- Many observers have wondered why there is so much poverty in Africa. In this piece, our correspondent links the rate of poverty in Africa to conflicts that have continued to plague the continent
It cannot be overemphasised that African conflicts are remarkably unexceptional; they have complex histories; they exhibit multiple and multidimensional causes, courses and consequences. Most of these causes are deep-rooted in colonial legacies. By this I mean the complex structures left by the colonialists in parts of Africa.
For instance, animosity between the Hutus and Tutsis of Ruanda started in 1916 when Belgian colonists labelled the group as distinct entities, by introducing ID cards according to their ethnicity. Of course this manifested into the April 1994 Ruanda genocide. Nigeria also have similar situation which is presently resulting to militancy in the South-south Nigeria.
These whole structures have culminated into one basic and complex problem in Africa; and that is poverty (unemployment). Poverty is a big issue in Africa and has accounted for the rising degree of conflicts in Africa. This paper analyses the causal relationship between poverty and conflicts in Africa and suggest solutions to this grave problem.
In my opinion, there is no doubt that poverty accounts for the bulk of negative conflicts and crimes in most parts of Africa. It is no coincidence that you don’t see many middle class kids joining gangs, rebels or militants or terrorist group, rigging elections, selling drugs or robbing people.
The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than US$1.25 per day, and moderate poverty as less than $2 a day. It has been estimated that in 2008, 1.4 billion people had consumption levels below US$1.25 a day and 2.7 billion lived on less than $2 a day.
This situation basically applies to developing continents to which Africa is classed. In fact, 925 million people do not have enough to eat and 98 percent of them live in developing countries. Under-nutrition contributes to five million deaths of children under five each year in developing countries.
Apart from the massive deaths resulting from poverty in Africa, the very big one is hinged on the numbers of conflicts it creates. A very good number of past conflicts in Africa are hinged on political power and this is based on the African thinking that people in power get rich.
People want to control the resources of the country. The past wars in Congo, Darfur, Nigeria and Liberia have roots in power and resources. People want change of life, they want to live well with a good car, house etc. and they see the government as a way of achieving that and consequently they desperately get into some sort of conflicts.
Effects of poverty in Africa include death, child trafficking, drug trafficking, prostitution, armed robbery, insecurity and rigging of elections by hungry youths being used by politicians/election malpractice.
Others are rebellion, terrorism or militancy, lack of basic necessities of life, child labour, transmission of diseases e.g. H.I.V., corruption, assassination and conflicts. The truth is that, the bulks of the listed effects are conflict-related and culminate into armed conflicts at the slightest opportunity.
Causes of poverty in Africa include unemployment, bad leadership/poor governance, corruption, poverty is also resulting from Africa’s excessive reliance on foreign culture and products, poor economy and illiteracy.
The prevalent nature of armed conflict in Africa is greatly connected to its degree of poverty and African leaders have failed to scrutinize and address this problem properly. Of course those that are usually used by government or political forces to perpetuate violence in Africa are usually from very poor background.
The gains toward reducing absolute poverty over the past decade have been reversed. People living below the poverty line in sub-Saharan Africa rose to 52.5 percent in 2008 and these whole issues account for the rise in armed conflicts and insecurity in Africa.
From the above, it is clear that there is a relationship between armed conflicts and poverty in Africa. A very hungry man is vulnerable to invitation by a criminal group when if some kind of food or money is offered. In fact poverty has been blamed for fuelling terrorism by creating a state of misery and frustration that pushes people to join terrorist organizations.
The very first step in eliminating poverty and tactically reducing armed conflicts in Africa is good governance and leadership. This is key to addressing the problem of poverty in Africa. A government that will critically tackle the issue of unemployment, welfare, social infrastructures and corruption. These are key issues in resolving conflicts in African.
The truth is that most of the people been used by the influential untouchables to carry out criminal acts, are jobless or are into a job that cannot buy them daily meal. Europe is where they are today because of effective and efficient leadership. Of course, Europe has its own problems too, but when you walk in the streets of countries in Europe, you will have a feeling of perfection because they have good leadership. Good welfare packages must be provided.
African leaders must invest heavily in agriculture. Industries should be set up. This would provide jobs and also reduce our much reliance on European products. Education is also very important in solving the problems of armed conflicts and insecurity in Africa. Financial poverty is part of cultural poverty, for which education is the only antidote. If you cure cultural poverty with education, financial poverty will be cured too. Education enhances productivity and creativity. Most schools and Universities in Africa are in poor shapes. This accounts for a large number of Africans trouping into American and European universities.
Importantly too, government must make very serious efforts to enlighten people on family planning. This for me is key in addressing poverty in Africa. The various family units are very important to the state and in the positive transformation of Africa. How can a man who lives with less than 30 dollar per day have seven children, believing that one would grow up to be rich?
This belief is archaic and senseless. It is true that children are blessings from God, but it is also true that God never told us to bring children that we cannot cater for. This is a big issue in Africa. It is so because these children will become part of the larger society in the future and if they lacked the necessary education in life, they may likely become nuisance to the society at large.
The African Union must also reactivate its goals and concretise its relationship with regional economic bodies like ECOWAS, ECCAS, CEPGL, UDEAC, SADC and all other RECS. Regional Mechanisms are also important for efficiency.