What is Wrong with Africa?
When we look at
Africa…and the amount of
foreign aid and support
provided annually by the
international community, we
begin to question, “What is
wrong with Africa?”
What is Wrong with Africa?
When you think of Africa,
what thoughts immediately
come to mind?
What is Wrong with Africa?
Some facts….
 Africa is the second largest continent on Earth. It
is about 30 000 000 km2. The USA would fit 3X
inside Africa.
 Africa has 12% of the world’s population (840
million people (est. 2005)).
 Nearly 25% of Africa’s land mass is the Sahara
 The total length of Africa’s shoreline stretches
over 25 600 km with few deep bays or inlets.
What is Wrong with Africa?
Some facts….
 Africa stretches between the
latitudes of 35ON and 37OS (about
8 000 km).
 Nearly 75% of Africa has a
tropical climate. There is almost
perpetual summer with high
temperatures throughout the year,
as well as definite seasons of rain
and drought. The north is primarily
arid or desert. The south is a mix
of savannah plains and rainforests.
 Mountain ranges moderate
What is Wrong with Africa?
Some facts….
 Africa has 54 countries and numerous
 The largest country is Sudan (2 500 000
km2). The smallest is Seychelles (455 km2),
an archipelago off the eastern shoreline. The
smallest country on the mainland is Gambia
(10 380 km2).
 The richest country is Mauritius ($11 400
GDP per capita (USA$2004)) while the
poorest countries are Somalia and Sierra
Leone ($500 GDP per capita). Canada’s per
capita income is $31 500.
 There are over 1 000 different languages in
Africa. These languages can be grouped into
four main language families native to Africa.
What is Wrong with Africa?
Some facts….
 Africa has 1% of the world’s international
 The bottom 25 countries on a human
development scale are Africa nations (UN,
 Every day, the same number of people
killed in the World Trade Centre (3 000) die in
Africa from AIDS. Over 15 million children
are AIDS orphans in Sub-Sahara Africa…and
the number is rising.
 Over 150 000 Africa women die annually
during childbirth.
 In the last decade, Africa is going
backwards relative to other developing areas
of the world with respect to foreign trade,
investment, standard of living and per capita
What is Wrong with Africa?
When the rest of the world is
developing and quality of life is
improving for many people, why is
Africa lagging behind?
In framing the issue, we need to
consider history, geography,
economics, environment, society
and politics….
What is Wrong with Africa?
One of the darkest chapters in the modern
world history is slavery.
Between 1500 and 1800, an estimated 8-12
million Africans were carried off in the Atlantic
slave trade. The total rises to 20 million
Africans if the Arab slave trade is included.
If we assume ten people died for every one
slave successfully transported, 200 million
Africans were slaves.
Slavery mostly impacted central Africa.
Slavery was abolished in 1858.
How would slavery impact Africa’s progress?
What is Wrong with Africa?
In the late nineteenth century, the
European powers occupied most of
Africa. Colonial occupation ended after
WWII. In 1957, Ghana became the first
independent Africa nation.
Colonial rulers established arbitrary
borders between African tribes and
Colonial rulers often changed the
balance of power. The colonialists
generally supported rulers who ensured
colonial authority.
Black Africans were often treated as
What is Wrong with Africa?
Why might colonialism have a negative impact
on African development?
As noted, arbitrary borders were drawn between
existing tribes and societies. As well, the
colonial powers often put in place local rulers
who did not reflect the societal makeup.
Modern Nigeria is a good example. It has three
big tribes and more than 400 ethnic groups.
Under colonial rule, the people elect one
president and one government. Imagine a
Europe whose larger tribes (Germans, French,
British) and 25 European Union states were
united by force (not referendum); where the
French are Muslim, the Germans Catholic, the
British Protestant; where the only source of
income (oil) is under German control. Would it
What is Wrong with Africa?
History…Cold War
After WWII, Africa was caught up in the Cold
War confrontation between the USA and the
Soviet Union. To protect their shipping lanes
and access to Africa’s resources, the
superpowers often supported regimes that were
dictatorships, authoritarian, tyrants and cruel.
With independence, many African nations
adopted a socialist model for development and
received vital financial support from the Soviets.
With the 1989 collapse of the Soviet Union, there
nations lost their support….in some cases,
Civil war and anarchy followed as factions fought
for control. Yet, many Cold War dictators
What is Wrong with Africa?
Economy…Africa’s Debt
Africa’s debt is about $200 billion. Most of the debt
was incurred by past governments seeking big
solutions to problems, undertaking misguided projects
or misusing funds for personal gains.
Sub-Saharan Africa receives $10 billion in aid
annually, but it loses $14 billion in debt payments per
year. In 2003, Zambia spent twice as much on debt
repayments as on health care. Many activist groups
believe Africa’s debt burden is the single biggest
obstacle to the continent's development.
Western countries have cancelled debt payments. In
2005, $40 billion of debt was wrote off.
Can cancelling debt repayments help the African
What is Wrong with Africa?
Economy…The International Economy
Foreign policies and subsidies intended to
protect Western producers put the small
producers in Africa at a disadvantage. For
example, the European Union spends $350
billion annually to protect its farmers. The
subsidy maintains a way of life, but it also
supports inefficient operations. The African
grower cannot compete fairly.
Many African countries over-tax farmers. These
actions have given other developing regions
(e.g., Asia, Latin America) a competitive
advantage. These regions produce and deliver
goods more cheaply. The loss of income to
Africa is estimated at $70 billion annually.
What is Wrong with Africa?
Economy – Structural Adjustment Program (SAP)
Many countries have developed their economies
based on one product or a narrow range of natural
resources. Nigeria is extremely rich in oil, but it
imports food valued at $2.5 billion yearly. Nigeria
neglected its agricultural sector.
In the 1980s, the World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) introduced SAPs. To receive
World Bank development aid, many African nations
had to restructure…or eliminate…government
programs and services, privatize public-sector
enterprises and devalue currencies. In some
cases, schools and hospitals were closed.
Have SAPs helped or hurt Africa?
What is Wrong with Africa?
African Politics…
For reasons stated, African politics
are very confusing.
Countries that claim to be
democracies are ruled by dictators.
Tribal issues are prevalent
throughout the continent.
Government management is often
Leaders refuse to acknowledge the
AIDS crisis.
What is Wrong with Africa?
When we think of Africa’s
problems, it is AIDS and
What should we do?

What is Wrong with Africa? - Limestone District School Board