Under development in Africa

Under development in Africa


Africa has the highest number of underdeveloped countries of all the continents in the world. In fact, underdevelopment has become synonymous with Africa. More often than not, African leaders and scholars blame the West for their underdevelopment especially as it relates to their economic predicaments. But there are indications that apart from external exploitation, there are other internal factors that have contributed to Africa’s underdevelopment. This paper takes a second look at Africa’s underdevelopment with the aim of finding out the internal obstructions to the continent’s development.

An Appraisal of Underdevelopment in Africa

Africa is the richest continent in the world in terms of natural resources, yet it is the poorest continent in terms of socio-economic development. The story of Africa is that of a continent with a paradox of being so rich, yet very poor, so endowed with human and material potentials, yet very underdeveloped economically and otherwise. Walter Rodney and other exponents of the Dependency School of Thought traced Africa’s underdevelopment to imperialism and colonization through which Africa was partitioned in Berlin Conference of 1884/85 by foreign invaders - the European Powers, and its development stunted by the exploitation of its resources. For Rodney, an indispensable component of modern underdevelopment is that it expresses a particular relationship of exploitation - the exploitation of one country by another. All of the countries named as “underdeveloped’’ in the world are exploited by others; and the underdevelopment with which the world is now preoccupied is a product of capitalist, imperialist, and colonialist exploitation. Africa and Asian societies were developing independently until they were taken over directly or indirectly by the capitalist powers. When that happened, exploitation increased and the export of surplus ensued, depriving the societies of the benefit of their natural resources and labour.

However, it is true that colonialism and neo-colonialism obstructed, and have continued to obstruct in no measurable way Africa’s quest for development, it is a more fundamental truth that internal factors have impeded Africa’s development more than any other factors. Just consider the following possibilities:

1.      Imagine if after the flag independence there was no corruption in Africa, and its resources were judiciously managed by its leaders, the condition of social infrastructure in Africa today would have improved significantly, and poverty would have been a history, or reduced to a reasonable degree. It is on record that African countries since independence have made billions of dollars from the export of their natural resources, but over 90% of such revenues has been either embezzled or mismanaged by their political leaders. For instance, it is believed that in Nigeria alone, about 400 billion dollars have been stolen from its externally generated oil revenues, and siphoned to private foreign accounts by the past political leaders. Imagine what that amount could have done if it was prudently utilized to provide basic amenities in the country, electricity supply would have been sufficient and regular, schools would have been well-equipped, hospitals would have been functional, all roads would have been tarred, many industries would have been built and sustained, standard of living would have risen, and poverty level would have been very low and inconsequential, and most importantly, underdevelopment might not have continued after independence.

 2.      Imagine if there was no political instability in Africa after independence, the continent would have experienced more development. It is on record that immediately after independence; most African states were engulfed by military coup, rancorous struggle for political power and the resultant prolonged political imbroglio and civil wars, all of which hindered, and have continued to obstruct development efforts in Africa. From North to South, East to West, there is hardly any country in Africa that has not experienced either military take-over or civil war, or both.

The stories of Sudan, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Kenya, Ghana, Congo, Liberia, Somalia, Nigeria and numerous others, are that of countries torn apart by coup d’etat, autocratic leadership, political instability and civil war. Any wonder Claude Ake submitted that “by all indications, political conditions in Africa are the greatest impediment to development”. The African political elites are so much overwhelmed by the struggle for state power that everything else including development is marginalized. This is partly and largely responsible for Africa’s underdevelopment.

 3.      Also, imagine if there was continuity of economic policies by successive governments or regimes in Africa. What we have seen over the years among the various military and even civilian governments in Africa is a situation where each government came to power with its own economic and development agenda that was entirely different from its predecessor’s. There is no continuation in public policy of government. This partly explains why there are many uncompleted or abandoned development projects across various countries in Africa. This is not surprising because most African politicians play politics of rancor and bitterness, and see their opponents as political enemies, and vice versa. Hence, if the opposition happens to grab power, its first preoccupation is usually to dismantle all the features of the old regimes including their economic policies irrespective of how good and developmental such policies may be. This is part of the reasons why Africa is underdeveloped. Imagine if there is patriotism and commitment on the part of African political leadership to embark on auto-centric development and, or to utilise judiciously loans from the IMF and World Bank which are sometimes given with good intentions, most African countries would have experienced development while still being part of the global capitalist system just like the Asian Tigers. Even the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) would have been achieved long before now. Sadly and regrettably, Africa, more than any other continent, lacks patriotic and committed political leaders who are interested in the general good of the people.


From the analysis so far, it is very clear that apart from colonial legacies, there are also internal factors such as corruption and political instability which are strong impediment to Africa’s development. It is therefore high time that African political leaders stopped blaming imperialism for the continent’s economic woes. It behooves the African political leadership to rise up to the occasion through self rebirth and self designed development strategies to rescue Africa from the abyss of poverty and underdevelopment.

Also read on: << concept of development >     Read on : << concept of underdevelopment>>

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