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Poverty can be defined as the inability to meet one’s basic needs such as food, shelter and education due to lack of money. The western countries are blamed for their contribution towards the extreme levels of poverty. It is an irony to find out that the developed nations get their resources from Africa and yet Africans continue to sink in poverty. This paper will focus on the poverty affecting Africa and how the western countries have contributed to it.
Shah (2010) reckons that when foreigners colonized Africa, they aimed at safeguarding their own interests. Their invasion was not genuine because if they were considerate they would have assisted African states to set up industries, just like they had done in their own countries, but then they knew if they did this they would experience a shortage in raw materials for their industries.
Even after all African states had become independent, the western states continued to exercise control over them. It is important to note that western countries still employ their tactics of divide and rule just to ensure that their interests are safeguarded. For instance, it is believed that the recent uprising in Libya was fueled by western countries because they wanted to bring a political leader who recognizes their interests.
Why African States are Poor
Western states do not want Africa to be self-sufficient because they want African states to depend on them, and that is why they do not want them to develop. According to Osborne (2006), Western nations use their financial grants to Africa to cover for their evil intentions.
Most of the conflicts in Africa are fueled by western nations; the Western nations give monetary handouts to African states arguing that the money is meant for development projects. However, most of the said projects never take off because the money is diverted to other irrelevant uses such as buying ammunition from the same Western nations.
In essence, if all African nations were to cease from fighting and concentrate on developing themselves their economies would be much greater than those of Western nations. This is because most African countries are rich in minerals such as gold, diamond, and oil, which can be used to generate adequate revenue.
Kirpalani (2011) states that if this idea was put into practice, Western nations would suffer a major blow because they would not have a place to sell their ammunition because African states would not depend on their funding.
Consequently, when the so called development projects commence, Western nations take advantage of the situation by ensuring that the equipments that are used, such as the trucks and experts come from their mother countries. For instance, China is seen as a great threat to European dominance over Africa. This is because they manufacture cheap products which are affordable to most Africans as opposed to goods imported from countries like Britain.
In a country like Zimbabwe, Western countries have a question to answer with regard to the collapse of her economy. Broch-Due and Schroeder (2000) point out that this is because Western nations imposed sanctions that hinder such a country from participating in international trade.
Similarly, Western nations rely on Africa for raw materials like coffee and other agricultural products. When they are buying these commodities they are the ones that dictate the buying price, which is very unfair because one expects the seller to command the price at which he/she wishes to sell. Since Western nations are the sole buyers, the African states have no alternative, but to give in to their demands because if they declined the products would lose value.
As a result, the farmers in African states are paid low rates, which discourage them from planting cash crops. Iwuji (2010) states that if African countries were left to dictate the prices of their merchandise, the returns earned from international trade would be enough to help in upgrading the lifestyles in African people. The money would be enough to build more schools and hospitals besides upgrading the infrastructure.
Furthermore, African states require skilled labor for them to be able to free themselves from poverty and indeed, there are so many people in Africa who are learned. Nations like the US have been accused of poaching intellectuals from African countries and offering them lucrative jobs in their countries.
These people are the ones who are in a better position to accelerate the development of Africa because they have the skills that are required to take African states to another level. Keita (2011) argues that this causes African states to encounter a shortage in skilled labor and in most cases they have to import experts from Western nations. The imported personnel demand for hefty salaries and thus, not many entrepreneurs can afford to pay them.
Dominance through International Organizations
Western nations use international organizations such as International Monetary Fund (IMF) to sabotage the efforts of African states. IMF has very tough rules that favor Western nations while they are a liability to African states. They make it easy for foreigners to invest directly in African countries because they are allowed to operate while paying subsidized rates as taxation (Shah, 2008).
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This in itself kills the local industries, but then the governments do not have a say because those are some of the conditions that come with the cash handouts. This means that the hands of African governments are tied because if they do not adhere to the requirements, the handouts are terminated.
When African states receive the monetary handouts they are under obligation to export most of their products to the Western states to clear their debts. Rotberg (2008) explains that the African states are made to enter into trade agreements when they are least prepared.
This suggests that the returns that they earn from international trade are used to settle their national debts and thus, are left with little money to cater for other important needs. Sometimes, they are made to induce the decline of the value of their currencies so that even when they exchange currencies the profits are not much as expected. This decline in the value of currencies causes the worth of labor to go down. Consequently, organizations like IMF order African governments to cut down their expenses so that they can pay their debts, but this reduction in spending causes more problems.
In addition, the health care and education systems are not adequately funded and thus, there are not enough medical facilities, and there are fewer schools. Poor healthcare causes the rate of patient and child mortality to increase. Similarly, the governments cannot hire enough educators; leave alone build more schools because the revenues that are earned by the governments are used to settle their national debts.
The above scenario is unfair because nations like the U.S have bigger national debts than African states and thus, they should be lenient with Africa instead of acting authoritatively. The devastation of African nations by Western nations is well engineered because when they give them monetary aid they lure them to venture into commercial agriculture because they know that when all African nations venture into a common industry they flood the market; this causes the price of their merchandise to go down.
