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Africas Slow Growth And Development Politics Essay

Info: 5420 words (22 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in Politics

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This paper examines the causes of slow growth and development of Africa with emphasis on some selected countries. The paper argued on the basis of Madison’s (1995:65) estimates of per capital Gross Domestic Profit (GDP) for a sample of countries that, during the first half of the century, Africa had grown considerably more rapidly than Asia. By 1950, the African sample had overtaken the Asian sample. In the 1960s, Africa’s future looked bright, especially that the continent was gradually disengaging from the bondage of colonial imperialism. But today, Africa is the poorest continent in the world. While there has been a steady growth in countries of Asia, such as Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan, African states have lagged behind. Why is African development growing slowly? What went wrong in Africa? How can these problems be solved? This paper attempts to provide answers to some of the fundamental issues that have bedeviled the continent in the 21st century. In order to assess the level of growth and development in the continent, the concepts of ‘growth and development’ is critically examined within the confines of Africa in the paper. The paper attributed the slow growth and development of Africa to ‘Internal influences and external dimensions’. At the same time, the paper provides some plausible suggestions that would serve as a panacea to the problems militating against the growth and development of Africa.

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From what direction should one view the slow growth and development of Africa: is it from the perspective of bad leadership couple with wide spread corruption? Or is it that of policy failure, or geographic and demographic factors? Africa as well as the rest of the world is battling with this provocative question: Why does Africa continue to lag behind the rest of the world in terms of social and economic development? Mathew Paris writing in Times August (2002), believes the answer to the continent’s development problem lies in four simple words: ”swagger, Indolence, self indulgence and hot air ”he points out ”failure of leadership, the individual means that what is created or started is not maintained.

Further more, it has also been argued that after 1960, particularly when majority of the countries in the continent gained political freedom, the potential of governments were not responsive to the people’s needs, aspirations and wishes, Mathew Parris (2002). The dream were shattered due to bad leadership, corruption, wars, poverty and eventually, economic underdevelopment. Could this entire unfortunate phenomenon be considered as factors militating against the growth and development of Africa?

In terms of structure and for the purpose of understanding and clarity of the main thrust of this article, we have divided the paper into four parts. The first part focuses on the interpretation and application of the terms ‘growth and development’ as concepts of analysis. It is necessary to understand that the two concepts were used based on what the paper takes them to be. Perhaps the greatest weakness in the literature of social sciences is striking lack of precision with which terms are used and under the conditions they are studied. However, a clear distinction between growth and development is explained in this part. The second part discusses African perspective. The rich complex of minerals, ecological hung provided by the continent, the continent’s archeological sites and the richness of African culture and its contribution to global community is captured in the first part. The third part investigates the causes of the slow growth and development in Africa. On this part different explanations were presented to justify the strength of points on the topic under review. However, few examples of some selected countries were cited. The fourth part poses a fundamental question: whether or not Africa will ever grow and develop? Perhaps, this is the greatest challenge to African leaders in the 21st century whose time has come. While the final section concentrates on the concluding remarks. This part provides some plausible suggestions that would change the predicaments in Africa, at least if not all, some parts of it.

Nature of the problems

The article is an attempt to investigate the causes of slow growth of development in Africa within the confines of internal influences and external dimensions. In the new millennium, the history of Africa has not been impressive. The continent has suffered a number of misfortunes. Poverty, illiteracy, diseases, civil wars, corruption, political instability and economic underdevelopment have become the most challenging trends in Africa. A number of measures have been adopted to solve these problems but to no avail. This simple fact has been recognized by African leaders which predicated the emergence of NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) in 2001, as a panacea to African underdevelopment. While Asia and other continents of the world have witnessed tremendous boost and development, there have cries against the slow growth and underdevelopment of Africa. What went wrong in Africa? Why have African countries lagged behind? This article is therefore an attempt to examine and explore answers to the factors militating against the growth and development of Africa with a view to proffer solutions.

Major thrust of the article

to examine the causes of slow growth and development in Africa in some selected countries

to compare the level of development between selected countries in Africa and Asia

to analyze the major challenges of African growth and development, and

to offer some economic, political and structural suggestions that will in any way help to move Africa forward.

Theoretical Discourse

In the study of any international phenomenon, there exist various levels of analysis upon which a study can focus. These levels include the international state systems, international organizations, regional and sub-regional organizations as well as domestic groups. Because the focus of this article is to investigate the level of development in few countries in Africa with other Asian countries, the level of analysis is that of international perspective. For this reason, Development Theory as well as the conceptual meaning of term ‘growth’ would serve as a useful theoretical framework. Both development and growth provides a broad and unified platform to understand issues relating to African growth and development.

