Why is Africa poor?

doyleBBC correspondent ,Mark Doyle went on the road to ask this question across the continent. He’s come back with three documentaries. Part one – Africa and The World- airs Monday on the BBC World Service Radio.

Mark will join us on WHYS do discuss the issue and share some of the things that he has come across during his visit. Below are all the posts he sent us during his trip. The first one you’ll read is the last on he sent us from Kenya.

Read the other posts below to find out about his visit to other parts of the continent. The last post is the one he sent first explaining the idea behind his documentary. Now we want you to speak to Mark and share your thoughts. Why, do you think, is Africa poor? Also, post any questions you have to Mark here.

Nairobi, Kenya:
Today I’ve seen more of the city of Nairobi than I did during a year-long stint of living here in the early 1990s.

Still in pursuit of answers to the question “Why is Africa Poor?” (the material I am gathering is for a series of BBC World Service radio programmes to be broadcast from August), I came here to look at urban issues.

My host for the day, architect and town planner Mumo Musuva, took me far and wide in the city which Kenya Airways proudly announces, in its landing message, is “the home of the United Nations in Africa”.

Mumo drove me past the big UN complex in the Nairobi suburb of Gigiri and alongside the huge, ugly utilitarian fortress next to it that is the newly-built US Embassy here (“Photography Not Permitted”).

During my time here in 1993-4 the UN complex was one of the few places I knew well. I spent most of that year shuttling between coup crises in Burundi; the Black Hawk Down era in Somalia; and the Rwandan genocide.
Busy, disturbing times.In those days, Kenya was, for foreign correspondents, largely a place for sleep and rest.

So I had not been to Mumo’s childhood area, the middle class suburb of Eastlands, before; and I had not seen the slum of Muthare close-up.
Muthare is a rotting expanse of rusting tin shacks as far as the eye can see – and it’s slap-bang next to the elite Muthaiga suburb with its manicured plots, many of which were carved out illegally from public forests by what are known in Kenya as “land-grabbers”.

Seeing the city through the eyes of a Kenyan architect and planner was fascinating. Mumo believes that bad or non-existent town planning is a cause of poverty.

Nairobi is a place where chaotic “informal sector” industries are allowed to flourish in what are supposed to be residential areas. These industries pollute the environment with noise and rubbish. But, of course, they also provide vital jobs.

“We need to harness the power of these activities”, says Mumo; “and we also need to see their advantages”.

The key, perhaps, would be to provide services (water, electricity, roads) in exchange for modest taxes. That way, the vast energy of the informal sector could benefit everyone, and not be seen as a nuisance.
The trouble is that in Kenya few believe their taxes are being properly spent.

I’m not sure what the solution is to all this, but I’m fumbling towards thinking that Africa is not, in fact, poor at all. There’s everything here: resources, people, water, sunshine, energy and often – even in the case of some rare politicians! – goodwill.

But these things are not joined up by good planning. Maybe President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia was right when told me; “Africa is not poor, it is just poorly managed.”

I’ll try to think about that further for the radio programmes. But meanwhile, I’ll tell you one thing Africa certainly is – and that is Big. Very Big.

Flying from Liberia to the western Kenyan town of Kisumu (my first stopoff in the “home of the UN in Africa”), via Accra, Ghana, then Nairobi, took me almost 24 hours.

The only respite on the flights was when the Ghanaian nation soccer squad, the Black Stars, boarded the plane in Accra en route to a training cam in Kenya and then their World Cup qualifier in Sudan.

The Kenyan Airways stewardesses transformed their usual friendly smiles to ecstatic grins as the yellow, green and red-shirted heroes sauntered on with their bling watches and latest iPods prominently on display.

Kisumu, on Lake Victoria (Africa’s largest freshwater lake), gave me a chance to look into two issues endemic across tropical Africa – malaria and the scourge of the river and lake-bourne weed, Water Hyacinth.
So, two places very new me in the space of just a few days – the delightfully laid-back and in parts very attractive town of Kisumu, and bits of Nairobi I have never seen before.
Africa is Big.
I feel so privileged to be travelling through.

121 Responses to “Why is Africa poor?”

  1. 1 Deryck/Trinidad
    August 21, 2009 at 21:04

    Question: Have you had an opportunity to investigate the major contribution of the Bretton Woods institutions(IMF, World Bank) to Africa’s perpetual poverty?

  2. 2 Deryck/Trinidad
    August 21, 2009 at 21:43

    Interestingly you said Mumo is an architect who grew up in the middle class suburb of Eastlands. Now Eastlands is located next to Muthare a slum. How will you enable someone growing up in Muthare to bridge the divide and becoming an architect? Proper education is a fundamental answer.


  3. August 22, 2009 at 02:38

    I believe that Africa (it’s so large!) has two big problems that have prevented them from forming prosperous democratic nations. These are huge generalizations so forgive me…

    The first problem is that the predominant parenting style is the “abandonment” style. The type of parenting where children are raised by relatives. The father isn’t around, and the mother leaves “looking for work.” It turns out that if you were never the most important thing in the universe to someone, then it is impossible for you to love or empathize with others. Often the most dangerous individual ends up with the most respect.

    The second reason is that “keeping agreements” is not culturally cool. It is hard to do business with folks whose heroes are often the “trickiest.”

  4. 4 tanboontee
    August 22, 2009 at 03:47

    I thought we discussed this before.

    Africa could have been rich, but is still poor, all because of its own making:
    Rich in natural resources, poor in human management.
    Rich in external aids, poor in leadership.
    Rich in population, poor in education/medics.
    Rich in bureaucracy, poor in self-reliance.

    What else?

    • 5 Mike M
      August 27, 2009 at 16:36

      Is this a bash the IMF/WB blog or a question about the African progress? Some comments here are focussing on the symptoms and the outcomes rather than the root cause.

      Africa is not a country, it is a diverse continent with each country having unique leadership challenges based on location, history and resources. e.g. Egypt and Rwanda are so different how can they be lumped together? They are individual countries.

      Individual country results, I believe starts within the family dynamic, the smallest social unit. Is it largely a culture of justice and order, mercy and opportunity, or is it arbitrary, chaotic, vengeful and oligarchic? I believe world history shows that one path produces peace, stability, and hope which coupled with a positive work ethic results in prosperity; while the other path produces despair, anguish and poverty.

      The best thing that the developed countries can do is to help the weak enforce the rule of law and see that it is applied fairly to all without exception. Additionally, promotion of free and open education to all – raise literacy and exposure to foreign ideas. This will sow seeds of hope and courage to stand on their own feet and if they so choose, to create a better life for themselves and their children.

  5. 6 Audrius Kviliunas
    August 22, 2009 at 08:09

    Essential problems which differ poor Afrika fromrich countries is big birth rate ,low illiteracy,low urbanization and in industry low electrocity production.When there are not electricity-there are not TVsets,computers,telephones.Peoples cannot develop their thinking.When this four problems will be solved Afrika will stand developed and rich.

  6. 7 scmehta
    August 22, 2009 at 14:30

    Africa is poor because of years of exploitation and neglect by its own heartlessly selfish and corrupt leaders and because of lack of concern by most of the world.
    And Africa is poor due to lack of:–
    1 peaceful and just environment for any national and international programs to be implemented.
    2.conscientious leadership in the strife-torn and very poor states, in urgent need of moral and financial help.
    3. topographically suitable and economically viable infrastructure to efficiently tap and manage/regulate the natural resources and the work-force.
    4. interstate cooperation within Africa to help the most needy nations come afloat and manage their own affairs including trade.
    5. even the minimum basic amenities like emergency-healthcare, medicines, potable water, food etc., to help restore confidence of the poorest.
    These causes have to be addressed and solutions have to be found unitedly by all the African nations. It will be then that any international/world opinion and help, including the UN, will be sought, without compromising self-esteem and national pride.

    • 8 john aboko -cole
      August 22, 2009 at 22:32

      Africa is poor because Africans(especially those who parade themselves as its leaders) are poor in every sense of the word;especially morally.With its vast resources and thieving leaders,the continent behaves as if it expects others(the developed world)d to sort out and solve its problems.When the continent wakes up from its slumber(which is more of a coma than sleep) and face its problems(including the leaders),then we can begin to talk of moving forward.

