3 Main Reasons for Poverty in Africa

The causes of poverty in Africa are deep-rooted, interconnected and paradoxical. Africa, the cradle of humanity, encompasses some of the most resource-rich areas of the planet. Africans would, in fact, be capable of sustaining their economies and even giving aid to other parts of the world. Something, therefore, must have gone terribly wrong for it to be the poorest of all the continents.

The first reason for Africa’s poverty lies in its history and the mindset which this has created both inside and outside its borders. For 3 centuries, the continent was emptied of millions of its strongest people, captured to work as slaves overseas in order to develop other economies. This had the arguable effect of delaying the establishment of economical, political and social structures that might have been comparable with those found elsewhere in the world.

The abolition of slavery opened the door to colonialism, which, while in one sense only a different form of slavery, did bring much-needed benefits such as industrial development, better education and access to medical care. However the colonising Europeans, by means particularly of the bias of the education they provided, groomed Africans to be servants and consumers in a world where white men were the overlords.

At the end of the colonial era, European countries still had need of their old colonies to provide resources for their own continuing development, and neo-colonialism was born. Business contracts were signed in which Europeans blatantly exploited their former colonies while weak or corrupt African leaders failed to negotiate for the benefit of their own people.

The result was that African countries were gripped by impossible debts to foreign regimes, and at the same time ruled by tyrants from among their own people who in many cases were supported by those same foreign regimes. As the rulers took control of the ‘honey pot’ of the natural resources and forced their countrymen into poverty, the seeds of civil war were sown.

Armed conflict, which disrupts the lives of one fifth of all African people and stems directly from the continent’s history, lies behind the poverty of many regions. War makes ordinary life impossible and land unproductive. In addition, it frightens off investors who might otherwise help to boost economic development and create employment.

The second main reason for poverty in Africa can be summarised as poor use of land. This is due partly to lack of education – a historical legacy – and partly to an inability to change. Large areas of land are given over to subsistence farming which, without the use of modern technology, remains inefficient and does not produce anything to sell at market. Hence there is never the money to pay school fees, however low, or to buy the simplest of farm machinery.

Nomadic grazing of livestock was once a way of life, but now population figures are too high and land ownership is too rigid for it to be possible. Over-grazing and over-farming lead to degradation of the land, giving rise to the need for further land to be cleared through slash-and-burn with little regard to the associated loss of biodiversity. Where strict measures – including against poaching – are not put in place, the wild animals which can be a source of revenue through tourism are depleted.

Degradation of the land results in desertification, partly because of the nature of Africa’s soil which is in general made up of sand and laterite with little clay or humus to hold moisture. This soil erodes easily and its high iron and aluminium content means that it bakes hard in the sun and absorbs no rain. Desertification, coupled with the climate change to which it contributes, can result in drought and famine in a poor society with no adequate safety net, and famine drives the population further into poverty.

The third main cause of poverty is directly attributable to the actions of the developed world and can be specifically laid at the door of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Banks. These bodies claim to reduce poverty and yet have been criticized for years for increasing it. Under the flag of neoliberalism, they impose what they call Structural Adjustment Policies (SAP’s) to ensure debt repayment through economic restructuring.

SAP’s decree that repayment of debt must be made a priority over health, education and general development, so the governments of African nations are forced to reduce their spending on the things which most benefit their own people. Loans are granted, therefore, with certain preconditions, the most insidious one being that exports must be increased to provide the cash for repayments. These exports, which may consist of only a very limited range of products, compete with the exports of other countries in a similar situation, and give rise to a glorified price war. This of course has the effect of devaluing them, which favours the importing West, and means that the developing countries struggle increasingly to keep up with their repayments. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer by this means, which has been suggested is in fact the real, cynical underlying agenda of the IMF.

Africa’s poverty is a disgrace in a world of food surpluses and mass communication. However the reasons behind it are far from simple. A history of injustice set in motion a vicious circle of lack of resources to pay for education, and lack of education to produce and refine resources. This is compounded by devastating health problems, climate difficulties, and predation by more economically advanced nations which, while providing assistance under the impetus of their people’s knee-jerk reactions to specific disasters, have yet to change their underlying attitudes.

Adopting AIDS Orphans in Africa

Adopting an AIDS orphan in Africa is one of the ways to help families and communities cope with the ever-increasing number of children orphaned by AIDS in Africa. Many African states resources have been stretched to the limit in an attempt to address the broader effects of the HIV/AIDS situation, especially to assist the high numbers of African AIDS orphan families. However, the governments efforts coupled with those of civil society have not been enough.

Adopting an AIDS orphan is therefore an important intervention because it means saving a life. It means a decreased strain on government resources as that child’s needs – including food, shelter, education, healthcare and other physical and emotional needs – are met by an able and helping hand. To do this is impossible for many African families and communities because they have all been affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in one way or the other; already they bear some kind of responsibility resulting from this health crisis.