In analyzing economies of nations, growth and development are often used. Generally speaking about development always refers to the problems of underdeveloped countries while growth is associated to those of developed countries.

By conceptual definition, growth simply means increase in per capita income or increase in Gross National Product (GNP). In recent literature, the term growth refers to sustained increase in a country’s output of goods and services. Output is generally measured in terms of GNP. The concept of development is wide. It brings about progressive changes in the socio-economic structure of any country. Development here means a steady decline in agricultural shares in GNP and continuous increase in shares in the capacity utilization of industries, trade, banking construction and services. Whereas growth merely refers to rise in output; development implies change in technological and institutional organization of production as well as in distributive pattern of income. The process of development is capital extensive. Beside the rise in output, it also involves changes in composition of output, progressive move in the allocation of productive resources, and all these are aim to reduce poverty, inequalities and unemployment. All in all is about social change.

From the perspective of this article, development is concerned about the condition of the people in either in a developed economy or developing economy. The well-being and the adaptation of the individuals to live well and happy determine development in this sense. According to Amartya Sen., in “Development as Freedom,” what is the relationship between our wealth and our ability to live as we would like?” Peace, social justice, happiness and good health are bases for development.

If the above explanations are correct and anything to go by, the situation in Africa is rather pathetic and far from being developed or developing, given the poverty, unemployment and economic underdevelopment index in the continent. The theoretical discourse built on development theory would further explain the situation in Africa. Development theory is a multiple of theories about how desirable change in society is best to be achieved. Such theories borrow on a variety of social scientific disciplines and approaches. Sustainable development and dependency theories would serve as an analytical mirror through which a proper understanding of the slow growth and development of Africa could be examined. These theories are based on the assumption that certain functions are required before development can be achieved. Through a proper usage of this approach, the root causes of African slow growth and development within the confines of internal influences and external dimensions could be critically understood and plausible suggestions could be proffered


African countries in the global community are defined by the belief that the continent is an indispensable resources base, which has served all humanity for many centuries, (Olasode, 1994:13). He argued that, “these resources can be broken down into the following sub-marginal headings, such as:

The rich complex of minerals oil and gas deposits, it provide the flora and fauna, and it unexploited natural habitat which provide the basis for mining, agriculture, tourism and industrial development.

The ecological hung provided by the continent rain forests, and the minimal presence of emissions and effluents that are harmful to the environments. These, which are beneficial to all mankind.

The pole ontological and the archeological sites containing evidences of the evolution of the earth, life and the human species, and

The benevolence of Africa’s culture and its contribution to the variety of the cultures of the global community.” (Olasode, 1994:13).

The first of component, that is, the rich complex of minerals oil and gas deposits, which the world is most familiar. The second component is a new development, as humanity came to understand the critical importance of environmental matters. The third component is also coming into its own, as a matter of concern not only to a narrow field of science or of interest only to museums and their curators. The fourth component shows the creativity of African people, which in many important ways remains underexploited. Africa plays an important role with regard to the critical issue of protecting the environment, (Olasode, 1994:13). African natural resources include rainforests, the virtually carbon dioxide free atmosphere above the continent and the minimal presence of toxic deposits in the rivers and soils that interact with the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean and Red Seas.

Efretuei, (2006:1), observed that the African continent has witnessed many tragic historical peculiarities starting from the advent of colonialism up to the present day. From the attainment of independence in the early 1960s, most African nations inherited colonial political and socioeconomic institutional legacies through which national development processes were pursued. In the post- colonial period, these institutions have been used by the emergent African elites not only to subvert development efforts, but also had become deeply subservient to the external economic shocks, dependent and vulnerable to foreign interferences. Essentially they served the political needs of both colonial powers and the emergent African elites. As a consequence debate and schisms began to develop on what African development perspective should be and imply, as the problems of capacity both human and financial erupted. The continent increasingly faced debilitating and severe economic depression, perpetual political crises, social fragmentation and patchy policy environment in almost all the facets of life.