  7. 9 bjay
    August 22, 2009 at 16:54

    Why is Africa poor?

    A faulty gene ?
    I’m sure that kind of comment consequence would be a’firing squad’com .


  8. 10 Dennis Junior
    August 22, 2009 at 23:18

    Shaimaa Khalil (Mark Doyle)

    I think that the reasons for Africa is poor is many:

    Poor Leadership, Medical Care, poor roads, lack of economic interests and; the eventual problems of AIDS….

    =Dennis Junior=

  9. 11 Dennis Junior
    August 22, 2009 at 23:19

    Mark Doyle:

    Thanks, for your excellent reports that you are doing for BBC on the Africa story!

    =Dennis Junior=

  10. 12 Tan Boon Tee
    August 23, 2009 at 04:24

    Africa could have been rich, but is still poor, all because of its own making:
    Rich in natural resources, poor in human management.
    Rich in external aids, poor in leadership.
    Rich in population, poor in education/medics.
    Rich in bureaucracy, poor in self-reliance.

    What else?

  11. 13 Alby
    August 23, 2009 at 13:32

    Africa is poor because of centuries of exploitation by European colonialists who didn’t pay for universal education and any other modernizing influences, nor build democratic institutions that could stand on their own once they left.

    It still serves former-colonial powers to have access to minerals and mining resources with cheap labor by having dictators who can be bought with bribes.

    As for “heartlessly selfish leaders”…I can name several in the US who did the same thing when given the chance. The difference is that in the US there is a modicum of democratic institutions left to keep these people in check. But, just barely. They’ve done everything they could over 30 years to undermine democratic institutions that might keep them in check, and they’ve managed to run rough-shod over the population as a result putting the whole country into deficit and creating the biggest economic crisis in history.

    This is the natural effort of the elite controlling any situation…advance their own interests. That is why lack of democratic institutions and education for generations is the root cause, and why Europeans never established them either when they were the elite in the first place.

  12. 14 iahaya ayuba
    August 23, 2009 at 14:28

    Africa is poor because of bad leadreship. Her leaders are only rerpesenting their selfish interest and not the populace. Moreover, the people in power always do everything to see that members of their families remain in power. The ‘elite’ go exrta miles to see that the poor continue to get poorer while they (‘elite’) get richer. However, we the masses are waiting for our appointed time.

  13. 15 ishaya ayuba Ishaya
    August 23, 2009 at 14:35

    Africa is poor due to bad leadership. For example, look at Nigeria with all its natural blessings, yet millions of people cannot afford one square meal a day.

  14. 16 anu_D
    August 23, 2009 at 17:16

    Are Libya, Algeria, Tunisia poor?

    Or is Angola poor…I heard it’s the fastest growing economy in the world?

    Why don’t the arm chair intellectuals sitting in studios undertsand that there is nothing like a AFRICA…it’s not a homogenous nation but a diverse continent.

    Just like there is no homogenous Arab world that intellectuals have created out of their convenience.

    a_D in Kuwait

  15. August 24, 2009 at 02:46

    Where is the United Nations? and please can somebody tell me what is there job?

  16. 18 Ifunga
    August 24, 2009 at 09:29

    Primary reason is bad, no pathetic, leadership. If leadership was of a higher standard everything else like education, infrastructure, health care, investment and the prevention of any form of exploitation would all be taken care of. But alas, the caliber of the people leading most Afr counties is so low, in developed countries, the average African politician would not be allowed to run a preschool. This quote sums up how bad leadership has held back Africa…..Ghana and Malaysia gained independence in 1957,but today Malaysia is light years ahead of Ghana in every conceivable measure of progress. Taiwan,Singapore and S Korea are virtually first world countries,and yet 40 years ago each of these countries were poorer than Kenya.

    • 19 Omollo
      August 25, 2009 at 12:57

      @ Ifunga,

      This is a very good observation that indeed prompts us to rethink the role African leaders have played in holding this great continent back in terms of development. As a Kenya, I feel sad indeed to see leaders milking money from the public coffer and instead of using such proceeds to develop the country, it all goes to them plus their families. What a shame! Perhaps we need a radical political revolution as I heard a commentator say on WHYS program yesterday. But may I ask, what is your source for this information about the discrepancies between S.E. Asian countries and Africa?

      Thanks in anticipation.

  17. 20 Victor V.Watson
    August 24, 2009 at 11:14

    Dear Bbc

    Please make the world to understand that Africa is consider poor only because of the lack of commitment,and the increase in corruption.Our leaders are not independent they look up to the west to make decisions for this continent and their decisions will never help MAMA Africaa

  18. 21 VictorK
    August 24, 2009 at 11:29

    Let’s be clear: by ‘Africa’ what’s meant is sub-Saharan, black Africa.

    A touch of arrogance here? With the greatest respect to Mark Doyle, why does the BBC prefer parachuting in a white Western journalist to garner anecdotal evidence, to using a recognised expert on African affairs like George Ayittey, whose ‘Africa Unchained’ is a mine of facts and a model of informed analysis (and because Ayittey is both informed and African he needn’t pull his punches or worry about being accused of ‘racism’ for stating hard but necessary truths)? Pity.

    @Alby: your fantasy about centuries of colonialism (since the Berlin conference, partitioning Africa according to particular European interests, was in 1884, it’s necessarily a fantasy to claim that any part of the continent suffered ‘centuries’ of colonialism) is part of the problem of Africa’s poverty: a determination by too many people to ignore the truth and peddle cliches and fairytales regarding Africa.

  19. 22 VictorK
    August 24, 2009 at 11:54

    Leadership: corrupt and incompetent.
    Premature ‘independence’: granted decades (generations?) too early.
    Lack of indigenous political institutions:absurdly imitating Western models that they can never resemble (AU,Parliaments, elections, etc).
    Ethnic colonialism: in many cases substituting internal for European colonialism. Afr. countries are typically multi-ethnic, but ruling elites (i.e. whoever controls the military) are invariably drawn from one ethnic group, governing according to ethnic, not national, interests.
    Ethnic diversity: the qualities needed for a successful nation-state (self-sacrifice, discipline, the notion of public duty, a sense of the national interest, etc) all suppose a citizenry bound together by a common identification, interest & allegiance, i.e. a sense of nationhood. Most Afr. countries are artifical, multinational states that, by definition, can never be nations in the Western/Japanese/Chinese sense. Yet no African state is prepared to re-draw its borders & be voluntarily balkanised, as beneficial as this would be to most of them.

    • 23 Kakule kiza celestin
      August 24, 2009 at 13:54


      Your arguments are very mature but one thing to know is the major reason behind all those details is the dominion that Africans ever have from developed countries, Africa is never autonomous in polical decision or related matters, we cannot grade Africa as we can for America ,Asia , Europe et cetera because African development was very much delayed through slavery when nobody could invent , or raise scientific ideas to develop, by that time Europe, America, were going ahead, it’s even pitier cos we are living a sort of Neo-Colonialism which will again never permit Africa to develop by itself. People who don’t undestand this can use explainations they like but all will turn back to this idea, Africans can do as perfect as Europeans unfortunately they are being monitored and ruled indirectly, look at the DRCongo drama since the death of Lumumba, Kabila and others who had very bright political ideas…the blame is not to be put on Africa at all.

  20. 24 anu_D
    August 24, 2009 at 12:13

    August 24, 2009 at 11:29
    Let’s be clear: by ‘Africa’ what’s meant is sub-Saharan, black Africa

    ==>> Hello Victor,

    SA, Namibia and Angola are SS Africa and not poor by any means.

    and I am still awaiting someone in BBC to explain this patronizing, presumptious title implying “All Africa is Poor”

    • 25 Burite
      August 24, 2009 at 12:49

      Anu_D, go on, dream on………… how dare you even convince yourself that Angola, Namibia, South Africa are not poor? perhaps you do not know the definition of poverty….

