Africa stands out from other developing regions by the brutality and sheer number of wars and conflicts. Luckham et al (2001) argues that war and poverty are in a dynamic and mutually reinforcing relationship. The conventional portrayal of conflict as a deviation from 'normal' life fails to comprehend situations where conflict splutters, re-ignites and is rarely settled by 'peace' agreements. No less than 28 African states have been at war since 1980. Conflicts are regionally connected and measuring their impact on the populace is problematic. However, it is clear, that civilians caught up in the violence suffer the most. Determining the numbers of refugees and internally displaced people is also difficult, but it is suggested that there was as many as 18-20 million in 1999. The vast majority being unsupported women and children struggling to survive in violent environments. Recent conflicts have included the seven or so countries directly involved in the Congo (formerly Zaire), Sierra Leone, the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the 30-year civil war in Angola.
Poor governance, corruption, human rights violations are all common reasons heard for some of the causes of Africa's conflicts. Although, they are not the only reasons, some often overlooked root causes include:
The artificial boundaries created by colonial rulers that still exist today. The effect of this was to put many different ethnic people within a nation that did not reflect, or have the ability to accommodate or provide for, the cultural and ethnic diversity. See African independence.The poverty of Africa and the immense burden of debt, when combined with international trade and economic arrangements do little to benefit the African people. This is further exacerbated by IMF and World Bank policies such as the 'Structural Adjustment Programmes' which have aggressively privatised African state assets and cut back public services, whilst encouraging food production and resource extraction for export.
The support for dictatorships during the Cold War helped fuel many conflicts in Africa. For example Hartung & Moix (2000) note that throughout the Cold War, the U.S. delivered over $1.5 billion worth of weaponry to Africa. Many of the top U.S. arms clients i.e. Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan, and Congo have been the centre of violence, instability, and economic collapse since the 1980's.
International and corporate interests and activities in Africa have ignored the lack of human rights in the region. They have played lip service to intergovernmental institutions such as NEPAD, instead of supporting them, thus helping towards building peace and stability. The roots and dynamics of the conflicts lie in a failure to use conflict management techniques at national and international levels (Mokhiber and Weissman, 1999).
At the 2002 G8 summit in Kananaskis, the World Development Movement stated, "It is undeniable that there has been poor governance, corruption and mismanagement in Africa. However, the legacy of colonialism, the support of the G8 for repressive regimes in the Cold War, the creation of the debt trap, the failure of policies imposed by the IMF and World Bank and the unfair rules on international trade have helped to create the conditions for Africa's crisis. The G8's responsibility must be to put its own house in order, and to end the unjust policies that are inhibiting Africa's development." (ACTSA and WDM, 2002).
Africa is the world's second largest continent after Asia. It has a total surface area of 30.3 million km2, including several islands, and an estimated total population of 888 million (2005, UN). The vast Sahara Desert, covering an area greater than that of the continental United States, divides Northern Africa from Sub-Saharan Africa.
Poverty in Africa is predominantly rural. More than 70 per cent of the continent's poor people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for food and livelihood, yet development assistance to agriculture is decreasing. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 218 million people live in extreme poverty. Among them are rural poor people in Eastern and Southern Africa, an area that has one of the world's highest concentrations of poor people. The incidence of poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa is increasing faster than the population. Overall, the pace of poverty reduction in most of Africa has slowed since the 1970s.
Rural poverty in many areas of Africa has its roots in the colonial system and the policy and institutional restraints that it imposed on poor people. In recent decades, economic policies and institutional structures have been modified to close the income gap. Structural adjustments have dismantled existing rural systems, but have not always built new ones. In many transitional economies, the rural situation is marked by continuing stagnation, poor production, low incomes and the rising vulnerability of poor people. Lack of access to markets is a problem for many small-scale enterprises in Africa. The rural population is poorly organized and often isolated, beyond the reach of social safety nets and poverty programmes. Increasingly, government policies and investments in poverty reduction tend to favour urban over rural areas.
HIV/AIDS is changing the profile of rural poverty in Africa. It puts an unbearable strain on poor rural households, where labour is the primary income-earning asset. About two thirds of the 34 million people in the world with HIV/AIDS live on the African continent.
major problems facing Africa today
A child dies every three seconds from AIDS and extreme poverty, often before their fifth birthday.
More than one billion people do not have access to clean water.
Every year six million children die from malnutrition before their fifth birthday.
More than 50 percent of Africans suffer from water-related diseases such as cholera and infant diarrhea.
More than 800 million people go to bed hungry every day, 300 million are children.
Of these 300 million children, only eight percent are victims of famine or other emergency situations. More than 90 percent are suffering long-term malnourishment and micronutrient deficiency.
Help save Africa from Poverty