The greatest constraints to Africa’s growth and development can be attributed to internal influences and external dimensions. The debate on the causes of slow African growth has offered many different explanations, Sachs and Warner, (1997:70). Perhaps, the greatest weakness in these explanations is the striking lack of precision with which the reasons for the slow growth of African development were expressed. To anyone who knows the history of Africa, the question has always been: why has the continent grown and developed slowly? What went wrong in Africa? Will the continent grow and develop? The answer to the above questions can be best understood from multidimensional explanations, as presented below:

Problems of Economic Policy

Until recently it has been largely accepted that the main causes of Africa’s slow growth were paternal. During the 1980’s the World Bank, the international monetary fund and the bilateral donors came to identify exchange rate and trade policies as the primary causes of slow growth in Africa. On these bases, Haykin (1997:6) argued that economic strategies and suffering in sub-Saharan Africa is overwhelmingly due to economic policies. These policies have led to government ownership of a number of economic institutions, private initiative to produce and create wealth in too many cause have been denied by government intervention programmes.

The US Agency for international Development (AID) pronounces four propound effects slowed economic policies in Africa as; first, they discovered production, reduced new private savings and investment and channeled whatever investment that did take place into areas which were relatively unproductive. Second, they shifted income from low income group (mostly farmers) to upper income group (politicians, government employees and other workers in the formal industry and service centers). Thirdly, they led to stagnation in employment. Fourthly, these policies led to endangered corruption and moral decay. Other factors attributed to the slow growth and development in Africa include insufficient foreign aids, excessive population, colonial exploitation, excessive debts, natural calamity like drought, famine, diseases such as AIDS/HIV, and political instability, Haykin (1997:6). Sachs and his co-authors (2005) have attributed slow growth of Africa to “the curse of the tropics”. Africa’s adverse climate cause poor health and so reduced life expectancy below than in other regions which put Africa at disadvantage in development. The adverse climate also leads to leached soil and unreliable rainfall, which constrains Africa’s agriculture.

Weak economic growth helps to explain a lower serving rate and higher proportion of flight capital to Asia compared to the less developed nation of Asia and Africa. Richer countries tend to see their population growth rate drop off, so the poverty of Africa has helped to keep it birth rates high, even as compared to the world’s other less developed countries. It will be right to say that poverty in Africa has increased the incidence of numerous civil wars in the continent. Similarly, it is pertinent to note that policy/destiny and domestic/external distinctions affect the growth and development of Africa. However, during the mid-1990s, African performance began to improve, with a few countries growing rapidly. The following explanations would give us an insight whether this improvement is likely to be transient or persistent. Here, there are four types of explanations, namely:

Domestic -Destiny

Domestic – Policy

External -Destiny and

External -Policy.

The chart below illustrates the African Economic Growth and Development Policy which are the determinants of economic policy in the continent.

African Economic Growth and Development Policy

Ethnic Fractionalization

Trade Volatility

Quantitative Restriction


Economic Policy

Domestic Policy

Domestic Destiny

External policy

Political Right


External Destiny

Life Expectancy



Market Exchange Rate

Domestic- Destiny

Africa has a number of demographic and geographic features which may impede its development. The continent is tropical, hostile conditions for both livestock and agriculture. Life expectancy has been low and with the emergence of health measures, population growth became very high. Whether or not Africa’s past demographic features have contributed to its slow growth, some countries seem to go through disastrous transition. In the early parts of 1980s AIDS spread rapidly across African population before the risk became known, with up to 20-25 % of adults now HIV- positive in some countries. (World Bank, 1997). This human tragedy will undoubtedly have substantial economic effect on the continent especially that the spread is going higher.


For much of the post-colonial era, a number of African governments have remained undemocratic. Between 1970s and 1980s, most governments in Africa were close to autocracy, and far less democratic than the non-African developing countries as shown in Table 1. The pattern of the democratic governance in Africa was dominated by the educated elites, urban-resident population, with little agricultural or commercial interest. Some sees leadership positions as their birth right and remain in power even against democratic principles. Except such autocratic leaders are killed or forced out of power, they would ever remain. Prolong stay in power without any meaningful mission and vision has impacted the development and growth of the continent. For example, they expanded the public sector while imposing wide-ranging controls on private activity. These policies have negative economic consequences on the continent.

Public employment was expanded, often as an end in itself. Since the sector was the main priority of the political officials, the managers were not under serious checks for actual service delivery. Because of the lack of democracy, the political leaders wee not accountable, answerable and responsible to the broader public interest. As a result, Africa experienced poor public services delivery despite relatively high public expenditure (Pradhan, 1996). Poor service delivery handicapped firms through unreliable transport and power, inadequate telecommunications, and unreliable courts. Countries such as Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya are good examples to be cited of poor services delivery in Africa.