Most of these children are without both parents. In many situations this has left the eldest child in the family, who at times is less than 10 years old, responsible for his/her siblings ranging from any number between 5 to 15 because of the extended family set up and cultures such as polygamy which are still very much practiced in Africa. This responsibility is a burden on that child that they cannot possibly bear for long without succumbing to pressures that may put their own life at risk.

Hence adopting this child, saves his/her life and that of his/her siblings whose plight he/she will speak about. Adoption saves this child from the agony of a life where at a tender they have to deal with the death of both parents whilst at the same time move on and be the head, assume responsibility to care for his/her siblings. The AIDS orphan can grow up like any other child and enjoy being taken care of once adopted. By adopting these children you are giving a better life to one who may be a future leader.

Ending Poverty in Africa – Trade Not Aid Model

A model that I am especially interested in is called RAISE TRADE, and the idea behind this concept is the move away from exporting of raw materials from developing nations and adding value else where. The founder of this model Neil Kelsall is the brains behind a very successful Malagasy chocolate based on the RAISE TRADE model. This model departs from the models that enable cooperatives in Africa to simply own shares of companies as the well as the Fairtrade models, and enables value to be added at source which increases income for the producer as well as the government through tax revenues which is not possible if value is added elsewhere.

How might this work in practice?

Take OTTIMO CAFFE, a specialist coffee roaster from North London looking to source his coffee in a more ethical way, a Uganda based coffee cooperative looking to add value to their coffees before the coffee is exported, so they can earn a higher price for their produce, a government looking to earn more tax revenue from its cash crop , an investor looking to invest in a socially responsible venture, that will bring him good returns at the same time and finally a retailer who must source his products more ethically because his customers demand it!

Everyone of these people have some expertise to bring to the table and the overall goal here is to produce a fully processed coffee that can be exported to the western world at the Cooperative headquarter in Uganda. This is indeed that live case that I am involved in and I have been responsible for bringing all the parties together. I must add that it is early days yet as we work the details out but all the parties are in agreement that this is the way forward in the fight against poverty.

If this model is that fantastic I hear you say, why isn’t it being adopted on a much wider scale? Well that is the question I would like an answer too. But one thing is certain, this is doable and Neil has proved that. Is it therefore a case of commitment on the part of decision makers, Businesses, Retailers or investors? Who is responsible for making this practice wide spread?

The fashion industry has in many ways lead the way in the VALUE ADD movement, they have however let themselves down by unfair practices especially the working conditions of the producers, we have all heard about PRIMARK being associated to the so called sweat shops.

Diseases Most Common to African Americans in Society

Diseases are part of life and people have to contend and deal with them. There are so many interventions and remedies available due to great medical strides technologically. For this reason, many that get access to health care and information all around the world will reduce their chances of going down with disease dramatically. There are certain diseases that have been rife among particular groups of people. An example is black Americans who only form less than 15% of the American population; yet some chronic ailments among them are at a record high. The following is a look at all the most common diseases that have been seen prevalent in the African American community.

In 2006, statistics showed that almost half of all new AIDS cases were reported from the members of this community. Furthermore in the same year, bisexual and gay black men were the leading in numbers of most affected groups of the American society regarding HIV and AIDS. This shows clearly that the sexually transmitted disease is quite common perhaps most common in this particular group of people in America.

Another disease that has been seen pretty common in the African American society is Asthma. According to observations, black people and the Hispanics have been affected more by Asthma in the country. There have been several reasons cited for the widespread of this disease including poverty and genetics. Many poor children from the black and Hispanic communities have plenty of exposure to elements that trigger asthma like smoke from cigarette sparking health problems.

Another common disease among African Americans is Sickle cell anemia. This condition sees cells take an abnormal shape that can somewhat be described as rigid. The cells will look like sickles and for this; they will be compromised in function. It has been found that 1 person in 12 black Americans will have the sickle cell trait. There are many complications that are associated with the disease including renal failure, jaundice, stroke and others.

Diabetes is another common disease among black Americans. Experts have continued to find out whether there is a genetic link that makes this community prone to the illness. Men and women of the African American community who are over 20 years and suffer with diabetes are estimated to be 2.5 million. Many are those that do not know they suffer from the disease. This problem has been seen to be caused by poor feeding habits, lack of physical exercises and so on. The complications brought about by diabetes include blindness, amputation and even kidney failure.

Coronary heart disease is another problem in the community. Factors like intake of high-cholesterol foods and weight problems have contributed to the ailment. However, the above diseases are being managed better in the present day and overall deaths due to the diseases have declined over the past few years.