Africa remains the poorest region in the world. The reasons for poverty in Africa cannot be narrowed down to a single cause. Some factors bedeviling Africa require good governance and effective policy making on the part of Africa. However, some causes of poverty in Africa require global cooperation to solve. Reasons for Africa’s poverty range from poor governance, corruption, wars and violence. In addition, disease burden and poor education are also contributing to poverty in Africa. We have developed a list of the top eight reasons why Africa is still poor.
Africa has gone through some economic, social, and demographic changes in the last two decades. Africa's economies have been rising steadily. Every year, people are lifted out of poverty in some countries. Looking ahead, Africa's story shows a promising future. However, this upward trend is neither consistent nor even. Things are undoubtedly improving for some people, but not for all, and for some places, but not for all. Africa remains impoverished as a result of this uneven growth. This rate of growth is far too slow, and millions of Africans continue to live in abject poverty. Africa is still commonly regarded as the world's poorest continent. In Sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 220 million people live in poverty. The reasons of Africa’s poverty cannot be reduced to a single factor.
1) Poor governance
Africa's failure to progress seventy years after independence is primarily due to poor governance. Africa has been in the hands of inept leaders who are uninterested in the continent's development. In state institutions, there has been a lack of transparency and accountability. Resources are not being utilized efficiently. In Africa, poor governance includes a variety of state and employee malpractices. Many African leaders are not genuinely interested in moving the continent forward by appointing competent people to key positions. African politicians openly appoint underqualified people to prominent positions at state-owned organizations and government ministries, seeing their roles as a sort of property and personal gain. The poorest people are harmed by this type of governance, as they are denied basic necessities such as healthcare, food, and shelter.
In Africa, corruption is a key challenge in the fight against poverty. Sub-Saharan Africa is regarded as one of the most corrupt regions in the world. According to a recent Transparency International report, corruption is on the rise across Africa. Numerous African countries have faced and continue to experience severe levels of corruption in the last 20 months. Sub-Saharan Africa is the worst-performing region on the CPI, with an average score of 32, indicating little improvement from previous years. According to the Transparency International rankings of 2020, the top two most corrupt countries are in Africa. South Sudan and Somalia are the most corrupt countries in the world, with the same lowest score of 12. An audit of COVID-19 spending in South Africa uncovered overpricing, fraud, and corruption. In the second quarter of 2020, money earmarked for the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) was stolen in a number of nations. For example, in Zimbabwe in 2020, a scandal was discovered in which tenders for purchasing equipment were offered to a businessman connected to the first family. While some African countries, such as Ghana, Tanzania, and Rwanda, have made headway in the battle against corruption, many others are still far behind. A lack of effort to address this issue exacerbates the current causes of poverty in Africa.
3) Wars and Violence
Wars and political violence have exacerbated poverty across Africa. Extremist organizations, government repression, and natural resources are the main causes of conflict in Africa. According to the Amnesty International report of 2020, Africa was the only continent to experience an increase in political violence in 2020 compared to 2019. More than 17200 violent incidents were documented, with more than 37600 people killed. In 2021, African conflicts mainly occurred in Cameroon , Ethiopia (Tigray), Libya, Mali, Mozambique, Lake Chad Region (Boko Haram), DRC, Somalia, and South Sudan. According to the Institute of Security Studies, a think tank based in South Africa, since 2011, there has been an increase in the number of people compelled to flee their homes across Africa. In Africa, more than 32 million people are internally displaced, refugees, or asylum seekers. Economic pursuits, such as agriculture and mining, grind to a standstill in violent communities. People are forced to flee their houses. Because of the uncertainty, businesses close and investors flee. All of this is harmful to economic progress, and insecure African communities will remain impoverished.
