Obstacles to Development in Africa

Obstaclesto Development in Africa

Since1950, Africa has been raging behind in terms of development.Development requires not only high-income levels, education, healthoutcomes, and nutrition, but also high levels of capabilities andproductivities. However, this can only be achieved with a stablestructural transformation of the economy. Correspondingly, a stablestructural transformation is not only possible with compromisinganti-poverty programs, but also with a sustained and substantialinvestment. Unfortunately, most African countries fall underdeveloping countries category. Developed countries are the richestcountries with high income per capita such as United States, Canada,South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. On the other hand,developing countries are the poorer states with lower-income percapita, most of which are in Africa. The developed countries havealready accumulated much wealth whereas the developing countries donot even have enough savings. Analysis show Sub-Saharan Africa onlyaccounts for an estimate of 11% of the world’s population. Theanalysis also shows that the African economic growth rate fell by0.5% every year between 1980 and 1983. Correspondingly, while theworld annual growth rate rose by 6% in 1990, the sub-Saharan growthrate declined by 2.1%. According to Van,Jan, David, and Peter (20),developing countries had one time or the other been under a foreignrule. This is evident in five decades ago when almost all Africancountries were under colonial rule. For instance, Congo wassubjective to the British rule fifty years ago. Sadly, the foreigncolonizers exploited African countries as they promoted theirinterest. African countries supplied them with raw materials at acheaper price. In addition, colonizers made investments in industriessuch as drilling, mining, and agriculture. In other words, Africasupplied them with raw materials and at the same time, it was themarket for their manufactured goods. Unfortunately, some 1950stroubles to African development are still in existence until today.The main objective of this paper is to investigate the fivecategories of obstacles to development in Africa that includescultural obstacles, social obstacles, economic obstacles, politicalobstacles, and administrative obstacles.


Accordingto scholars, most African countries do not have the right the righteconomic development culture. Few people are starting a new businessfor the fear that it will not succeed. Accordingly, some people feelthat traditional roles are more significant to reporting to work on adaily basis. On the other hand, men also want to practice theirtraditional career. They do not embrace the new technologies to makemore money. Lawal,Tolu, and Abe(239) urges that such cultural issues hinder a country’s growth.Moreover, Africans spend a huge amount of their income on customs andtraditions. For instance, Tanzanian has many rural festivals andceremonies that tend to reduce their savings that would otherwiseenhance development. Additionally, Africans spend much money onbirth, marriage, and death ceremonies.

Statisticsshows that only 20% of the African women do not take part indevelopment activities. For example, women often stay at home takingcare of their husband and children. Few are professionals (Manuh56).These facts show little women participation in development activityhence, less development. Further, research shows that women laborforce is slightly above ten million dollars. Wastage of resources inlitigation is another obstacle to development. In most Africancountries, legal processes are complex, expensive, and lengthy. Thisled to wastage of resources in litigations. For instance, Kenya doeswell in for agriculture. However, many farmers’ produce is lost inlitigations. In other words, this is wastage of resources hence,reduction the rate of saving.

Kyambalesa,Henry, and Mathurin (n.p)states that brain drain is another hindrance to development inAfrica, as well as other developing countries. Unfortunately, mostAfricans do not like living in their countries. After they qualifyfor their studies, most tend to relocate to other developed countriesto search for employment. As a result, the self-esteem, dignity,honors, and authorities of educated people are low. Subsequently,they move abroad to serve other nations rather than serve and developtheir own.

Dueto a high level of illiteracy in Africa, entrepreneurs areinefficient. According to Fukuda-Parr,Sakiko, and Carlos (102),several African countries lack training institution and schoolshence, most of their residents are illiterate, and they have no ideaabout entrepreneurship. Further, Fukuda-Parret. al., (102) urges that inefficient entrepreneur hinders economicdevelopment. Besides, illiterate entrepreneurs do not have knowledgeof a proper record of their business. They also do not havestrategies to maximize profit and minimize loss.


Illiteracyis yet another obstacle to development. Statistics shows that onlysixty percent of the African population is literate. In her speech,“Bottlenecks to Development in Africa” that she gave during thefourth UN World Women’s Conference in Being, China, WangariMaathai, urge that this probably because Africa does not have itsalphabets (Maathai n.p). Africans have over-valued and overemphasized education, as well as equated it with extraordinaryabilities. Additionally, illiterate people underestimate andundervalue themselves while they over-trust those people who can readand write. This phenomenon creates the lack of self-confidence andpoor self-image that nurture inferiority. Thus, the illiterate peoplelive at the mercy of literate people. Maathai further argues thatradio is a source of information and general knowledge (Maathai n.p).Unfortunately, some African governments fail to issues licenses forindependent airwaves. They say that the state-controlled media aresufficient for their citizens. In Kenya, for example, the Ambassadorof United States to Kenya in 1995 persuaded the Kenyan government toissue a license to independent media networks. She reasoned that thatfreedom of the press was a requirement for freedom and goodgovernance. Kenyan government officials criticized her idea, and theyaccused her of interfering with Kenyan sovereignty and independence.While television and radio are educative, it is so unfortunate thatAfrican leaders use them for propaganda and personal exaggeration.Furthermore, uninformed citizens are easy to manipulate, intimidate,and govern. Ajayiand Oke(302) urge that illiteracy led to poor efficiency and productivitylevels. Illiterate entrepreneurs are ignorant, and they are notinterested to learn the modern techniques of production.

