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The Problems and Prospects in Africa
Saberi Roy - 7/29/2008
The African nations remain the most troubled in the world, politically, socially, economically with many of the least developed nations being in Africa. Some of these poorest countries of the world are in Africa and many remain perpetually paralyzed with problems of starvation and poverty, HIV and widespread illnesses and political corruption or human rights abuse. A comprehensive examination of all the problems in Africa could be given in the context of individual countries and the most troubled regions are Somalia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Chad, Malawi and Sudan.
Somalia – Somalia has been adversely affected by droughts, famine and civil war since 1991 and as many as 300,000 people have been killed at that time. The country was plagued by anarchy and factional fighting although the famine was partly controlled by the UN. The country remains disturbed being a hub of the al-Qaida network in Africa and the al-Shabaab militia and other extremist elements in the region. The past famine and civil war thus seem to be continuing in Africa although in a different form with continued unrest among warlords and the disturbance created by the militias and terrorist groups. Somalia faces frequent droughts and is also among the world’s poorest countries with a transitional government that has failed to provide any long term stability in the region. Contaminated water and deforestation have led to soil erosion, drought and illnesses in the country with life expectancy just above 45 years. Yet the country has a large reserve of natural resources ranging from uranium, iron ore, copper and even large oil reserves that are unexploited and neglected.
Issues & Possibilities: Drought and poverty remain the two most important problems in Somalia and to tackle these, environmental measures should include a ban on deforestation and proper utilization of the country’s natural resources and oil reserves.
Ethiopia - Ethiopia borders Somalia and shares the Somalian problems of frequent droughts, uprisings and coups, refugee problems and extreme poverty. The problems in Ethiopia are aggravated by its high mortality rate with 14 deaths per 1000 and very high incidence of AIDS with as many as 1.5 million people living with the disease. The country’s economy primarily depends on agriculture and yet frequent droughts and poor agricultural practices have left the country as one of the least developed in the world.
Issues & Possibilities: The main problems of Ethiopia are extreme poverty and very high risks of AIDS. The poverty can be controlled with improved agricultural practices and strong environmental awareness among the people and government so that the region is less affected by drought or erosion. The control of AIDS is only possible with better contribution of social organizations and support groups in educating the people and spreading awareness.
Zimbabwe – Here of course, political corruption and Robert Mugabe’s policies remain the main cause of unrest and poor development in the country. Mugabe has been the only ruler of the country since 1987 and his continued rigging and vote tampering practices during elections have crippled both the political and economic systems of the country. There is a shortage of basic commodities and Mugabe’s supporters have been accused of gross human rights violations towards political opponents. Heavy metal and toxic waste pollution as well as environmental degradation with high rates of poaching are some major problems. The country along with other African countries in the southern region of the continent (like Botswana and Lesotho) has very high rates of AIDS in the population.
Issues & Possibilities: The major problems in the country seem to be political corruption, human rights violations, AIDS and environmental degradation. Political corruption however lies at the root of all other problems as Mugabe’s control has done considerable harm to the political and economic fabric of the country and despite being a parliamentary democracy, the government’s authoritarian rule suggests extreme human rights violations. The only solution here seems to be the replacement of Robert Mugabe’s government with a true democratic government and an end to all political corruption.
Chad - Chad is perpetually troubled with internal conflicts and three decades of civil war with a rebellion that sporadically flares up between the government and rebel groups. Rebel groups in Sudan have also created problems in Chad and rebel groups continue to create political disruption, although Chad remains controlled by an ethnic minority. Some environmental issues seem to be waste disposal and inadequate supplies of water although the main problem in Chad remains conflicts and political disruption created by rebel groups. In recent months, thousands of residents were evicted by the government following a coup attempt, according to Human Rights News. Chad’s HIV/AIDS problems are very high with 4.8% of the population having the disease.
Issues & Possibilities: The World Bank has entered into agreements with the government of Chad that the country’s oil revenues would be used to alleviate poverty and tackle refugee problems. Refugees from Sudan’s Darfur and internal conflicts due to the presence of rebel groups are the most important problems in the region that in turn have created poverty and led to poor environmental management by the government. The primary focus of the international community should be tackling the conflicts in Chad.
Malawi – Malawi in Africa is one of the most economically backward countries in the world with inadequate infrastructure and limited supplies for its education system. HIV/AIDS is a major problem in Malawi and Malawi needs to improve its rural economic growth, with improved governance, family health and basic education. Malawi faces a perennial food shortage coupled with rapid population growth. The basic education system and quality of education needs to improve as also the country’s economy and agricultural resources. The gross national income per capita of Malawi is $ 720.
Issues & Possibilities: The main problem in Malawi is its economic backwardness and it is counted as among the least developed countries in the world. The economic condition of the country is at the root of all problems for Malawi as its basic educational system and agricultural resources are dependent and in turn drive the country’s economy. All problems of Malawi are due to the poor economic condition of the country and Malawi should be one of the foremost countries in Africa that needs financial help from the other nations. Despite some efforts by USAID, Malawi remains rather neglected by the international community and continues to face severe shortage of food, poor economic growth and lack of basic education for its people.
Sudan – Among the major countries that face strife within the African continent, Sudan is an important part of Africa as it is the largest country in the region. Sudan has a history of civil wars and extreme ethnic conflicts. Ethnic conflicts in Darfur have in recent times resulted in 400,000 deaths in the region and millions of people have been displaced adding to the instability in the region. There are frequent reports of government oppression, armed conflicts and lack of humanitarian assistance in the region. Conflicts continue in Darfur between Sudanese army, government-backed militia and armed opposition group factions. The US government provides extensive humanitarian assistance to Sudan and has been trying to provide for the humanitarian needs of the displaced and conflict affected people in the region.
Issues & Policies: The priority of the international community should be a resolution of the conflicts in Darfur and finding a solution for the millions of displaced people in the region. Internal and ethnic conflicts remain the most important problem in the region and poor governance and poor infrastructure are also responsible for Sudan’s various problems. Along with provisions of humanitarian assistance, a political solution for Darfur should be the priority and extensive and persistent international efforts would be required to resolve internal ethnic conflicts in the region.
Although other African countries are affected by similar problems and issues, the magnitude of human rights abuse and problems of AIDS and poverty would be among the highest in these countries. African countries need focused attention from the more developed nations and more country specific aids and political solutions. The key to a prosperous Africa would mean finding specific solutions for the problems as related to specific regions.