A majority of the worlds poorest countries today are in Africa. Of course some African countries like South Africa and Egypt are not quite as poor as others like Angola and Ethiopia. And though in recent years absolute poverty in Africa has shown some slight falls, African income levels have actually been dropping relative to the rest of the world. So poor Africa has been getting relatively poorer on average, and 2014 sees North East Africa again having starvation for millions in the region now especially affecting Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan – and in Somalia religious war has been worsening the famine situation there.
Lack of infrastructure
2. Financial aid going to African countries has often been mostly emergency food aid needed as short-term help with famines, and any longer-term aid has often been misappropriated for personal wealth by corrupt officials or for military spending. Where useful financial aid has been supplied to African countries it has often been in the form of loans with high interest rates that poor countries find too expensive a debt burden. Africa has to date attracted little foreign investment though much of that has been more stable longer-term European investment as in mining.
3. The terms of trade set by richer countries tend often to exploit poor countries and give unfairly low price for their exports of commodities such as tea, coffee, bananas and their other export products. And foreign businesses operating in Africa also often do not help the local economy as much as they easily could help. Some of these problems are of course not unique to Africa and are seen also in some non-African poor countries.
4. Education, medicine and drinking water are also major problems in poor African countries – as well as transport and energy. Diseases like AIDS, malaria and cholera are widespread with the latter two involving poor water systems. In some African countries a lack of adequate medical services is helping maintain poverty for many families.
5. Many have noted that countries in Africa have often suffered from civil wars and inadequate government, and this may be in part due to many African countries being artificial colonial creations with borders that make sustainable government more difficult. Conflict-torn countries with long running civil wars such as Angola, Burundi, Mozambique, Somalia and Uganda have had little effective government, making it very difficult to get hold of supplies or build necessary infrastructures. This has also given neighbouring countries big refugee problems. And much of Africa has also had corrupt government, like Zimbabwe. But in Africa both the wars and the corrupt governments maintaining poverty, have often been supported by richer Western governments.
But many countries in Africa are now showing some real signs of progress towards better governance. The African Union has established the voluntary self-monitoring Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) for states to conform to agreed political, economic and corporate governance values. Twenty nine of Africa’s fifty three states signed up to participate in APRM by June 2008, being – Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia. This at least shows that governments of these countries are aware that government may need improving.
Some of the poorest countries in Africa really need substantial prolonged aid to fund direct universal welfare benefit systems to help them climb out of poverty. Extreme poverty being widespread helps cause other bad things like many children being sold as slaves or used in armies and getting no education.
Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity, it is an act of justice.