9 Reasons Why Africa Is Behind The Rest Of The World

Africa is the poorest continent in the world. 36% of African’s live in poverty. Compared to many other parts of the world, African countries appear behind in terms of development and progress. But why? Why is Africa so far behind the rest of the world?

1. Legacy of Colonialism

The first reason why Africa is behind the rest of the world is because of the legacy of colonialism. Almost all of the world was colonized by European powers between the 15th Century and the late 20th. However, the nature of colonialism in Africa has resulted in the continent failing to catch-up with many other regions.

Colonialism in Africa had a enormous impact. It resulted in less development, arbitrary borders and increased ethnic tensions, reduced productively in many sectors and the centralization of resources within parts of economies. As a result, when African countries became independent, they struggled to catch-up with the rest of the world.

Although colonialism is often cited as one of the major reasons why Africa lags behind other continents, it’s also important to understand that post-colonial decisions taken in many African countries exacerbated the impact of European rule. However, African countries were ill-placed to make strong economic choices as a result of colonialism and this is why the continent is behind the rest of the world in many ways.

2. Difficult Geography

The second reason why Africa is so far behind most of the world is because of its geography. Africa is enormous. It has large areas of mountains, jungles and deserts. There are also few navigable rivers and many different temperate zones. The geography of Africa makes it hard for strong nation states to develop and this had held much of Africa back.

Geography plays a major role in how nations form. There are many parts of Africa where the geography makes creating cohesive states a challenge. Many regions that have tough geography also have poorer countries. Africa is an example of this.

African countries have generally failed to develop the infrastructure that would help them overcome their geographical challenges. This is a major reason the continent lags behind others. If better roads, rail, aviation, utilities and communication networks can be developed, then many African countries can rapidly catch-up.

3. Limited Adoption of Technology

Africa is generally behind the rest of the world because many countries on the continent have failed to embrace technology.

The modern globalized economy is highly reliant of technological advancements. Countries need to embrace technology in order to fully participate in the global economy and to compete in international markets. Many African countries lag behind in their adoption of technology and this holds them back from developing.

Technological advancements, including in agriculture, healthcare, infrastructure and tele-communication, have not been adopted as quickly across Africa as they have in many other parts of the world. If African countries are going to catch-up, many need to focus on innovation and the development of home-grown technologies that can meet their needs, propel their economies and compete in the global marketplace.

4. Extensive Conflict

Conflicts have occurred in all regions of the world throughout history. However, Africa since de-colonization has seen extensive civil and inter-state conflicts, and this is another reason why the continent is behind the rest of the world.

There have been 108 individual wars in Africa since 1960. This is significantly more than any other continent. Conflicts hold regions back by destroying lives and livelihoods, damaging infrastructure, diverting government funds and removing active aged people from the workforce to fight. The number and extent of wars across Africa is a reason many countries on the continent have been held back.

Although many conflicts in Africa have ended and major efforts have been made across the continent to end fighting, wars in countries such as South Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia Somalia and the Central African Republic are examples of how conflict in Africa still prevents many nations from progressing. Wars are a major reason why the continent generally lags behind many other parts of the world.

5. Widespread Corruption

Corruption is a major factor in why many countries fail to progress. Africa has some of the most corrupt countries in the world and this is a definite reason why the continent is behind the rest of the world.

Many African countries have failed to address corruption. As a result, public services and businesses are inefficient, government programmes are expensive to implement, and taxation revenue is reduced. Factors such as these have a major effect on almost all countries in Africa and play a big role in the why the continent has fallen behind others.

African countries need to fight corruption if they are to catch-up. This is no easy challenge, but progress is being made. Where successful and sustainable measures have been taken to reduce corruption, African countries have been able to progress rapidly.  

6. Poor Governance

Another reason why Africa is behind the rest of the world is because of the poor governance in many African countries.

Across Africa, governments have failed to create inclusive and accountable institutions. They also often fail to deliver services, ensure security and create trust among the populations. Africa also has few true democracies. All of these factors are key reasons why much of Africa lags behind other parts of the world.

Good governance is crucial for development. For a country to progress governments need to be able to harness the resources available to coordinate the economy to ensure efficiency. Too many African countries have failed to do this since de-colonialization. Although many African countries inherited poor institutions as a legacy of colonialism, weak governance must be addressed if Africa is stop being behind the rest of the world.

7. Disease

Disease outbreaks and pandemics have affected every part of the world throughout history. Africa, however, has many diseases that have ravaged the continent extensively and which countries have often been unable to contain. This is a reason why Africa lags behind.

Across much of Africa, there are endemic diseases that cause serious ill-health and death. Malaria, HIV, yellow fever, meningitis and Ebola are just some of the major diseases present in Africa. Diseases hamper progress for countries because people’s productivity is reduced as they are removed from the workforce by death, illness or caring for relatives.

Healthcare in many African countries is insufficient. People across the continent cannot access quality healthcare and this exacerbates the impact of disease. African countries must improve their healthcare systems and bring endemic diseases under control if they are too catch-up with much of the rest of the world.

8. Lack of Education

Education is key to nations progressing. Many countries in Africa have poor education systems and many children go without schooling. This is big reason why they lag behind.

Ensuring that children can access quality schooling is key to growing a developed economy. An educated workforce is vital in the modern globalized world and countries that fail to provide good schooling across their populations fail too catch-up. African countries need to invest heavily in education and ensure all children have access if they are to progress.

Primary education provides children with a foundation of learning, but secondary and higher-level education is also needed if countries are going to develop. Many countries in Africa lack good universities and so many young adults fail to learn the skills needed. African countries must ensure wider access to university level education if they going to stop being behind much of the world.

9. Bad Economic Choices

The final reason why Africa is behind the rest of the world is because of bad economic choices made following de-colonialization.

When many African countries got their independence, they adopted policies that seemed prudent at the time, but have held their progress back. Several African countries, such as Ghana and Ethiopia, adopted socialist economic policies as a reaction to colonialism. They had several decades of stagnant economic growth as a result. Other countries, such as Kenya and Malawi, kept key parts of the colonial economic system that also hampered their economic progress. Kenya and Uganda expelling their Asian populations – who ran many businesses, is another example of poor economic choices being made by African countries since independence.

Although colonialism is one of the biggest reasons why Africa is behind the rest of the world, poor choices made by African governments following de-colonialization is also a major reason why the continent has not been able to catch-up.

Global Affairs Explained

Global Affairs Explained is an ongoing project aiming to provide concise guides to world events. Focusing on international relations, history, and geo-politics, Global Affairs Explained uses original research and data to answer questions often not covered by traditional media.

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