  21. 26 VictorK
    August 24, 2009 at 12:39

    @anu_D: hello. ‘Africa’, even if we take the reference to encompass the northern states, is poor. Sub-Saharan Afr. is desperately poor. To dispute this, or demand an explanation from the BBC for stating it – in either sense – is bizarre.
    *Let’s not deceive ourselves: S. Afr. & Namibia aren’t as poor as the rest of sub-Saharan Afr. because of the role played by white Africans in those places. A few African countries rank in the top 100 countries for per capita GDP, mainly due to their luck in being able to trade some precious raw commodity or other, and hardly ever because of the possession of a decent manufacturing &/service infra-structure.
    *On the IMF list China ranks 100th for per capita GDP, behind Botswana & Equatorial Guinea. But such figures are to be read with a little commonsense. We know which is the real economic powerhouse.

  22. 27 robert
    August 24, 2009 at 12:43

    There is no one reason why some groups in Africa are poor. Different countries are poor for different reasons.

    Some lack resources. Some landlocked counties lack stable trade routes to export their resources. Some lack a stable government and end up in constant war. Some lack good governance and squandor the wealth. It might be in pure corruption or it might be because monies are spent on big high profile good PR projects and not on the ones which deliver results.

    I live in Angola. It is clear there is a lot of wealth in the country, but it is also clear that not everybody is getting the same share of the wealth.

  23. 28 Burite
    August 24, 2009 at 12:45

    Off course it’s because the west is richer for, its only natural and true that the richer exploit the poor. Example: Britain came to Uganda and nearly wiped the country clean of minerals. Then, because it had interests in Egypt, it signed an agreement with Egypt and Sudan giving the two countries exclusive rights over Nile waters. Even today, the countries downstream can not conduct major schemes like irrigation because of that agreement. Meanwhile people that would have been growing their food by the irrigation are starving, and how do you expect one without food to make an attempt at scientific innovation? One day, Britain will pay for this injustice – i don’t have to swear.

  24. 29 Grahame Shadbolt
    August 24, 2009 at 12:53

    Tribalism, sectarianism, & also a dogmatic middle-east ideology often mistaken as a “religion”.

  25. 30 Rosebill
    August 24, 2009 at 12:57

    if i go to my grand mother’s in the village where there is no electricity, no running water, only have a maximum of 2 meals a day, schools and hospitals are miles and spend almost all day tilling the fields, I think, feel and believe – that they are living a tough life something needs to change.

    But my grandmother doesnt see a problem and some of my cousins who chose to stay there dont really think this is an issue either – they accept that this is their way of life. So how can you change that?

    There are many reasons why we here in ‘Africa’ can be CONSIDERED as poor
    lack of exposure, not wanting to change their belief’s culture/religion etc, lack of ambition. And there are many reasons why we ARE poor and these are maily due to war, corruption and disease (mainly HIV/AIDS)

  26. 31 patti in cape coral
    August 24, 2009 at 13:18

    My first answer to this question was corruption of its leaders, it is the first thing that comes into my mind. Second is exploitation by other nations, because I think the corruption allows exploitation. I agree with some of the bloggers above, however, that Africa is a continent, not a country, so I doubt the situation is the same in all of Africa. After reading most of the posts on this subject, there are so many reasons, some very obvious, and some very insidious, and I don’t think a finger can be placed on any one thing.

  27. August 24, 2009 at 13:22

    Africa is poor because it has been ripped off.
    Shall we talk of the slave trade?
    Shall we talk of the gold and the diamonds?
    Shall we upset the people, not just the mine owners et al, but the UNDP … crazy amounts of money that has been spent maintaining this sytematic thievery, theft, of a continent?

    Shall we now talk about the starvation and the AIDS?

    The situation is a disgrace.

    Nigeria and their oil, South Africa and the gold… and the People, the people, live in squatter camps.

    I put a million Rand into South Africa to empower, it isn’t so much money, and hello, it was just gobbled up by the … well ok, the whites.

    Africa is poor because we, us lot, in Europe and the USA, have ripped them off.

    We installed a so called democratic system that would ensure they would keep asking the wrong questions. We gave them the illness, and then the expesive drug to cure the illness..

    The situation is a disgrace.

    I was born in Africa, I love the country!
    I love the people and they are being ripped off big style.

    Look at South Africa.

    What a mess.

  28. August 24, 2009 at 13:25

    Africa is not poor. It’s just been ripped off.

  29. 34 Deryck/Trinidad
    August 24, 2009 at 13:38

    August 24, 2009 at 12:13

    Countries having a high GDP because of oil or other natural resources doesn’t make them rich because the PEOPLE are impoverished. 68-69% of Angolans live in poverty.

    A large proportion of South Africans white included also live in poverty so again the wealth possessed by these nations aren’t being accessed by the very poor.

    Unemployment levels in Namibia exceed 30%. The real challenge in Africa is how to cause the wealth to trickle down to the poor so that their day to day lives can improve.

  30. 35 Jennifer
    August 24, 2009 at 13:42

    Africa should not be poor. Many Asian countries have suffered the same internal power struggles, famines and natural disasters, but yet continue to be strong players in the world’s economy. Many of Africa’s problems lie in the legacy of colonialism, the emergence of corrupt leaders, the impact of hastily created state borders, the dependency on foreign aid and the years of exploitation from the outside world, and itself.

    I think that at this point, a little bit of self-belief that the continent can work its way out may go a long way.

  31. 36 NoCommentMan_Hamburg
    August 24, 2009 at 13:45

    I would not say that ‘Africa’ is poor because of bad leadership. There is bad leadership everywhere! In Europe and Africa!

    I think one important issue is the economical relationship between ‘Africa’ and Europe, for example.
    We buy licences for undertaking deep-sea fishing (with giant ships) in Africa.
    We sell them old cars and clothes instead of setting up factories in Africa.
    We produce too much milk in Europe and export milk powder to Africa where locals can’t compete with the ‘low price’ for milk powder.
    We are who decide whether ‘Africa’ can export goods easily to Europe.

    Now, tell me! Where is a decline in moral standards? In ‘Africa’ or Europe?

  32. 37 gary
    August 24, 2009 at 13:48

    The rape and enslavement of a continent is too big a job for one cause. All of Arabia, Europe, the Americas, many African leaders, and many leaders of the Abrahamic religions as well share responsibility for the continent’s current political and economic woes. “Out of Africa,” has typified the continent’s commercial and cultural life for millennia. It is tempting to condemn the colonial influence alone; but the crime could likely never have occurred without tribal African acceptance of the concept of human inferiority. True, tribal identity can be a source of pride; but for many it remains little more than personal elevation by standing upon the corpses of those deemed inferior. Africa’s problems will not be solved until or unless the average inhabitant views African identity at least as proudly as his or her own tribal or national identity. Africans can solve their problems; but only if they love other Africans as much as they love themselves.

  33. 38 YAW
    August 24, 2009 at 13:57

    Africa is poor due to its weak institutional structures that make it extremely difficult to ensure its leadership use the resources for programs that will benefit the majority of people. The leadership of Africa prefer weak institutions to enable them get away with whatever they do. How can a minister of state educate their children abroad and leave our education system to collapse. The answer is simple – no one can question them as regards how they are able to raise the funds to educate heir kids outside. Weak institutions is a major problem.

  34. 39 Deryck/Trinidad
    August 24, 2009 at 13:57

    @ NoCommentMan_Hamburg
    August 24, 2009 at 13:45

    Now you are beginning to hit the nail on its head. The neoliberal economic system of free markets favour the strong 1st world countries because they set the rules for how the game is played.

  35. 40 VictorK
    August 24, 2009 at 14:23

    @NoCommentMan_Hamburg, August 24, 2009 at 13:45 –
    Consider your claims: Africa has the entire world to trade with, not just Europe; who sells those fishing licences but Africans themselves; Africans are perfectly free to prevent dumping of surplus products (as they should) and either trade freely with Europe and the rest of the world or not at all, whichever suits its interests; why is Europe obliged to set up factories in Africa?

    Isn’t your position, and Derycks, essentially this: Africans count for nothing, Westerners count for everything; Africans aren’t responsible for anything that happens in Africa, being passive, helpless victims of foreign exploiters; the West must develop Africa as Africans are incapable of doing it themselves; and the white man is guilty of everything.

