Under-development in Africa Assignment

It is well known that Africa is falling behind the rest of the world in terms of economic wellbeing. Even though global poverty is declining due to rapid economic growth in India, China, and other parts of the world, Africa’s contribution to this decline is disappointing. Absolute poverty in many of the African nations is in fact rising (Taylor, 2016). Perhaps because of the nature of this question, there has been no shortage of research on this topic. Even though it is extremely difficult to summarize this voluminous and multifaceted literature, it is perhaps fair to say that three strands of thoughts stand out.

The first is the disease view. According to this view, malaria and other infectious diseases have fatal as well as debilitating effects on the human population in Africa. It negatively influences productivity, savings, and investment and directly affects economic performance of the continent (Mawere, 2017). According to Bloom and Sachs (1998) as cited by Rodney (2018), the high incidence of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa reduces the annual growth rate of the continent by 1.3% a year and eradication of malaria in the 1950s would have resulted into a doubling of per capita income from what exists today.

The second is the colonial institutions view. According to this view, the persistent effect of colonial institutions can explain the huge differences in income across all ex-colonies including Africa (Mawere, 2017). The story goes as follows. Europeans resorted to different style of colonisation depending on the feasibility of settlement. In a tropical environment the settlers had to deal with the killer malaria and hence a high mortality rate. This prevented colonisers from settling in a tropical environment and they erected extractive institutions in these colonies. On the other hand, in temperate conditions European settlers felt more at home and decided to settle. In these colonies they erected institutions characterised by strong protection of private property and efficient enforcement of contracts. These institutions created by the colonizers have persisted over time and they continue to influence the economic performance of the colonies even long after independence. The settlement colonies with better institutions continue to perform well in the economic arena, whereas the non-settlement colonies with poor institutions continue to struggle.
The establishment of colonial rule over the African interior (c. 1880-1900) reinforced Africa’s commodity export growth. Colonial control facilitated the construction of railways, induced large inflows of European investment, and forced profound changes in the operation of labour and land markets (Marango et al., 2018). That is, colonial regimes abolished slavery, but they replaced it with other forced labour schemes. The scramble pushed African exports to new heights, but without the preceding era of commercialisation the African scramble probably would never have taken place.
Africa’s commercial transition was inextricably connected to the rising demand for industrial inputs from the industrialising core in the North Atlantic. Revolutions in transportation (railways, steamships), a move towards liberal trade policies in Europe, and increasing rates of GDP growth enhanced demand for (new) manufactures, raw materials and tropical cash crops (Zhou, 2017). African producers responded to this demand by increasing exports of vegetable oils (palm oil, groundnuts), gum, ivory, gold, hides and skins. Palm oil, a key export, was highly valued as a lubricant for machinery and an ingredient in food and soap. During and after the scramble, the range of commodity exports broadened to include raw materials like rubber, cotton, and copper, as well as cash crops such as cocoa, coffee, tea and tobacco. The lion’s share of these commodities went directly to manufacturing firms and consumers in Europe. Meanwhile, technological innovations also reduced the costs of colonial occupation (Mawere, 2017). These included the Maxim gun, the steamship, the railway and quinine, the latter lowering the health risks to Europeans in the disease-ridden interior of the ‘dark continent’. Transport and infrastructure that was built during the colonial period was unevenly distributed in most colonies. This led to regional imbalanced development which is still reflected by post-colonial Africa. Secondly, colonialism led to retardation of technological and industrial development due to neglect of industrialization.

