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Sihle Khumalo

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Why is Africa so Poor?

One question that bugged me a lot whilst I was doing my Cape to Cairo trip is why is Africa so rich but yet so poor? Why is the cradle of humankind so underdeveloped? Why are we the least developed continent in the world? Why are vast majority of Africans living way below poverty line? Why are her children dying of hunger and malnutrition every day? Why is her infrastructure as good as non- existent in other parts of the continent? Maybe the question should be: what caused all this havoc (for a lack of better word) that we find ourselves in today and, even more important, how do we – as Africans – get ourselves out of this mess?


Recent comments:

  • Sven
    February 24th, 2008 @14:12 #

    Hi Sihle,

    Allow me to speculate:

    Before getting started I think it may be worth considering whether rural subsistence living equates with poverty. One might quite strongly argue that rural subsistence equates with genuine wealth and freedom. Take a look at every socially destructive regime in history and you'll see the wholesale eradication of subsistence farmers. Africa is not intrinsically 'poor', unless you determinedly apply misguided Western cultural notions of poverty and prosperity.

    Africa has a wealth of unspoilt beauty, history, community oriented cultural values, creativity and spirituality. Modernised countries tend to equate wealth with status symbols on loan from banks. Take new cars for example. To me driving a new Volkswagen Polo on a five year high interest loan from a bank is not wealth, it is more like allowing a slave to transport itself to its labour camp in a gilded prison carriage.

    Second, colonialism has a lot to do with conflict driven poverty in Africa. Uniting diverse tribes into arbitrary nation states is a sure source of conflict - just take a look at Idi Amin in Uganda. Once you put one tribe in power it destroys the precarious balance of centuries and facilitates the type of blood shed that was kept in check by localised, community based power structures. The same thing is currently happening in Iraq where diverse tribes were melded together into a nation state following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

    You might also want to take a look at the role of organisations like the IMF and World Bank in creating poverty in Africa (check out 'Confessions of an Economic Hit Man' by John Perkins). Using debt to virtually enslave developing countries, direct development in ways beneficial to the Anglo-American elite and create corrupt, acquiescent governments usually tends to create problems.

    I'm writing this response because this whole hullabaloo about development, quite frankly, works on my tits. Before people get excited about development, they might consider asking themselves if the development going on in the world is not more akin to that of malignant tumour than a technologically enhanced utopia. I'm not saying Africa should stay in the stone age, I just think that change needs to be tentative, and informed by African cultural values, rather than directed by a culturally inappropriate (and I think inferior) Anglo-American cultural paradigm. I love living on a continent where wild animals still roam free, where people smile easily, and where everything with beauty hasn't been buried under a carpet of concrete and greed.

    For a brief interview with John Perkins, go to:


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