    It’s that kind of mindset that will keep Africa poor forever.

  36. 41 Deryck/Trinidad
    August 24, 2009 at 14:37

    August 24, 2009 at 14:23

    I wish I was wrong about what I was saying because it seems so incredible. But you need to look at the impact of the (Washington Consensus, Bretton Woods Insitutions, World Bank and IMF) poor and developing nations if you are serious about a fact base debate . It will blow your mind.

    Africa does have its own faults but there are mitigaing factors.

  37. August 24, 2009 at 14:40

    Africa is poor because many Africans have no respect for private property. When people have respect for other’s property, then capital is free to accumulate, and the resources are there to provide what people need to lift them out of poverty. Companies can form providing jobs and leading to prosperity. But where property is not respected, and theiving is endemic, then businessmen are discouraged from forming or expanding businesses, capital is horded or moved out rather than invested. business withers, and poverty reasserts itself. Ask yourself, would I invest in a business based in Rwanda or Zimbabwe? As a businessman, I certainly would not. And most thinking men would not either. Until Africans embrace private property rights, and force their “leaders” to honor those rights as well, Africa will remain impoverished.

  38. 43 Deryck/Trinidad
    August 24, 2009 at 14:48

    August 24, 2009 at 14:23

    In an analytical look at a problem all the causes of the problem must be stated even if some are offended. Dismissing the problem from your mind doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I expect that you will be dispassionate and let’s look at the problem and discuss it instead of dismissing it. The IMF and WB policies towards poor countries is just ONE of the problems I have chosen to highlight because I believe it has a major effect on education, governance, health, social unrest, business and ultimately poverty.

  39. 44 Justin from Iowa
    August 24, 2009 at 14:50

    Africa is poor because, despite all of their “Unity” governments, for the majority there really is no ‘Unity’ in Africa. Great countries have been great because people chose to put aside many differences to work together towards one goal. Africans don’t seem interested in any sort of compromise or working together with others.

  40. 45 VictorK
    August 24, 2009 at 14:59

    @Deryck: yes, the IMF and World Bank have nothing to recommend them and both ought to be abolished. But the fact remains: no African country is obliged to deal with either of these organisations.
    *It’s not a matter of being offended, but of being exasperated. Take NoComment’s example of fishing licences. I recall reading about a West African state whose fishermen were close to ruin – and starvation – because the EU had negotiated fishing rights that entitled EU (particularly Spanish) fleets to fish coastal stocks to depletion. People like Nocomment and you would point to this mad agreement as a glaring instance of neo-colonial free market exploitation and impoverishment of Africans. That exasperates me. What actually happened was that the EU got a good deal for Europeans, and the ruling ethnocracy of the African country concerned lined their pockets with EU cash and left the fishermen, who almost certainly belonged to a different ethnic group, to be ruined. In this, as in every other instance, Africans were responsible for Africa’s impoverishment.

  41. 46 VictorK
    August 24, 2009 at 15:19

    @ Deryck/Trinidad, August 24, 2009 at 14:37: I looked at the link. Unimpressed. It’s a rule with me not to believe everything I read, especially if it’s largely made up of political assertions passing themselves off as economic facts.

    It’s better to consultant serious development economists, like the later Peter Bauer, than international socialists with an axe to grind.
    Most developed countries, when they encountered the developing world, were far in advance of them. And several developed countries -Japan, Australia, Switzerland, the Scandinavian states, Canada – became wealthy without having any significant contact with, let alone exploiting, Africa or any other undeveloped region. The hatred, often homicidal, of Africans for entrepreneurial minorities – Indians, Lebanese, white farmers, & other African groups like the Tutsi and the Igbo – points to self-retarding social pathologies blocking development, not foreign exploitation.

  42. 47 Mohammed Ali
    August 24, 2009 at 15:19

    Africa is not poor. Our present condition is as a result of wicked, heartless and unpatriotic leaders couple with the exploitation of the west. simple

  43. 48 Denise in Chicago
    August 24, 2009 at 15:37

    The African continent is rich in abundant, natural resources. I think there are many reasons why the people are poor but the major one is -inept and corrupt governments-. These governments have turned a blind eye to genocide, have not provided basic services to Africans, they don’t keep the people safe from harm, nor do they provide proper education for their citizens. They have received billions of dollars in aid which they’ve not used to improve the lives of Africans.

  44. 49 Gary Paudler
    August 24, 2009 at 15:41

    It’s the resources and the self-serving relationships among the extractors; American, European and Asian companies supported by their respective governments, and the politicians in nominal control of those resources. It favors the corporate bottom line to grease the palms of a few officials rather than to assure any sort of just distribution of wealth. North America, and South; Europe, Asia and Oceania embody vivid examples of resource extraction at the expense of the original inhabitants and Africa is the Mother Lode of natural and human resources. The commercial model supports the establishment of civil institutions only when enlightened leaders choose, or are forced by their populace, to spread some wealth and then only to the extent necessary to maintain order and, at least the illusion of,
    broader prosperity. How often have we heard some corporate flack disclaim that they are complying with the laws of the host country; laws designed to permit virtually any conduct that facilitates exploitation and the civil enablers of exploitation. It’s always resources; Burma, Tibet, Chechnya, Wall Street, Colombia…
    It’s always resources that explain and finance oppression and injustice.

  45. 50 Justin from Iowa
    August 24, 2009 at 15:51

    There is only exploitation because africa remains a land of tribes, with everyone trying to go it alone or stab their neighbors in the back to get ahead. If Africa ever put out a truly united front, they would help themselves immensely. But there are too many old quarrels and poor relations between the divided peoples of Africa.

  46. 51 Andrew in Australia
    August 24, 2009 at 15:57

    Corruption for a start, leaders and officials selling of national resources to multinationals or other nations bent on profit without morality. Inept government and an endless cycle of pointless wars further depleting scant resources that could be used to improve infrastructure, provide education and health care to its citizens. Or just governments and leaders intent on self-glorification and enrichment at the expense of others, leaders who have been and still are backed by nations that purport to stand for justice and democracy which should know better. Where do you start? So much is going wrong that should not be occurring. It happens in other nations, but seems to be intensified amongst African nations. Where is people power in Africa as Africans should not expect the outside world to do much to improve their situation.

  47. August 24, 2009 at 16:07

    Perhaps it is as Rosebill says, that Africans are happy the way things are. Although a lot of posts from Africans blame poor quality leadership and corruption. I prefer that answer, rather than slavery and colonialism,both long dead. Some of you imply that Africans are totally stupid and stand idly by whilst their wealth is transported to Europe and elsewhere. This is not so, Robert Mugabee has half a dozen university degrees and there are plenty of interlectuals in Africa. I think, Mark, that the problem belongs to Africa and the Africans and no one else. We can give advice, if it is wanted, but it is really their problem. Africa is not poor, but the leaders are…

  48. August 24, 2009 at 16:23

    Sorry I haven’t listened to the documentary yet (I have been downloading it unsuccessfully for hours now); hope it answers the question it asks; in that case it would be god-sent.
    But you see, Africa is a mismanaged continent full of potentials of being very rich…thus it is still poor.
    Beyond the epic case of bad leadership we have the misfortune of having, there is another angle to it: Africans have a high tolerance for corruption, bad leadership and non-performing government. These bad leaders sit over the decline of a continent knowing that instead of being outraged by their bad leadership and probably demanding for their heads, we will reward them with 2-sentence chieftaincy titles, honourary doctorates, leadership in religious organizations, high status in society and of course opportunity of being able to rule corruptly as long as they wish to (which is usually as long as they live).
    Perhaps things would begin to change if we as a public learn to begin making life a lot more uncomfortable for those who misrule.

  49. 54 Peter_scliu
    August 24, 2009 at 16:31

    Most Africans don’t think they are poor. The world standard of wealth don’t apply to them until the west came and told them that they are poor. They conned them to get rich by applying their own standard but barring them from exporting their agricultural products which can help ordinary Africans to be rich but only wants to buy their oil and mineral resources which are in the hands of the privileged:

  50. August 24, 2009 at 16:32

    The best answer to why Africa is poor is stated by Liberian president, ” Africa is not poor, it is just poorly managed.” This explains it’s the responsibility of its leaders who let opportunities to prosper pass by in favour of personal gains at the expense of national gains.