4) Poor Education and the Knowledge gap
A key issue that adds to the causes of poverty in Africa is a lack of education. This void is felt most acutely in Sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest rates of educational marginalization in the world. According to the United Nations International Children's Education Fund (UNICEF), over one-fifth of children between the ages of six and eleven are out of school, followed by one-third of adolescents aged 12 to 14 in Africa. Almost 60% of teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 do not attend school. The United Nations has connected education to poverty, as the data illustrates, because individuals who cannot read or write have little opportunity of finding competent work and building a livelihood. Because there is no trained workforce to drive the economy, it is crippled by a lack of skills and information. Due to a lack of education and technical skills, the majority of African youth are currently unemployed. Education, particularly for girls, has, however, been shown to be one of the most cost-effective measures for encouraging economic growth. Studies have shown that educated moms have healthier, better-nourished newborns and their own children are more likely to attend school, thereby helping to break the vicious cycle of poverty.
5) Poor Health and the Disease Burden
Poverty is a cause as well as a result of bad health. Inadequate living conditions raise the likelihood of bad health. As a result, poor health confines communities to a never-ending cycle of poverty. People living in poverty are at a serious disadvantage due to a lack of education on how to prevent infectious diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS, as well as the high cost of consultations, testing, and medicine, which only serves to perpetuate the poverty cycle. In Africa, diseases like AIDS, malaria, and Ebola are both the cause and the outcome of poverty. Diseases spread faster and cannot be treated in many areas due to a lack of education and inadequate medical care. The population's average life expectancy is declining, while the number of orphans is rising. Labor shortages are particularly visible in agriculture, resulting in lower food output. Diseases, particularly communicable diseases, spread more quickly in disadvantaged populations with limited access to basic services. HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other illnesses all contributed to Africa's rising poverty rates. Apart from killing individuals, these diseases leave families and communities in debt, severely compromising their ability to survive.
6) Rapid Population growth
Despite several preventive and education initiatives, population growth on the African continent is rapid. According to recent UNICEF report, Africa's population will double to two billion people by 2050. African governments are failing to meet the demands of a growing population by failing to build the necessary infrastructure. On limited resources, the population per capita is increasing. People are increasingly living in slums as a result of a lack of housing. Water and energy shortages are common across Africa. In addition, healthcare facilities are overcrowded, thereby compromising patient outcomes. Africa is sowing the seeds of its own implosion by failing to meet the needs of its growing population. However, the growing population can be good for Africa’s economy if opportunities are created by African governments. By the year 2035, Africa will have the world's largest workforce. The growing population can support the economy if policies are created to promote industrial development.
7) International Aid
International aid is now commonly viewed as one of the factors contributing to Africa's continued poverty. Nothing much has changed in the 70 years since independence. Every year, billions of dollars in charity are provided to Africa, but little has changed. Aid money ends up in the hands of those who aren't supposed to be receiving it. Despots utilize the same aid money to oppress the people. International aid encourages corruption among African governments. In her much publicized book, Dead Aid, Dambisa Moyo argued that international aid might lead to governments abdicating their responsibility to provide public goods to their citizens. Governments and politicians will no longer be held accountable or answerable to citizens if they are always rescued by aid money. International aid promotes a dependency syndrome and suffocates African ingenuity. There will be no incentive for Africans to come up with innovative ways to solve their problems when they are always helped by developed countries.
8) Protectionist Trading Policies
Rich countries establish unfair trade systems by protecting their markets and extensively subsidizing their own agriculture. The slow growth of African economies is due to Europe's unified agriculture policy and America's farm subsidies. This hinders the growth of agriculture on the African continent, putting the continent at a disadvantage from the start. As a result of their actions, the governments of the United States, Europe, and other rich countries contribute to poverty in Africa. The United States and the European Union are shielding major industries with which Africa may compete, such as agriculture, making trade in this sector more difficult. Hence, Africa remains trapped in poverty because of these protectionist policies by developed countries.
Although Africa’s economic outlook looks positive in the long term, the continent continues to struggle with poverty in the here and now. There are a number of reasons why Africa is still poor today, despite efforts being made to eradicate poverty. The scourge of corruption and poor governance is taking a toll on Africa’s growth and a chance to meaningfully put a dent in poverty. Insecurity, poor education, health and rapid population growth are also pulling the continent behind. With effective policy making and good governance, Africa has a shot at catching up to the rest of the world.