foreign aid AfricaAlthough some writers and analysts go to the extent of listing them by bullet points, the problems facing Africa today go far beyond bullet points and they are quite interconnected. There is poverty in Africa today and there is hunger. There is rampant corruption all across the continent. Terrorism is taking over the continent and there is insecurity almost anywhere you turn today in Africa. Many children of school-going age are out of school while illiteracy and ignorance continue to bury our dear continent in darkness. Teenage pregnancy is on the rise in Africa today while the population continues to explode at an alarming rate. Dramatic climatic conditions are living many across the continent with nothing but fear and despair. High unemployment and crime rates all across the continent and our corrupt leaders are doing almost nothing about it. So yes, Africa is crippled by so many problems. However, as I mentioned above, these are not problems we can simply list by bullet points.The problems facing Africa today are quite interconnected and must be tackled in “whole” and not in parts.

Let’s begin with poverty. Anywhere “Africa” pops up, most of the times, the first thing that comes to people’s minds is “poverty” and despair. There is no doubt Africa is “poor” and I put the “poor” in quotes for a reason. Although it is so obvious, someone may still ask the million dollar question, “How is Africa poor?” Well, people are starving. Little babies are crying. Many children of school-going age are out of school all because of poverty. Child labor is on the rise. Drought and famine continue to destroy several lives and properties. Some mothers go to bed with tears all over their faces and some fathers are just sick and tired of living. Those who can run, will run but the sad thing is that, in the case of Africa, many are left with no limbs at all. Many continue to toil all day in the burning sun and in the pouring rain yet can barely afford to put food on the table. So yes Africa is poor and there is no doubt about it.

On the other hand however, a bigger question remains quite unanswered. Why is Africa poor? Well, to begin with, God did not disappoint Africa in any way. We have almost everything. We are blessed with abundance of natural resources. The world cannot run without resources from Africa and I mean it when I say that. In case you doubt it, take a closer look at your cell phone and other electronic devices because there is a huge chance they contain some minerals (especially cobalt) from the Congo and other African countries. There is also a huge chance the piece of diamond in your wedding ring came from Africa. You cannot possibly discuss the gold economy without mentioning Africa. Why? It is because Africa is where most of the gold in the world today comes from. Almost half of the gold ever mined on Earth has come from a single place – Witwatersrand, South Africa and that is a fact. Anytime you grab a cup of coffee in the morning, please don’t forget to thank Africa (especially Ethiopia) because there is a huge chance the coffee beans came from Ethiopia and some other African countries. I can go on and on. So yes, Africa is the engine on which the world runs. If Africa has all these resources and “power” then why is Africa branded “poor”? Our lands and water bodies are the most fertile so why do we continue to starve? Africa is the least polluted continent on earth so why all these diseases and sicknesses we face today in Africa? We face these and many more problems mainly because of illiteracy and Ignorance.

Illiteracy is what breeds war, conflicts and insecurity. Conflicts and insecurity on the other hand breed nothing but poverty and despair. It is very easy for terrorist organizations like Boko Haram (in northern Nigeria) and Al Shabaab (in East Africa) to recruit new members in Africa. Why? Because most of these new recruits are unemployed illiterates on the streets who find nothing better to do with their time. It would be very hard and almost impossible for these terrorist organizations to convince gainfully employed young graduates (who landed jobs straight from college) to pick up arms and some dirty shoes and march in the bushes terrorizing people for no good reasons at all. Besides fueling conflicts and insecurity, illiteracy also affects Africa in so many other areas. Take the issue of the poor illiteracy farmers for example. Most farmers in Africa today are subsistence farmers who grow crops and rear animals mainly to feed themselves and their families. However, because most of these farmers are illiterates, they miss out on information about new and proper farming techniques and ways to increase their yields, etc. So at the end of the day, food production is low and we all suffer. In other words, illiteracy directly and indirectly affects even food production in Africa and fuels poverty all across the continent.  

Most people in rich countries think that sending more aid to Africa will help alleviate and even end poverty. However, that is a huge mistake because the aid rich countries send to Africa almost always end up in wrong hands. Western (foreign) aid does more harm to Africa than people often think. It fuels corruption and in some situations, even pays to kill innocent people. There is this interesting article here on about how foreign aid destroys Africa and I will encourage you to read that.

Corruption is a major issue in almost every African country today. Anytime the issue of corruption comes up, people often think about our corrupt leaders only. Yes it is true our leaders are the most corrupt on planet earth. However, corruption in Africa runs deeper than that.  Almost everybody in Africa is corrupt in one way or the other. In places like Nigeria and Kenya, corruption has become a “normal” part of everyday life. Even some Reverend fathers and Imams collect bribes before praying for people. Some parents have to pay bribes before their children can gain admission to some schools. People are left to die in some hospitals just because their families couldn’t afford to pay bribes. Policemen and women in uniforms openly collect bribes from motorists with no shame at all. Some criminals are set free just because some corrupt law enforcement officers and agencies collect bribes from those criminals. In other words, because of corruption, criminals roam free in Africa today. Corruption (just like youth unemployment), explains the high crime rates in places like South Africa, Somalia, Nigeria, etc. Once again, we can trace all these back to illiteracy and ignorance. Teaching people the dangerous effects of corruption on the society as a whole can go a long way in helping break this cycle.

Corruption and poor governance go almost hand-in-hand. Corruption brings about misappropriation of public funds and creates favorable environments for those in power to easily loot from their communities’ coffers. At the end of the day, those in power enjoy while the average person on the streets, suffers. There can never be true democracy in a place where corruption runs rampant. Our corrupt leaders refuse to leave office and their children take over after they pass away. “Power” has become a family property in Africa all thanks to corruption. We are easily manipulated by our corrupt leaders. We fail to hold them accountable and they take pleasure in fooling us all into supporting them. Illiteracy once again plays a major role here. Because the masses are not well informed, they are easily manipulated by these corrupt leaders.

In 1980, Africa had a total population of about 478,000,000. Africa’s population today is over 1.2 billion people and the population is expected to double by 2050 according to the United Nations. Some people often blame Africa’s population explosion for almost all the problems we face today in Africa. It is true to some extent. Poor family planning (caused mainly by illiteracy and ignorance) and archaic culture and traditions play major roles in Africa’s population explosion. Take the issue of child marriage in Nigeria for example. Girls as young as 13 are being forced into early marriages all because of some crazy religious (and cultural) beliefs and practices. Most of these children drop out of school and end up teenage mothers and child-bearing “machines”. At the end of the day, several innocent children are born into absolute poverty without any means to cater for them, continuing the cycle of poverty. On the other hand however, if China can contain its over 1.4 billion people and still prosper to this extent, what stops Africa from achieving a similar feat?

So as you can see, the problems facing Africa today go far beyond bullet points. Our problems are quite interconnected and must be tackled in “whole” and not in parts.