    The development of a country depends on its best human resources. But many qualified Africans choose to live in the West where they have the best opportunities for a good living standard and much more freedom compared to their countries of origin.

    Many African countries are good at making the worst of what they have. They take it for granted that they’re destined to be poor and to have high living standard remains a wishful thinking. Perhaps they should be empowered by Obama’s slogan, ” Yes, we can [change]” – for better of course.

  51. 56 Bert - USA
    August 24, 2009 at 16:32

    Deryck, the WB and IMF are organizations staffed by people from all over the world, a good portion of them from developing countries. It is these poeple who offer billions of aid, taken from developed nations, to African countries. And it is African countries that continue to accept it.

    Your argument is very much the same argument used by those who oppose welfare in the US and other western countries. It’s valid, in the sense that welfare tends to perpetuate itself. However, the problem is, everyone including Africans themselves are complicit in this state of affairs.

    So that argument ends up being circular.

  52. 57 sam in Kansas city
    August 24, 2009 at 16:37

    As much as African leaders should take resposibility for corruption and mismanagement, we should not also forget, the impact of slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism and diseases that have ravaged the country since being “civilised” by colonialists.

    “Justice and democracy is but a facade for the african man.”

  53. August 24, 2009 at 16:44

    Africa is poor because of the lack of education among the people. For instance my country Liberia has almost 90% of the people illiterate. So without education, the people will never never know the value of their own environment, the resources and all of the so-called investments. With out education the people will never be able to put in place good governments that will pursue sustainable development. Without education the people will continue to fight among themselves for a cause they even do not understand such as that last civil war in Liberia.

    The solution to the issues of Africa will come from EDUCATION for all. With education, Africans will play by the rule of the law, live side by side, put in place responsible/accountable governments that will work for the people’s interest. In nutshell, I like for Africa to take after the good example of some Asian countries like South Korea, Singapore, and so forth. Most of these countries in Asia do not have natural resources as most African Countries, but the are developing because they concentrated on the developing of their human capacity (education).

  54. 59 Andrew in Australia
    August 24, 2009 at 16:50

    Time to get over colonialism as an excuse I think. Many nations were colonised across the world and seem to be getting on with building their nations. How can hand wringing over events long ago hamper you in getting on with the present? African nations also colonised themselves over the centuries it should be noted so it is not just the bad old Europeans to be blamed.

  55. August 24, 2009 at 16:51

    Hello everyone

    Africa isn’t poor but was made to. Africa has more resource than any other continents in the world. westerners are the ones that demoslish and still destroying africa not to succeed and stand by its own. the corruption, the economic issue, diseases, and poverty are all caused by wetserner that have great influence on all these. They look africa down from the peroid of colonization to date. so the question is why do westerners create damage to africa?

  56. 62 Shaun in Halifax
    August 24, 2009 at 16:52

    Why is Africa poor? I have a feeling the cause is three-fold:

    1) Exploitation by European imperialism
    2) Tribalism. The inability to put old tribal lines and feuds to bed. It is my belief that these old ways, stemming from a relatively small worldview, have no use in a global society.
    3) Lack of education. Education is the single most important gift somebody can have. It is the most important factor in health, research, and the advancement of the human race and society as a whole.

  57. 63 Maccus Germanis
    August 24, 2009 at 16:55

    Paul’s assertion that Africa’s do not respect private property is intersting. To futher understand how such relates to the eradication of poverty the following link may be useful. http://www.ild.org.pe/news/credit-suisse

    In light of Mugabe’s land redistributions and Mumo’s discussion of the “informal sector” Paul may be on to something. How universal the disrespect of private property is hard to quantify. My suspicion is that many poor Africans would welcome reforms that would guarantee their property rights.

  58. August 24, 2009 at 16:56


    I believe Africa is a very rich continent, very very rich. However we have never had the right attitude towards leadership and its is actually evident that we are very poor as far as leadership is concerned. If you look at a country such as Congo which is one of the mineral rich nations in the world you will get to understand our leadership deficiency. However the West continues to ruin this continent with the so called donor funding. Simply Africa is in a dilemma. Our wealth is stashed in Swiss Banks yet this are the same people labeling us poor. Kenya for instance is endowed with rich wildlife but the leadership exploits all this for their own benefits. It is very disappointing to see such resources as Mau going up in smoke. We can only redeem this continent thru a political revolution that will see all the political dynasties crumble to the ground.

    In Kenya some families own Land as big as entire provinces yet there are soo many squatters and people in the slums. How do you expect people to be productive yet they lives in squalid settlements? The world should help Africa get rid of those leaders who were there in sixties and they or their children continue to sit in the high places. Africa is rich and that is why every Dick and Harry is rushing here for raw materials.

    If nothing shows up in terms of political redemption, then Africa will remain Rich But Africans will be Poorer

  59. August 24, 2009 at 16:56

    I don’t know! I’m still trying to figure out why I’m poor…..living in America and always falling through the cracks not qualifying for this or that.??????????

    Am average in I.Q., good attitude, good morals, great family, served in the military and even have a great business and very worthwhile products and services.

    Still always on the bring of disaster, and scraping to pay the bills, No drinking, drugs, or bad vices.

    In the Marine Corps the had a saying with John Wayne in a Marine helmet and carrying an M1-Garand…….It was rather clear, “LIFE’S TOUGH…..IT’S TOUGHER IF YOU’RE STUPID!!!

    I always seem to think he is talking to me.

    troop on the Oregon Coast

  60. 66 Justin from Iowa
    August 24, 2009 at 17:02

    The problem, Sam, is that line of reasoning far too often leads to wallowing in self pity and waiting for hand outs rather than be pro-active. This is a hard, unfair world. If you sit waiting for a hand out you feel you ‘deserve’ it will pass you by and leave you choking in the dust.

  61. 67 Rai Peters
    August 24, 2009 at 17:05

    May as well be asking why the Chinese are doing so well for themselves. Discipline, thrift, a sense of community, etc.

  62. August 24, 2009 at 17:15

    Everything about this documentary series has left me boiling with rage. The title completely ignores the diversity that is Africa and paints the entire continent as one big failed state. The title alone ignores specific successes such as Botswana where the average person is pretty darn well-off.

    I’m so tired of us “Africans” being condescended upon and patronised especially by the West. Interestingly, we are told constantly how our leaders are corrupt yet when British Members of Parliament make completely fraudulent and dodgy expense claims it is hardly labeled as corruption.

    When I used to get stopped in the subway in New York City by an emaciated homeless individual begging for food is that not poverty in the richest country in the planet? I’m not trying to ignore that we do not have specific problems in various countries in the continent of Africa but I’m tired of media completely devoted to reinforcing negative stereotypes of Africa as poor, abysmal, desolate and hopeless.

  63. 69 Roseann In Houston
    August 24, 2009 at 17:24

    I can’t help but ask – what about African countries is different from other countries that are moving out of poverty or have moved out of poverty? India was a colony of the UK, it suffers from corruption and it continues to have problems with poverty, and yet it has top-class medical facilities, successful industry, and a rapidly growing college-educated middle class. Malaysia has multiple different ethnic and religious groups and yet they do not suffer from the infighting and violence that plagues African countries – they have been able to become a business center of the world. China is BIG and has suffered decades of oppression and yet they are emerging as an economic powerhouse with a rapidly growing college-educated middle class.
    And so I ask – what is wrong with African countries? Why can’t they stop slaughtering each other and burning down their towns and infrastructure? Why don’t the common people bond together and demand change? The history of the US includes child labor and oppression of the working class and horrible corruption – the people formed unions and they demanded change, they educated themselves, and they started small businesses that grew into large employers.
    Perhaps the reason the African people are poor is the African people.

    • August 25, 2009 at 06:27

      Brutal. Honest. Sincere. I think your post should be highlighted for all to read. Africa is not special in what it has experienced. Why it chooses not to recover … No honest African can answer your questions without some shame.