Accordingto IPE scholars, low standard of living is an obstacle to economicdevelopment. Research shows that African population is raging behindwith a growth rate of 2% (Dietrich,Simone, and Joseph (144).The poor population does not appropriate facilities to enhance highstandards of living such as school and hospitals. Inadequate housingfacilities, low level of living, poor health, and low-income, amongothers, are hindrances to development.

Falloux,François, and Lee (98) statesjoint family systems as an obstacle to development. He reasons thatin such scenario, not all members of the family will work hard. Somewill tend to depend on the hard working members. Likewise, in a castesystem, it is likely for the rich and superior class will not workhard. For example, in Tanzania is economically behind due to jointcommunity systems. In Africa, there are a high numbers of dependentpeople. For instance, in Libya, only twenty-two percent of itspopulation is working, while the rest depend on them. Further, unlikein the developed countries where people invest their money in realestates and other business, most African prefers to keep theirresources in the form of cash. Hence, the money does not enhancedevelopment because the money is not in circulation. Sadly, most ofthe African population is consumption-oriented. Consumption of peopleis high due to demonstration effects such as fulfillment oftraditions, customs, and habits. Due to push, relatives, and friends,Africans tends to adjust their consumption styles. In most developingcountries in Africa such as Nigeria, Gabon, Congo, and Uganda therate of population growth is very high. High and poor populationleads to starvation and other social crimes such as theft.

Povertyremains a challenge in development in Africa. Most Africans live inutter of poverty and about thirteen million African have been listedin the safety net of social grants (Amutabi7). Evidence of poverty is everywhere especially in the sub-SaharanAfrica where people lack basic needs including food, clean water,medical care, housing, and sanitation. Additionally, poverty alsoexpresses itself in Africa through the high number of refugees,environmental degradation, migrations, malnutrition, sustainedhunger, alcoholism, diseases, political instability, and low lifeexpectancy. WHO reports in the “Bridgingthe Gaps”article that poverty increase premature deaths, especially indeveloping nations such as the Sub-Saharan Africa. Kyambalesaet. al., (n.p) urges that the reason behind economic marginalizationin Africa is that Africans do not participate in the formulation andimplementation of development policies. Disappointingly, foreignnations make decisions and policies that affect their political andeconomic life. As a result, these decisions and policies drain offtheir wealth. In the process, Africans are marginalized, deniedaccess to information, disempowered economically, and jeopardizedincluding their future generations.


InAfrica, there is a deficiency of capital and foreign exchange.Deficiency in these two is a big barrier, especially to the economicdevelopment. Amutabi (12) urges that vicious circle of povertyhinders development. Likewise, income per capita in Africa is alsovery low hence, there is low saving and investment. According toManuh (45), the average saving of most African countries rangesbetween nine to ten percent of GDP. This is unlike the developedcountries that have GDP of twenty-five percent. On the other hand,low level of investment leads to capital formation rate. The averageforeign exchange reserve and the rate of capital formation in Africaare fifteen dollars and five percent respectively.

Theinflation rate is another obstacle in development in Africa. Onaverage, the inflation rate in Africa is thirteen percent. Since the1960s, the inflation rate in sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa hasbeen relatively low (about six and two percent respectively).However, in the 1980s, the inflation rate in sub-Saharan Africagradually raised to about thirty percent while that of North Africaremained at around ten percent. Currently, some African countrieshave an inflation rate of one digit. For instance, in the NorthAfrica, countries such as Libya, Egypt, and Algeria have an inflationrate of below ten percent. Similarly, Tunisia and Morocco have alsoretained their low-inflation environment. In Africa, there is lowincome per capita compared to other developed countries. Africancountries have a high rate of population growth and low level ofnational income. This results in low investment and low saving.

Withouta doubt, Africa is rich, and it has many resources. However, sinceAfrica technologically behind, these resources are mis-utilized,underutilized, or unutilized. Further, due to backward state oftechnology, Africa has low levels of labor, as well as itsefficiency. Since several African countries, use old means ofproduction, productive quantity, and quality is substandard.