Slave Trade
Finally, a third group of explanation relates to the economic impact of Africa’s engagement in slave trade. According to this view, Africa’s engagement in the slave trade caused massive depopulation of the continent over two centuries. This resulted into an implosion of the continent’s production possibility frontier and an unambiguous reduction in welfare. The secular decline in welfare continued over more than two centuries plunging the continent into economic backwardness (Rodney, 2018). Another theory within this group is proposed by Nunn (2004) as cited by Taylor (2016). He argues that Africa’s engagement in slave trade had a detrimental impact on the development of domestic institutions. The frequent slave raids and the culture of violence attached with it severely damaged the security of private property and weakened the judicial system creating a persistent state of lawlessness in the society. These weak institutions persisted over time and are continuing to affect contemporary development.
The supply of African slaves to American plantations reached an all-time high in the late 18th century (Rodney, 2018). After anti-slave trade legislation finally shut down the Atlantic slave exports, commodity exports filled the gap. This so-called ‘commercial transition’ was completed in West Africa before it hit East Africa. It was a game-changer, since it put a halt to the continuous drain of scarce labour and paved the way for the expansion of land-intensive forms of tropical agriculture, engaging smallholders, communal farms, and estates.

Lack of official ideology

Most African countries lack an official ideology. An ideology is a set of ideas that defines a country’s political, economic and socio-cultural structures and development strategy. Lack of an ideology therefore has led to a lot of confusion in developing states. Even where such ideologies exist, political actors rarely understand the correlation between ideology and development. We have many parties in existence like in the case of Congo, Uganda and Kenya but they are not ideologically driven. Instead focus is placed on the personalities behind the political parties (Marango et al. 2018).

Political uncertainty and civil wars
African states are characterized by massive corruption and widespread abuses of human rights that provides a germinating ground for political unrest. Civil wars are as a result of conflict over the limited resources for example border disputes (Kenya-Uganda dispute over migingo island), land disputes. Peace and security are vital elements in the running and functioning of any country. According to Rodney (2018) security is the pre-condition for economic development, especially today where states are in a serious competition to attract foreign investors. Most African countries have failed to provide security to their citizens. Civil strife, social unrest and political violence are common phenomena in Africa.

High levels of illiteracy
A high populace in Africa are illiterate and even those that are learned have undergone an inappropriate education system. This is so because the education systems do not equip learners with technological skills required to enhance industrial growth. This greatly hampers participation of the masses in development process.

Decision making is top-down
This means that decisions made are highly reflective of the ruling class interests and the masses are therefore forced to accept what has been decided elsewhere. The masses may also not understand what is required of them and the significance of their efforts in promoting the welfare of the nation as a whole.

Chinese Investment
Today, China uses diplomacy in Africa instead of brute force, and it does not seem to aspire to formal political control in the region. Yet, African economies are again responding to the rising demand for commodities by a rapidly industrialising power. Chinese investments in land, infrastructure and mines are flowing in. Mineral exports, and especially oil, are again taking a growing share of African exports. History shows that such export booms are unsustainable, but what are the chances that Africa will avoid a renewed cycle of commodity dependency? As we ponder the answer, a major difference with history should be noted. With a projected population of over 3 billion, Africa will be one of the most populous regions of the world in 2050. If African policymakers find ways to invest commodity windfalls in the health and education of the next generations and to increase trade with neighbour countries, export growth may do more to stimulate African economic development than it did a century ago.