The location of Africa in the world map is better than Asia for most developed economy markets. But the greatest dismay about the its location is that most Africans live further from the coast than in other regions and faces the problem of higher transport cost to move goods and services from one place to another. This development has been shown in Table 1. Much of the population of Africans lives in the land-locked areas, so much that the problems of distance are compounded by political barriers. It is an established fact that land-locked countries face national borders on all sides, this may constitute barrier to trade even if they have good relations with their neighbors. Trade relations among and between African states appears to be restrictive resulting into substantial impediments.


African governments formulate and adopt trade policies that were not in best interest of economic development. The policies which were anti-export and resulted into accumulated of large foreign debts. Available records show that Africa has had much higher trade barriers and more misaligned exchange rates than other regions (Dollar, 1992). The exchange rates, tariffs and taxes were much higher in Africa than in other regions of the world. Exports were reduced as a result of taxation. For example, Dercon (1993) shows that Tanzanian cotton exports would have been 50% higher in the absence of taxation. Tariffs and trade restrictions has also been higher in Africa than elsewhere, which affects its economic development in a way. The crisis can be attributed to the deteriorating and unfavourable terms of trade. The terms of trade have been more volatile for Africans than other less developed countries.

African countries seem to be less developed compare to Asia. China, Japan and Koreas are developed economically and technologically. Even the Third World Countries- such as the famed “Asian Tigers” have transformed from very poor and underdeveloped countries to the rank of developed countries. Yaqub, (2008) argued that it is not just by stealing and/or copying technological skills that these countries successfully transformed themselves; they also embarked on internal measures, such as land distribution, huge investment in human capital and a host of others. Externally, too, they were aided in their development by the access they had to the global capitalist market, both for the sale of their commodities, the purchase of necessary inputs into their production activities and, most importantly, the attraction of foreign capital in-flows.

The table below illustrates Africa compared with other less developed countries (LDCs): (figures are unweighted country averages)

Sub-Saharan Africa

Other LDCs

Domestic- destiny

Life expectancy in 1970(Year)



Income in 1960 (1985 $PPP- adjusted)



Ethnic Fractionalization



Domestic- policy

Political right






External -Destiny

Population<100km from sea or river (%)



Terms of trade volatility



External- policy

Parallel market exchange rate premium



Average tariffs 1996-98(%)



Quantitative Restriction, 1988-90(%)



Sources: Life expectancy, World Development Indicators 1998.


Poverty in Africa has become one the major problem hampering the growth and development of the continent. In fact, poverty has become a serious issue in Africa. African states fall towards the bottom of any list measuring small size economic activity, such as income per capita or GDP per capita, despite a wealth of natural resources. In 2009, 22 of 24 nations identified as having “Low Human Development” on the United Nations’ (UN) Human Development Index were located in Sub-Saharan Africa, UNDP (2009). In 2006, 34 of the 50 nations on the UN list of least developed countries are in Africa, UN (2006). Most countries in Africa, the GDP per capita are less than $200 U.S. per year, with the vast majority of the population living on much less. In addition, Africa’s share of income has been consistently dropping over the past century by any measure. For example, the average European worker in 1820s earned about three times what the average African did. Now, the average European earns twenty times what the average African do, Sarch, (1998). Even though, GDP per capita incomes in Africa have been steadily growing, measures are still far better in other parts of the world, such as Latin America, which suffers from many of the same disadvantages. Hope, (2006), opined that, where poverty is persistent, it leads to backwardness. That then affects the capacity of governments to raise domestic resources for policy implementation that can lead to sustained growth and development.

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It is a known fact, that a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. Among all regions in the world, Africa seems to have the highest rates and the largest number of people dying from AIDS despite all the efforts and engagement of some African leaders to stop the spread of the disease. This has greatly deterred the growth and development of the continent. HIV/AIDS is a major public health concern and cause of death in Africa. Although Africa is inhabited by just over 14.7% of the world’s population, it is estimated to have more than 67% of people living with HIV and 75% of all AIDS deaths in 2007. The table below expressed the world statistics of HIV/AIDS.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has predicted outcomes for the region to the year 2025. That continual growth in the death rate will hit 90 million new cases of infection by 2012.

Without the kind of nutrition, health care and medicines (such as antiretrovirals) that are available in developed countries, large numbers of people in Africa will develop full-blown AIDS. This will not only affect the workforce, but the victims also require significant medical care. This will undoubtedly cause a setback to economies and societies. Hope, (2006), is of the view that, the disease is killing skilled and highly trained individuals at a faster rate than they are replaced. Sickness and death due to AIDS leads to productivity losses and reduced production. HIV/AIDS destroys human capital built up over the years and weakens the capacity of workers to produce goods and services for the economy.

