This question is a very delicate yet popular one. Here’s my answer to it when it was asked on Quora.
There are a few things wrong with this question. First, it assumes that the poverty is constant in every African country, which is highly wrong. What if I said Europe is highly racist just because of a little report I read about how France treats Black people? That would be stupid, because some countries in Europe are more welcoming than others. Try to compare living in Bosnia and living in Sweden and (maybe) you’ll understand this.
Then second, poverty is not unique to Africa. Poverty exists in America, it exists in France, it exists in Germany, it exists in China, and yes it exists in many African countries. So it’s not a unique feature in Africa’s demography.
And third, you may be right about calling Africa backward relative to the world, and I feel this the most realistic part about this question that truly deserves my response. And I will do just that.
Why is Africa “Backward”?
The ‘backwardness’ or poverty of Africa is both the fault of Africans and the world (colonialists). Now you are right to dismiss colonialism here, but let me point out that the most “backward” (poor) parts of Africa are the French speaking parts and the Portuguese speaking parts. Why?
It’s simple in the case of France, but not quite so in the case of the Portuguese.
In the francophone parts, the French have never really left. They officially handed over power on paper a long time ago. But in reality, they still control everything these countries do even down to how they make their budgets and who they give contracts to.
Unlike the US who only supported despots during the Cold War, do you know that the French have always supported despots only if they are loyal to France?
Check this out: in West Africa, the longest serving rulers have been in the French speaking parts. In Central Africa, Jean Bedel Bokassa reined for long chiefly because the French supported him. This bastard murdered schoolchildren for refusing to wear uniforms made from his wife’s factory. In Cameroon, Paul Biya has been in power for 30+ years. That country has witnessed no good fortune outside of football.
France used Blaise Campaore to replace Sankara in Burkina Faso. That country has never recovered from the decades of maladministration that that dummy brought.
As a result, poverty in these African countries terrible.
Also, have you ever wondered why Francophone Africa still uses the CFA as its currency? In all of Africa, this is the worst currency being used by more than one nation. Yet all Francophone African countries use it. Why?!
Because France said so. And every leader that has tried to break out his country from this currency regime has been axed.
You should note that the CFA is backed by the French Treasury. It’s like saying that the whole of Latin America is using the Peso and that that currency is controlled by the US Federal Reserve. How stupid does it sound?! More so when a strong point for being a sovereign nation is that you control your own currency. Wouldn’t it be termed ‘imperialism’?
Have you ever wondered why Orange is the largest telecom company in French Africa and largely only operates in those African countries?
So you really should pounder on these.
Meanwhile in the Portuguese part, violence wrecked a whole lot in their society. And this violence was due to the colonial struggle. The Portuguese handed over power late, relative to other colonialists. Angola’s flag, for instance, has a machete on it to signify this. Other Portuguese Speaking part of Africa like Mozambique have a history of heavy violence in order to attain freedom.
Africans Are To Blame For Their Poverty Too
But when you put all these external influences aside, you’ll realise that African nations by themselves have not helped matters. Poverty in Africa has lingered because Africans have done nothing to stop it.
African leaders are much too corrupt, ethnocentric, narrow-minded, uninnovative, and too stupid to bring about positive change. Worse still, the best African leaders have always never been allowed to rule due to external influences and due to internal coups and cronyism.
The US, France, and Britain have all violently removed or taken out good African leaders. From Patrice Lumumba in Congo, to the attempt to murder Nelson Mandela, to the killing of Murtala Muhammad of Nigeria, to Sankara’s death in Burkina Faso, to the removal of Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, among a few others, foreign forces have been at play.
And do you know how this affects Africa’s poverty and backwardness? It makes it hard to bring about change and makes it extremely difficult for good men to do anything. Meanwhile, the only way evil prevails is for good men to do nothing. So, yeah, Africa has been pushed into a state of backwardness and poverty due to this.
But Africa Is Changing Fast
But I have to remind you that it is not all gloomy for Africa, and I can authoritatively tell you that presently Africa is on the upward trend!
Unlike previous decades, when commodity prices dropped since 2014, Africa’s economy didn’t collapse, and neither did it incur so much debt either. African economies have managed the slump pretty well unlike previous times.
African economies like Seirra Leone, Botswana, Rwanda, Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Africa are having booming economies are among the fastest growing economies in the world. Seirra Leone for example sustained very high economic growth before and after Ebola, and Ethiopia is economy is growing extremely fast.
Also, the crisis that use to rout Africa are quickly disappearing as countries are embracing more peaceful practices. In Seirra Leone, Liberia, Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Chad, (even) Sudan, among many others, we’ve seen, and are seeing, conflicts end.
In healthcare, we’ve seen Africa become mature at handling epidemics in the last few years, than it had in the last century. For instance, in the case of Ebola, Nigeria tackled the problem within its borders quickly, and had very little need for WHO support other than to proclaim it Ebola-free. Even Sierra Leone, the worst hit by Ebola, tackled it effectively with external support and it’s economy went back to soaring growth levels.
Even politically, the continent is embracing democracy at a really sustained level. In 2015, Nigeria held a very peaceful election. And for the first time in the country’s history, power transferred from an incumbent to the opposition party. Prior to that election, the International Crisis Group called the election a ‘very violent election’, in anticipation of crisis. But that never happened. In places like Botswana and Tanzania, democracy is as firm as never before.
Technologically, Africa is not doing to badly. Today Africa is embracing new technology in a truly amazing way. When the Android OS arrived the market globally, African innovators took advantage of its open nature and began investing in mobile computing that could be harnessed by the African market. And that led to the emergence of an technogical heavyweight in Nigeria in the form of Tecno Mobile.
Tecno owns the Infinix and the Tecno phone brands, and both run on the Android OS. Unofficial data say that Tecno has sold over 45 million phones, a truly laudable feat. I encourage you to Google Tecno and read up what you find.
So from my write up, it’s clear that Africa had been backward. But the continent is moving fast to correct its problems. And unlike other times, it is not reliant on the Western world to do it on its behalf. So please be more enlightened about Africa because things are much better than they ones were!