  64. 71 Dinka Aliap Chawul-Entebbe Airport,Uganda
    August 24, 2009 at 17:33

    Africa is poor because our leaders & the resources are not at they hands of the ordinary African people than just been a puppet leaders who represent foreign interest in our respective African countries.

  65. 72 anu_D
    August 24, 2009 at 17:41

    Hello Derryk, Burite and Victor,

    Don’t look at how many people are poor in Angola…but whether the poverty is declining or increasing with time?

    Angola is one of the most nascent nation with a stong sense of pride and nationalism…and a growth rate that is one of the fastest with the abundance of oil and mineral wealth It’s about the 60th ranked

    And there are poor in SA ( like there are in India and China)…but that does not make SA a poor nation…it’s ranked about 30th

    Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Angola, SA …do not qualify into the club of poor nations

  66. August 24, 2009 at 17:49

    @pdxmike. In africa there is a saying that says:” it takes a village to raise a child” thus in almost all parts of africa the duty of raising children is a community affair. But does that result to africa being poor? I DISAGREE. I think that is a simplistic aproach to answer the question coz i believe there are several factor that make “AFRICANS POOR” (i believe africa is very rich), but this isnt one of them. I too was raised by my community. I come from a single parent family so at the age of about 2 yrs old, i was sent away to live with my aunt (my mom was working from 7am to 7pm) till the age of 6yrs old. I was brought back to my mother briefly before she got transfered to another city so i was left with my grand parents, then my aunt ,then another aunt. I started actualy living with my mom at about the age of 13 yrs and our relationship has never been better. Am now 20 yrs old. Although, absent parents can affect a child, in africa there always some member of your community ready to show u some love.

  67. 74 patti in cape coral
    August 24, 2009 at 17:50

    Hello Abna – I thought the fraudulent expense claims by the British Parliament were largely condemned and labeled as corruption. It was hardly ignored.

  68. August 24, 2009 at 17:50

    The West has contributed meaningfully to Africa’s poverty. With the use of Aids as bait, Western countries consistently milk Africa of its natural resources. They fund and fuel religious crisis, ethnic crisis, militancy and all sorts of violence, just to ensure that Africa does not move forward. On the other hand is another instrument of the West:IMF. IMF continues to provide Africa with the worst alternatives for deveopment. African leader also contribute to the poverty level on this continent, they cling to power even when the majority of their citizens do not desire them anymore.

  69. August 24, 2009 at 18:09

    Is Africa really so poor? Politicians have expensive cars, and there’s enough money to fund long wars.

    The reason Africa is poor, is that rich countries keep giving aid to African countries. All aid to Africa should be stopped. There are over 50 countries there. If none of them could get any aid, they’d have to depend on themselves and each other. Over time, Africa would become richer, as each country built up its economy and trade relationships instead of depending on other countries.

    In the short term, people may starve, and there may be big wars on the continent. However, were it not for the two world wars, European countries would not be as civilised as they are today. The reason we are more civilised, is that we have experienced the alternative and we don’t prefer it. Africa is yet to do that. Africa must learn the hard way, and teach itself.

  70. August 24, 2009 at 18:10

    There is nothing wrong with us as a pepole, there is only something wrong with the way we have been made to feel. If you want to destroy a person, all you need to destroy is his psyche. These wounds will take years upon years to heal.

  71. 78 Sergio Joaquim Dique
    August 24, 2009 at 18:10

    Invade, ocupy, convert, plunder and trade.

    that was and is still the chronology of the relationship between the west and africa.

    we are forced to give up what we have on a promisse of a better tomorrow which never comes,

    once ocupation is made official what once was ours is taken away and we left with nothing but an empty shell of useless mountains of mining dust, wastelands, poluted areas around aluminum smelters, hunger due to production of tobacco instead of food (mozambique), and desease.

    trade? yes, trade, only if it benefits the EU and USA.

  72. 79 Akhator peter
    August 24, 2009 at 18:14

    Africa is and will remain poor because it is a continent where the leaders are selfish and bereft of constructive ideas on how to spend the resourses available to them,where an amicable financial sharing formula exist between the executives and legislature and where bulk of the citizens worship and adore the affluent irrespective of how they got their wealth.

  73. August 24, 2009 at 18:16

    Nykhana from Jamaica,

    Africa can never be poor…it is for this reason that the continent has been exploited at the expense of her inhabitants.

    Trying to ‘find’ reasons why Africa is poor, is distracting from the real problems…foreign exploitation of a vastly resourceful continent, resulting in/ exacerbated by corrupted local leaders.

  74. 81 Dingiswayo Mahlangu
    August 24, 2009 at 18:18

    Firstly, Africa has almost all the natural resources of the world. The biggest issue is leadership. Our leaders need to make those bold decisions to improve the continent. Make a conscious decision to promote development, self-sustainace and indigenoius technology which is propriate to the challenges facing the continent and it people.
    Finaly, the issue of social conflicts (tribal wars etc)need to be addressed by our leaders inorder to create cultural tolerance and understanding amongst the African people. When these issues are dealt with, the rest falls into place.

  75. 82 VictorK
    August 24, 2009 at 18:23

    @Mary from Nigeria – the idea, common enough amongst Africans, that the West is conspiring “…just to ensure that Africa does not move forward…” captures in one idea what’s basically wrong with Africa and Africans.

    Africa: another issue that’s probably not worth any Westerner’s time to worry about or act on, given the ingratitude and hatred that the West’s efforts on behalf of Africa have so far earned.

    Roseann in Houston’s post was brutally candid, but who can say it’s in any way wrong: Africa’s problem is Africans.

  76. August 24, 2009 at 18:23

    It’s the height of irresponsibility and ignorance of local histories to air this episode in the United States. You are fueling racism and violence. Please in future choose your topics more wisely.

    Also, stop screening your calls for stupid!

  77. August 24, 2009 at 18:28

    Many believe that climate has been the driving force in the ‘cultural’ and technological development of homosapiens. Weather is what pushed early humans to develop pastoralism and agriculture in the European and Asian continents. Such techniques were not neccesaary in sub-tropical Africa hence the relative differences in human development throughout human history.

  78. 85 Tom K in Mpls
    August 24, 2009 at 18:29

    You can second guess the past all you want. But I have to say again, this is what is needed for African countries to grow:

    1: A stable and accountable government to build…..
    2: An infrastructure (schools, roads, sanitation and electricity) to support…..
    3: A broad based economy.

    Without a broad based economy, income is vulnerable. Never count on one source of income. Develop local businesses to trade with foreign companies while providing food to locals, etc…

  79. 86 Kweli
    August 24, 2009 at 18:33

    The current Kenyan constitution was written in Britain. The human rights violations that the Kenyan constitution allows can be traced all the way to the front door of No. 10 Downing Street. Brtiain, U.S. and other Western and Eastern powers have continually been bedfellows with Kenyan dictators. Let’s face it: Britain and U.S. have the same foreign policy when it comes to Kenya and other African countries: how much oil and other resources can we milk from them?

  80. 87 Maccus Germanis
    August 24, 2009 at 18:36

    Does Mark Doyle see any lack of personal property rights that might influence poverty in Africa?

    August 24, 2009 at 18:37

    Africa is poor because the western education and the model of state power is centered on selfishness. Since the coming of colonialism the continent has been relegated to primary production alongside exploitative trade practices.

    There is now a money culture that can baffle one. Everyone now wants money without accounting for it. This has destroyed social structures which in turn has resulted in destroyed society. Why is Africa poor? I doubt that the powers that matter care at all. You will often here campaigns in the west pledging support for the continent or G8 meeting comprising of none Africans where they talk about development in the continent.

    Our leaders have continually failed from the cold war era when they were showered with vast amounts of funds without a requirement of accountability. It is still the case today.

  82. August 24, 2009 at 18:39

    To Mark Doyle,
    1) Do you see any determination on the part of the Africans – leaders and people – to get out of poverty or are they good just at making speeches about possible progress?

    2) Is there any hope for Africa to get out of its poverty, taking into account the current international economic downturn?

  83. 90 Tom D Ford
    August 24, 2009 at 18:39

    Although the era of Colonialism is past, Global Corporations have taken their place and they are notoriously immoral and corrupt.