Regional analysis AIDS in Africa

In this article, East and central Africa consists of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Congo Republic, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, the Central African Republic, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia and Eritrea on the Horn of Africa. In 1982, Uganda was the first state in the region to declare HIV cases. This was followed by Kenya in 1984 and Tanzania in 198.

A 2005 survey by the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia showed that Adult

(ages 15-49) prevalence was only 1.4%, with prevalence among women at 1.9%

and among men at 0.9%.

In Uganda and Malawi, the figure of HIV/AIDS victims is shocking. For example, nearly one-third of all teachers are HIV positive. By the end of 2006, it is estimated that 45 000 trained teachers will be needed to make up for those lost to AIDS in Tanzania. In the Central African Republic, 85 per cent of deaths among teachers are due to AIDS, while in Côte d’Ivoire it is 70 per cent. In Namibia, the teacher shortfall is projected to rise from 1000 in 2001 to more than 7000 by 2010 due to HIV/AIDS (ibid; UNAIDS 2005b).

West Africa

For the purposes of this discussion, Western Africa shall include the coastal countries of Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria and the landlocked states of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Cameroon

With the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Africa, there are also future capacity implications. For example, household incomes will decline, sickness or death will be high; children will be forced to leave school for lack of funds and break down of family institutions. In Zimbabwe, a survey found that 31 per cent of households had a child not attending school following the death of the child’s mother from AIDS (ibid).

Less Democracy and more Bureaucratic

Must African government in the post colonial period, were not democratic. The median African governments during the 1970’s to 1980’s were close to autocracy. African states witnessed several military coups de tats. As the struggle for political leadership become more contentions and in several cases, more violent. African states were far less democratic than the median non-African developing country (as measured by the Gastil scale of political right shown in table 1). A typical pattern was that governments were captured by the educational elites, urban resident population, with few or no agricultural interest. African governments have typically been less democratic than their Asian and Latin American counterparts. The Linconian concept of democracy built on the principles of representation and active participation has been underscored in process of democratic governance in Africa. Indeed, democracy is all about people, their collective will, interests and aspiration. Modern democracy thrives on the principle of popular participation through representation (Agbaje, 1999). Democracy presupposes popular sovereignty of the people. It is a pattern of governance whereby the collective interest of the people is of ultimate essence. Rousseau (1712-1778) in his social contract theory refers to this as civic covenant, whereby the people as a collectivity surrendered their rights to “general will”. To him, the actions of government must of necessity, be in accordance with “general Will” or what is the same thing, the ‘public interest’ (Enemilo, 1999: 73-74). In effect, the underlying purpose and justification of governance is service delivery, guarantee of rule of law, protection of the right of the citizens and provision of greater happiness among the greater number of the people. This is not the case in most African countries.

Bad Governance/Administration

The success any stability of any government depend on the kind of leadership they cultivate. One of the cardinal principles of NEPAD is to improve governance. Good political, economic and corporate governance systems are “necessary foundations to create, stabilise, nurture and utilise capacity for development” (Janneh 2005:3). Bad governance or poor administration hampers the capacity of already bartered economic system. Under such circumstances, capacity backwardness will remain in place and sustainable development will remain a mirage. Weak and bad governance in Africa is characterised, by a combination of many factors, such as poor institutional performance, inadequate parliamentary, lack of the independence of the judiciary system, corrupt police force and press, political instability, abuse and misuse of political offices, insufficient budgetary accountability, lack of respect for the rule of law and human rights, and bureaucratic bottleneck and above all corruption, which has become a thorn in the flesh of most African leaders. Corruption whether is rare, widespread, or systemic, it affects capacity by hindering individuals and institutions from meeting their desirable obligations to deliver goods and services for sustainable and efficient development.

Political violence and political instability

African countries are known for political violence and political instability all in the quest for power. The attitude of African politicians is undemocratic. During the onset of multi-party democracy in the so called third wave of democratisation, (Huntington, 1991), most regimes in Africa did not fully embrace the changes that accompanied the transition. Many autocratic regimes, for instance accepted democracy out of western pressure and agitation for change by local civil society groups. As a consequence, the constitutional frameworks and state institutions have been altered, in order to create an uneven play field against the opposition. All these have resulted into violence during electioneering periods, leading to political instability. The reluctance of some incumbent regimes to live power in Africa has been due to the fear of being held accountable and responsible for misdeeds. In this context, a combination of external and internal factors namely; “the impact of global economy driven by the logic of the market, sectari


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