Corruption has posed a lot of challenges, therefore some scholars such as (Taylor, 2016) have argued that corruption is inevitable and thus part of human nature. Corruption is a multifaceted marvel that has taken many forms and is found in all levels of government and political systems (Mawere, 2017). “In its base form it can be defined as the use of public office for private gain (Austin et al., 2016).” According to Rodney (2018) he defined it as the “abuse of public roles or resources for private benefit”. Within the public sector, corruption is the “behaviour which deviates from the formal duties of a public role because of private-regarding (personal, close family, private clique) pecuniary or status gains, or violates rules against the exercise of certain types of private-regarding influence”. Corruption always violates the rights of other individuals or groups and this may be directly or indirectly and the rights may not be formally established. It is believed that factors such as greed, unchecked decision-making power, financial arrangements within the health systems or the general state of the governance in a society have been shown to contribute to the extent of corruption (Austin et al., 2016)
Therefore, Zimbabwe faces both real and apparent problems consistent to corruption.
Evidence from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports corruption is a pervasive problem affecting the health indicators like infant and child mortality, female education health budgeting and spending and the welfare of citizens. Efforts to explain abuse of entrusted power for private gain have examined how the structure, management and governance of health care systems contribute to corruption (Marango et al., 2018).
Corruption in Africa maybe be viewed by examining the roles and relationships among the different players to identify potential abuses that are likely to occur. In the same view, Rodney (2018) is of the same opinion that most often there is hardly any difference between bribe and gift and other forms of reciprocity which is usually regarded as normal in some countries but may be considered illegal in other countries. For example, an informal payment of unofficial fee is paid to medical personnel for services that should have been free, this constitutes corruption (Rodney, 2018). A similar example, if a head of department decides to employ an unqualified relation or friend, or an agent procures a new, expensive drug above the required price or in quantities that is greatly above what is needed in order to benefit from the purchase, this will however amount to corruption. However, it is noteworthy that what constitutes corruption in real sense is subjective and tied to prevalent norms in different societies. On a general stance speculation can be that any abuse of power or privileges for personal gains in the course of rendering medical services amount to corruption.
The most common types of corruption, which are most widespread in the health systems include informal payments to health providers by patients and family members, paying bribes to get a government job, absenteeism from work place, bribes and kickbacks, fraud in procurement of medicines and other health supplies, theft of medicines or other material, insurance fraud, embezzlement of user fees or other government revenues.
The former Zimbabwean head of state, President Robert Mugabe, stated in 2016 that the country had lost around $15 billion from the illegal smuggling of diamonds, predominantly from the Chiadzwa diamond fields since 2008. Many of the respondents interviewed by the reporters mirrored the public outrage that was discussed in the newspapers at the time (Moyo, 2018). Corruption was described by one as “Zimbabwe’s cancer” whilst another stated that “corruption had been entrenched in the minds of Zimbabweans who now believe it is the only for one to succeed.”
Another issue that was popular in the media was the issuing of tenders by the government and its parastatals. A tender is an offer made in response to an invitation to offer. The party inviting tenders may require a definite quantity of goods or services to be supplied, in that event the person who responds to that invitation is said to have made a definite offer and would become bound by it if it is accepted. An example of this is the suspected tender fraud scandal involving ZESA and controversial businessman Wicknell Chivayo. An article published in the Chronicle (April, 2018) stated how various ministers were being summoned to parliament to explain how the businessman managed to access some tenders without following due diligence and without respecting protocol. Another article published in the Dailynews (March, 2018) stated that when various officials visited the developmental cites, they found that next to nothing had been done despite the businessman being advanced up to US$7 million. The article also cites that the businessman had close links to the former first family. This is a familiar theme when it comes to various projects that have been done by the government or extended to the private sector. Projects are given to those with ties to influential people. All these events were described by various literature as evidence that the country was a haven of corruption. The views of the people were that, one can only prosper if you know influential people (Manyuchi, 2019).

Austin G, E Frankema and M Jerven (2016), “Patterns of Manufacturing Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa: From Colonization to the Present,” forthcoming in K O’Rourke and J G Williamson (eds), The Spread of Modern Manufacturing to the Periphery, 1870 to the Present, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rodney, W., 2018. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Verso Trade.
Taylor, I., 2016. Dependency redux: Why Africa is not rising. Review of African Political Economy, 43(147), pp.8-25.
Mawere, M. ed., 2017. Underdevelopment, development and the future of Africa. Langaa Rpcig.
Marango T, Mutongoreni NA, Mararike CG. Human Factor Decay: Corruption in a Rural District of Zimbabwe on the Spotlight. Journal of Gleanings from Academic Outliers. 2018 Sep 1;7(1).
Zhou, T.M., 2017. Poverty, natural resources “curse” and underdevelopment in Africa. Underdevelopment, development and the future of Africa.
Moyo, L., 2018. Corruption in Zimbabwe: Implications for Social Work Practice. Journal of Human Rights and Social Work, pp.1-7.
Manyuchi, A.E., 2019. Foreign direct investment and technology catch-up in post-Mugabe Zimbabwe. African Journal of Science, Technology, Innovation and Development, pp.1-15.


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