  84. 91 Willow Weir
    August 24, 2009 at 18:41

    In Jeffrey Sachs’ book “The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities of Our Time” (2005), there is a chapter titled “why some countries fail to thrive”. In this he outlines a number of reasons including absence of trade, technological reversal, population growth, the trap of poverty, physical geography, government failures, cultural barriers, and more. He also outlines a certain process that most cultures go through where people (often women) begin working in exploited conditions, build themselves enough economically to incite change (such as strikes, organizing for their rights) and then begin to develop stronger economies with more stability. Perhaps many African nations have this process interrupted by corruption, or cultural barriers including the history of colonialism and tribal separations. Sachs book has many important ideas and I wonder if Mark Doyle has examine his ideas.

  85. 92 Keith- Ohio
    August 24, 2009 at 18:42

    Anyone who accuses Africans in general of being poor at managing themselves, or poor in moral character, has to look at the circumstances that created such a society. While I agree that many African governments are infested with corruption, I am not so quick as to make a sweeping generalization about the character of the African people (that would be racism).

    I think that the real problem with Africa and many other developing countries is that they were more primitive than the rest of the world for a long period of time. Other countries colonized these areas, took advantage of their resources, etc. Eventually, other countries began to try to elevate the technological, governmental, and societal level of Africa to the level and standards of the rest of the world. The society was forced to change and develop dramatically without the gradual, nurturing adaptation that was available to the West. I believe that while many people were unable to adapt, others readily took advantage (and still do), leading to widespread corruption and poverty.

    This is a problem that has plagued the developing world, and can be seen time and time again.

  86. 93 joseph
    August 24, 2009 at 18:43

    One word; Greed

    One can be poor but have the dignity to refrain from corruption,likewise illiterate but have the foresight to vote out the corrupt politician.However, due to personal and selfish motives they will cast aside the true for greed

  87. August 24, 2009 at 18:44

    Corruption and financial malpractices are endemic in Africa. What steps are the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund taking to help the continent face up to these daunting problems?

    August 24, 2009 at 18:46

    Africa must continue to be poor because of brain drain to the rest of the world unless something happens to stem this. As if that is not enough, it is true that most governments in this continent are corrupt even though they are not alone. Sometimes back the outside world came with the idea of the NGO through which they channeled development aid. They are equally corrupt and only a fraction of that aid furnishes the intended purpose. Further these people do not address the local issues per Se. They mostly follow what is already in their minds or what they were instructed to do. In short, they mostly do their own thing.

  89. August 24, 2009 at 18:47

    All of your guests have excellent points about the question of poverty in Africa, but I believe that the most critical problem that Africa faces is the problem of UNCERTAINTY, both political and geographic. People who never know what tomorrow will bring think only of the present, because the present is the only thing they can have a little control over. The next harvest may fail due to drought, the next child may die due to disease or famine, the next government may come to power through violence and the next spark of ingenuity may be snuffed out by the greed of corrupt officials. So many times, when such people take one step forward, unexpected circumstances push them back two steps. They may think it is better to stay where they are rather than lose what little they have.

  90. 97 Phil
    August 24, 2009 at 18:52

    One problem with Africa is that the country boundaries are too arbitrary.

  91. 98 Peter in Jamaica
    August 24, 2009 at 18:54

    I don’t want to sound racist cause i myself am a black man but it is true both in Jamaica just like in Africa the leaders of these countries believe that the country owes them something so their motto is “Me first, My family second, my friends third and the country gets whats left. i believe that if a survey is done 90% of countries run by Blacks do end up as a poor Nation. and that is the reason why Africa is poor.
    Its such a shame.

  92. 99 Julie in Indianapolis Indiana
    August 24, 2009 at 18:58

    Maybe instead of giving aid to African countries, first world countries could invest in their economies by bringing businesses there in order to bring jobs and give them opportunities to work. Would this be viewed as trying to take over their countries or further our own interests? Should Africa have to dig itself out of it’s hole? Or can we extend a hand to our fellow humans? I am questioning if it is possible to support the whole idea of “give a man a fish he will eat for a day but teach a man to fish and he will eat for life.”.

    Julie in Indianapolis Indiana

    August 24, 2009 at 18:58

    As for the leadership, we only elect this leaders and wait for another election. They are not accountable it is true and we are tired of corruption propelled by the educated masses employed by the government and other organizations. Lastly the outside world should not posture as if they do not know how Africa is run. They should not tell us that they do not interfere with the politics of Africa. What are they doing in Libya and Sudan now? Who is the author of the so many ‘government of national unity’ that are now fleecing the public coffers due to bloated ministries and offices?
    Who monitors all the elections in Africa?
    Who recommends what economic model is to be followed?

    It is not Africa’s problem alone. Maybe Africa will change, but it will take time due to the history of all these maladies.

  94. 101 Tom D Ford
    August 24, 2009 at 19:01

    I appreciate Mark Doyle for his knowledge and for not sugarcoating and or pushing any particular propaganda.


  95. 102 Savane, Nairobi
    August 24, 2009 at 19:16

    Africa’s poor because we aren’t sexually repressed, Victorian-style? I always wondered why Western expats were reluctant to leave Kenya! We liberate y’all sexually!!!!

    Kenya wasn’t just colonised by the British, but by its 3 presidents too. All they’ve done is replicate colonial rule in their ‘development’ of Kenya. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose!

    (And yes, I’m a pure-bred Kenyan-loving Kenyan! )

  96. August 24, 2009 at 19:26

    So I have calmed down over the title after hearing from Mr. Doyle and have thought about the question.

    Why is Africa poor? As far as I see it:
    1. Colonial legacy that cannot be ignored
    2. Cold War shenanigans and the resulting polarisation
    3. Following dodgy prescription from Brenton-Woods Institutions to the letter
    4. Bad leaders being propped up and encouraged
    5. Dodgy dealings by multi-national corporations interested in mineral resources by any means necessary and thus providing bribes to shady leaders
    6. Brain drain and the fact that Africa’s brightest are jumping ship and are the brightest specialized doctors, engineers etc in the West
    7. Greater susceptibility to climatic disasters such as drought
    8. Land issues, ethnic tensions and potential for conflict..

  97. 104 Joseph
    August 24, 2009 at 19:26

    I am not a anthropologist and I think the reason is not a single one.

    I have never been in Africa but I can see the following reasons:

    – Most people in Africa do not think that happiness comes with money and power. That leaves politicians to and business people to run business they way they want. Most people would be happy having food and basic needs covered for their family and education is not a first priority for them.

    – Another part is the influence of large corporation doing business in Africa. If profits are not to stay in Africa, the quality of live will never improve. I am guessing most of the profits go to Europe and USA and very few people are benefited working for transnational companies.

    – Fertility of the land is also another factor. Being able to plant anything in some areas, makes people to continue interchanging agricultural goods for consumer goods with does not generate taxes that can be used for improving the condition of roads and services.

    – Warlords and guerrillas are other factors.

    – Exploiting farmers and non regulated land property, where one person owns too much land and controls production and salaries.

    Maybe there are other issues but these alone are big enough…..

  98. August 24, 2009 at 19:30

    @Keith: What are you on about with references with Victorian sexual morality? Are you suggesting there is no morality or sexual restraint in the vast continent of Africa? I think a trip down to Ghana or Senegal may change your rather interesting archaic views on morality in Africa. You seem to suggest we are procreating like bunnies.

  99. August 24, 2009 at 19:30

    i believe the reason why africa is poor is lack of effective leadership over the years. many african countries gained independence with other advanced western countries but why is there a wide development gap.i believe this will be a good premise for my standpoint on this issue.Ghana gained independence with malaysia around the same period(1957)but ghana cannot boast of the same development like malaysia.indeed president obama said it all when he visited my homeland ghana “we need strong institutions, foresight and clear plan for development not strong, power drunk, dictators.

  100. August 24, 2009 at 19:35

    @Abiy kenya I’m glad to see at least one person read my comment.