For instance, if there are more than 20 African states trading in agricultural products, traders from Western states would not have an upper hand while negotiating for the prices because the sole buyer will purchase from the seller who offers competitive prices.
Urging African states to increase their exports and imports means that even if they set up their own industries they would not be operational for long because they would run out of raw materials because most of them are exported to offset the debts (Szczepanski, 2008).
In this regard, cutting back on expenses is like an insult because African states are not allowed to process the materials into finished goods that would help in slashing the cost of finished products because local industries would spend less to manufacture the commodities.
On the contrary, African states buy the finished commodities at very expensive prices while the materials that are used to make them are obtained from their soil. Furthermore, Western companies are not regulated by the authorities and thus, they offer very little pay to their employees and they do not provide safe working environments. Thus, they put the lives of Africans who work for them at risk of being injured and sometimes others die while discharging their duties.
It is certain that from colonial days till now, Western nations are against the unity of African states and this is evidenced by the way they split African states. For instance, the infrastructure was designed in such a way that African states could not do business amongst themselves because the transport system were linked to international exit points like the sea. If the transport system was made in a way that it could interconnect the states, it would be easier for them to conduct cross border trade (Higgs and Smith, 2006).
Poor Land Policies
Western nations divided Africans along their tribal lines and this division is still existent because it determines how land is owned. Chant (2007) points out that there are huge tracts of lands in Africa, but they lay idle because they are owned by very influential people in the society.
This has led to the emergence of settlement crisis because the populations are increasing every single day. Majority of lands are owned by the siblings of white settlers and they rely on the availability of cheap labor provided by the Africans. This is leading double standards because the powerful nations have strict policies with regard to land ownership, which means foreigners can own land permanently in their countries.
The few Africans who own land can never make good use of such lands because they do not have ownership documents. This has led to the emergence of land grabbers and fraudsters who forge ownership documents. This has made it difficult for African land owners to access to loans and mortgages, which would really help them in improving their lifestyles.
Additionally, the harvests that are obtained from the few farms are shipped overseas as exports and this takes place without limit and thus, African states struggle to meet international demand for their agricultural produce, and then run out of food reserves; that is why African states are still suffering from food insecurity.
When this happens, the same powerful nations come out in large numbers to provide food relieves to the affected states when they know very well that they are the ones who caused the shortage.
Usually, it is said that the wars in African nations are fueled by Western nations because they back the opponent that has the potential to protect their interests. If they were neutral when handling such conflicts they would help the warring parties to solve their disputes.
The continued fighting causes many people to flee from their homes and become refugees in other nations. Furthermore, this causes humanitarian crisis because people live without food and shelter and thus, they often get sick, causing the medical facilities to be overcrowded.
Likewise, the reduction in government spending has caused illiteracy to remain stagnant. It is said that knowledge is power and since Africans have less of this essential principle, they suffer from malnutrition because they do not know the foods that are healthy for them.
In addition, people suffer from incurable illnesses such as AIDS because they are not aware about the pandemic. In fact, this has caused the infection rates to swell because governments do not have enough money to conduct awareness campaigns (Chant, 2007).
In essence, the Western nations have made sure that the African countries will continue to depend on them. However, they should consider the consequences that have befallen African states and change their attitude towards them.
The increase in poverty levels has led to the increase in social immorality in African states. Women and under age girls have been forced to engage in prostitution, just to earn their daily bread. The crime rates have also sky rocketed in countries like South Africa. Furthermore, the urban centers in African states have become overpopulated and have led to the emergence of non-formal settlements.
Poverty is a major social and economic problem in Africa, which is mainly influenced by Western states. Western states should cease from controlling African states because this will give the developing nations an opportunity to discover themselves.
This is because their continued interference with African matters has made African countries to loose their pride in making decisions on matters that affect them. Similarly, international organizations like IMF should be non partisan and thus, should not be manipulated by developed nations.
In addition, African nations should be allowed to protect their own industries and the relationship between African states and Western nations should be based on equality. Moreover, the developed nations should not involve themselves in political processes of Africa so that the leaders who are elected can be up to their tasks. Therefore, if western nations are to continue giving financial assistance to African nations, they should first abolish the abusive policies to create an equal opportunity for all nations to benefit.
Broch-Due,V. and Schroeder,R, 2000. Producing Nature and Poverty in Africa. Stockholm: Elanders Gotab.
Chant, H. S., 2007. Gender, Generation and Poverty, Northampton, Massachusetts: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Higgs, P. and Smith, J., 2006. Rethinking Our World. Cape Town: Juta and Company.
Iwuji, C. P., 2010. Beyond Africa’s Democratic Experiments. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.
Keita, L., 2011. Philosophy and African Development: Theory and Practice. Dakar: CODESRIA.
Kirpalani, K., 2011. The White Man’s Burden. Web.
Osborne, A., 2006. Africa and the Western Influence. Web.
Rotberg, I. R., 2008. China into Africa: Trade, Aid and Influence. Baltimore, MD: Brookings Institution Press.
Shah, A., 2010. Structural Adjustment – A Major Cause of Poverty. Web.
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