. Over 1/3 of sub-Saharan African countries are posting a growth rate at or above 6% while another 40% are experiencing growth rates between 4% to 6% per year. At this growth rate most African nations would achieve middle income status [US$.1000 per person per annum] by 2025 with the Sub-Saharan nations achieving a GDP of $29 trillion. Africa has a young and growing labor force and will experience demographic dividend by 2035. It has a consumer market of some 90 million people with an average household income exceeding $5000. This is estimated to grow to 128 million by 2020. The leading engines of growth are South Africa and Nigeria (largest economies), Equatorial Guinea (highest GDP per capita) and Algeria, Libya, Gabon and Botswana (top economies of the 21st Century). The rate of return on investment in Africa is currently the highest in the developing world. The reasons for poverty are manmade.

Bad Governance

The national governments of Africa have badly governed their individual countries by failing to execute adequate, transparent and targeted investments in Education & Skills Development, Health, Agriculture & Manufacturing, Service & Trade sectors, Communication & Transport, etc. Most of the governments are despotic in nature and could have implemented policies without delays characteristic of parliamentary democracies. Instead earnings from oils and minerals along with foreign aid had been ruthlessly squandered away.

Failure of the International Community.

The Developed nations, International Aid Organizations and Multinational corporations, providing massive financial aid could have ensured the achievement of long and short term development targets after making allowance for corruptions and personal amassment of wealth by the ruling elites. However they showed very little interests. With Globalization this attitude is changing. China, the US and India are investing in infrastructure development and creating business opportunities.


The continent has been and currently is, plagued by conflicts. Right up to the last quarter of the 20th Century, both the then Superpowers used African nations as proxies to play out their cold war rivalries. On its end, regional conflicts broke out in the 1990s in Congo (1998), Uganda (1987) and Somali (1991). With the dawn of the 21st Century, in the first quarter itself, conflicts have broken out in Nigeria (Boko Haram Jihadist terrorism/2009), Central African Republic War (2012), the Burundi coup attempt (2015), Libya (2011), Northern Mali conflict (2012) and the South Sudan –Sudan border conflict (2012). Experts also expect a rise in Islamic Jihad in the coming years of the 21st Century. Islamic Jihadists are already active in Northern Africa and are trying to expand into Central and Southern Africa.


Poverty that exists in Africa is due to unequal distribution of wealth, inefficient management of the national resources, and self interest of the political and administrative elites and lack of good governance. However all these and the internal conflicts are part of the process of development. As Globalization continues, investors are likely to move into Africa to meet growing world demand for natural resources and to take advantage of Africa’s young and growing labor market. These two can be expected to open up wider job opportunities ensuring adequate earnings for all. The young populations inspired by developments in other parts of the developing world are likely to bring about changes in politics and governance of their respective countries.

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