    You reply that yes, in Africa it takes a village to raise a child, but then, “This is a good thing.” But sadly, I believe it isn’t. Parenting “styles” of raising kids, become culturally ingrained. There is no mention in your post about a father. And absent uninvolved fathers isnt a good thing Abiy. The reality is that fathers arent responsible at all for their children in Africa. You were raised by aunts, grandmothers, and your mother… Why aren’t men involved? It is accepted behavior in Africa that the father will be uninvolved in the lives of his children.

    Having children ought to imply that the man will be responsible for the child too until the child is grown. This doesn’t happen in Africa.

    I am glad you replied… but disappointed that WHYS didn’t respond to the only post that didnt blame bad government.

  101. 108 David Waln
    August 24, 2009 at 19:54

    Survival units of any size – Tribal too Nation state – are about competition. The ability of individuals to ‘Identify’ with a survival unit, of any size, is dependent on many things. Of these, several stand out as relevant to the discussion of: Why is Africa Poor?.

    1. Necessity – The necessity to Identify with a larger Nation State needs to go through the crucible of many wars over centuries, as it did in many other parts of the world. This is largely what solidifies National Identity over time. This gives you a common history that can be passed on to good effect to the next generation.

    2. Historic Pride – The history of a Nation State needs to contain enough successes, and commonly endured humiliations, (in past competitions), to create a national source of pride/determination.

    3. Climate – All people are tribal by nature. If the climate makes it relatively easier to stay in smaller survival units, they will.

    There are many other factors that are important to why any nation succeeds of fails. Notable is past successes. People can get behind a ‘winner’. [Why get behind a Nation that is on the bottom of the heap?] “Nothing succeeds like success.”, even in Nation States.

    • 109 black but not so proud
      August 25, 2009 at 03:45

      Nations succeed when they are based on fairness and justice, and fail when based on lying, cheating and stealing.


  102. August 24, 2009 at 20:51

    Well, africa is not poor. she has only become a great farmer whose household are starving due to bad management by the father of the house. secondly, how come our proffessionals in various fields are doing well all over the world. is it not because they work without interference from the neocolonial masters! it is only our politicians who dance to the macabre tune of the occidents that are keeping us in this shape. the wealth of africa has contributed a lot to the growth of the west from stolen human beings- to stolen wealth of the people dumped in foreign banks.

  103. 111 Deryck/Trinidad
    August 24, 2009 at 21:53

    The problem is multi-dimensional and all the reasons given by those on the blog are correct. The problems are all interconnected with there being a cause and effect. To solve the problem we must find the genesis of the problem and find viable solutions. IMPORTANTLY THE PROBLEM DIDN’T BEGIN WITH POOR AFRICAN LEADERSHIP-THIS IS A SYMPTOM.


  104. 112 eddie momoh, london
    August 24, 2009 at 22:04

    This documentary smacks something of neocolonialism where Mr Mark Doyle (with whom incidentally I worked for many years, not at the BBC) has tended to lump together the whole continent of Africa as one failed state. Mr Doyle has ignored the diversity that is Africa and stuck with the old stereotyping nonsense of Africa being poor & corrupt. Aftrica is not poor! Poverty is a relative term. What has happened in Africa over the many years is the wretched economic policies which had been forced on our leaders by the World Bank and the Western nations. Example of these failed policies, is the Structural Adjustment Programmes in the 1980s by the World Bank. South East Asian countries are relatively better off today because they did not accept to be dictated to by the so called experts and high priests of the World Bank/IMF. They developed very solid home grown economic policies which appeared to have worked in the interest of their people. Mr. Doyle should read Dambisa Moyo’s book: DEAD AID or Paul Collier’s WARS,GUNS & VOTES.
    Wouldn’t it be interesting for the BBC to do a documentary on British MPs corruption and fiddling of expences at we tax payers expence? I look forward to that!

  105. 113 Deryck/Trinidad
    August 24, 2009 at 22:20

    Bert – USA
    August 24, 2009 at 16:32

    Do you believe the foreigners from developing countries who staff the IMF develop its policies and run the organization. The US has voting rights of 17% and veto power as well as being responsible for pouring in the lion’s share of the funding. If you were the US would you let staff from poor developing countries determine policy if the policy goes against your business interest?

  106. 114 Deryck/Trinidad
    August 25, 2009 at 11:37

    eddie momoh, london
    August 24, 2009 at 22:04

    Finally somebody who reads and studies their history. I thought I was the rare one in the species who recognised the insidious nature of WB/IMF policies on Africa and developing countries as a whole. It isn’t the only factor but its’s a major one.

  107. 115 Deryck/Trinidad
    August 25, 2009 at 11:42

    August 24, 2009 at 15:19

    I agree that the leaders are partly to blame but if a country is in debt and has no where to turn they end up turning to the IMF and WB who institute austere measures to ensure repayment. These include: caps on spending on education, healthcare, public service, infrastructural projects.

    Therefore poor countries have major probelms educating their own people, the health service deteriorates and the countries infrastucture is left in a backwater.
    In my own country the recession caused the government to turn to the IMF in1987 . We export oil and natural gas. By 1990 there was coup because many people had lost their homes, jobs and prices were skyrocketing. The people blamed the then government but retrospectively I can see the insidious nature of IMF policies which don’t promote development and self sustainability.

    Can you honestly tell me that the Structural Adjustment Policies implemented by the IMF have not had a negative impact on poor countries. e.g. not being able to spend money on education even when the system is collapsing. Socialism doesn’t take away from the fact that IMF’s policies are detrimental in nature.

  108. 116 Gail
    August 25, 2009 at 14:16

    I think you should have invited a balanced panel of experts on African economics, history, sociology, etc to help with such a complex discussion as a programme like this though well intended can do great damage if people merely state things without research.

    We can safely agree that corruption, poor leadership, lack of vision, poor governance are huge factors but you cannot dismiss history, that’s just plain stupid! To say other nations were also colonised doesn’t mean the effects were exactly the same. These things need to be accurately analysed and not left to guess work.

    It cannot be denied for example, that the west insists on third world nations removing subsidies from their farmers while subsidising theirs.

    Also the west’s control of bodies like the IMF, World Bank and the WTO is well documented by many professors including a nobel prize winner.

    On the last point we must thank God for the G20 who have insisted that as of 2012 the president of the World Bank and the IMF will no longer have to be a European or an American.

    Bottom line is this issue is extremely complex and African leaders are mainly responsible for the mess.

  109. 117 Deryck/Trinidad
    August 26, 2009 at 11:29

    August 25, 2009 at 14:16

    Best comment I’ve heard in ages.

  110. 118 Jon
    August 26, 2009 at 14:37

    If you haven’t read Jared Diamond on this whole subject (Guns and Steel) then you should. It’s a fine and believable bit of scholarship but a bit hard to precis here.

  111. 119 Josiah Soap
    August 26, 2009 at 20:53

    We are expecting Africans to adopt and be able to control a European type democracy. Although it is not PC to say so there are differences between races, both physically and mentally. Although over population and corupt governments may not help Africa, maybe the climate and the people are best suited to a hunter gatherer lifestyle. Africa is the seat of evolution and yet when Europeans invaded they found a primitive people who had no written language, had not invented the wheel and had very little metal working skills – all signs of a developed civilization. Maybe there is a deeper rooted answer why this civilization did not evolve into an farming type nation, let alone a pre industrial or industrial nation. Possibly they do not have the inherent skills to develop the ricj industrialized type civilization

  112. August 27, 2009 at 14:19

    Corruption and tribalism. I lived in Africa for many years. Corruption and tribalism.

  113. 121 Mike M
    August 27, 2009 at 16:51

    Gail, While I agree with your summary, “Bottom line is this issue is extremely complex and African leaders are mainly responsible for the mess.” Your answer is so “United Nations” – form a panel or a committee to find blame and declare politically correct villains.

    For comparison, let’s look at a recent example from world history, Vietnam. Here is a country dominated by foreign powers for years. The Chinese, French and Americans fought there and still after decades of war and distruction they have regrouped stronger than ever. Today they are considered one of the brighter developing countries.

    This was done despite the “big bad” IMF/WB. This was done despite severed ties with the “super power” USA.

    Why? Talk to some Vietnamese and learn how they think about family responsibility. “As a man thinks, so is he.” And collectively so is their country.

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