Dayby day, Africa countries are increasing their debts. To operate andmanage major projects, most African governments have to take loansboth from the international and national sources. Accordingly, whileapplying for foreign loans, they have to follow the terms and thecondition of foreign countries, which, at sometimes they might beharsh. Since the 1970s, there has been an exponential growth ofexternal debts of many developing countries in Africa. Sadly, mostcountries face difficulties making payments to service these debts.They are forced to “reschedule the debts” until future dates, andobservers feel the “future date” is not anytime soon. This highforeign debt rose to a bigger extent in 1973 when Organization of thePetroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) quadrupled the world oil price.Unfortunately, most developing nations depended on imported oilhence, their trade balance shifted to the deficit side. In themeantime, countries that produced oil developed massive tradesurpluses (Van Donge 20). It is at this time that OPEC countriesstarted to give loans to developing countries. They invested thefunds in investment projects and made some significant adjustment totheir economy. Regrettably, some of the funds were unwisely usedwhere most government official used it to live lavish lives. In 1979,the energy price was doubled forcing oil-importing countries to takemore loans. In 1981, a severe world recession reduced export demandsfor developing countries. The interest rate on real estate alsoincreased that correspondingly led to high debt-service payment.According to the World Bank, the highly indebted poor countries withhigh external debts include Angola, Cameroon, Congo, Ghana, Tanzania,Kenya, Sudan, and Cote d`Ivoire (Kyambalesa78).Unfortunately, many developing countries cannot afford to make suchhigh payments.

Stiffcompetition from developed countries is a big challenge to Africadevelopment. Most African countries are developing countries, butthey have no choice but compete with the developed countries.Unfortunately, this is very difficult because if one can compare acompany in Africa, and another in the United States, the twocompanies are very difficult. Competition force African countries tomanufacture low value-added products because they can only affordcheap labor. In the end, they economically rag behind. Furthermore,most African countries do not have the appropriate industrialinfrastructures. Therefore, they cannot develop a workforce thatsupports the modern economy.


Mostgovernment officials in Africa are often corrupt. They areself-centered who want only to enrich themselves and a few of theirelite family members rather than the whole population. In addition,they are very unpredictable hence, they often scare away foreigninvestors. Also, they increase tax evasion, tax burdens on the poor,as well as distort government policies and reshape them for privategain. International Political Economy (IPE) scholars urge thatcorruption has played a significant role in damaging the developingcountries’ economic and social landscape (Ajayiet. al. 300).

Stabilityis the key to development. A nation cannot enjoy stability, as wellas enjoy the support of social consensus without a stable democraticregime. Integrity and democracy contribute to development. For morethan three decades after independence, most African nations have notyet secured stable political systems. Researchers argue thatpolitical stability greatly affects development in a society.


Ajayi(301) states that no development can occur with corruption. Further,Ajayi urges that it is impossible to make development plans in anenvironment with rampant levels financial and administrativecorruption. In Africa, corruption is serious cancer that negativelyaffects development. It brings much misery to ordinary Africans whileat the same it creates an opportunity for non-African to exploitAfrica. Maathai (n.p) compares African leaders with slave barons whofacilitates and sells off their fellows to a distant land tosubjugate into slavery. For instance, in Lagos, Nigeria, corruptionfacilitates grabbing of open spaces that are set aside for communitycenters, church, temples, and sports arenas by executive people whothrive on corruption. As a result, the local people are segregatedand left without public facilities just because they are poor, notbearing in mind that they are also native citizens. Furthermore,favoritism and nepotism is also high. For instance, preferences aregiven to relative and friends, not according to ability.

Africanhas a bad style of political guidance, and it lacks leadershipenlightenment. Five decades ago, the African leaders were unable toprotect their people from exploitation, and it was excusable. Fiftyyears later, Africa is still suffering from egotistic leaders who areself-centered. After independence, the colonial administrationtrained the new African leaders who took over the power. With the newpower and prestige, these leaders continued to exploit African. Sincethen, Africa leadership has been characterized by personaladvancement, opportunism, and self-gains at the expense of Africancitizens. Normally, African leaders want to work with their northerncounterparts in the developed nations while abandoning their peopleso that they can enjoy the economic and political power and otherprivileges that accompany them. African leaders argue that democracycan work in Africa whereas, at the same time, they do not give theircitizens basic freedoms. Like all human beings, African also wants toenjoy their rights and freedom. They want accountability,responsibility, transparency, equity, human dignity, respect, andjustice. They want to live a decent life and have access to basicneeds such as food, housing, and clothing through hard work andhonesty. They want leadership that can create an environment thatfacilitates innovativeness, creativity, self-confidence, andpersistence (Lawal238).Millions of Africans desire such type of democracy. Unfortunately,this is not usually the case. African leaders are misusing theirauthorities and power for self-gain.


Africais at an imperative turning point. Conventionally speaking, mostAfrican countries such as Tanzania, Burundi, Sudan, Ghana, Congo,Cameroon, Angola, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, are among the poor anddeveloping countries. These countries have for a long time unable toovercome political, economic, social, cultural, political, andadministrative impediments to attaining a better life for theirpeople. These problems are because of poverty, lack of advancedtechnology, corruption, illiteracy, foreign debts, politicalinstability, poor governance, and inflation. To eliminate theseproblems, Africa needs to modify current policies. It can adoptpolicies from developed countries such as the United States and Japanand use them to raise income, improve educational access, lowerinfant mortality, and increase life expectancy. If Africa continuesto modify its current international policies, it will eventually besimilar to develop countries and its residents will have a betterlife.


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