Africa’s Onerous Challenges

SummaryAcknowledgementIntroductionWhy Should We Help?The BenefitsThe Venture ItselfHow to Avoid the Marie Antoinette SyndromeThe Action PlanConclusionSelected Bibliography


The pittance of ODA that actually reaches Africa results in barely a modicum of improvement because unfortunately, Africa suffers from many taxing challenges in trying to alleviate its poverty. Not the least is its own difficult geography (Sachs, 2005, pp. 57-58; 86-87). Sachs has done extensive work with numerous countries around the world and has discovered that geography plays a critical role in whether or not a country can escape extreme poverty. His findings support Jared Diamond’s theories about why some areas around the world got such gigantic head starts in food production and technology: the features of the land in which the peoples of the world found themselves. (Diamond, 1999)

Two geographical features vital for a country’s economy are river ways and access to ocean ports. Unfortunately, many of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa are landlocked and the continent itself lacks long rivers that are navigable and lead to the sea. Because rainfall and soil quality is marginally better in the highlands, much of the population lives in isolation in these areas, without access to transport, trade, or other benefits that a more favourable geography can bring. (Sachs, 2005, p. 208)

Africa also faces the additional burden of malaria, a result of having the perfect climate for the mosquitoes that carry this killer disease. (Sachs, 2005, pp. 58; 196-200) At least once a year, nearly everyone in Africa gets malaria, and it kills about 2,700,000 million Africans a year, most of them children. Effective treatments exist, but shockingly, not much has been done to help eradicate this disease in Africa, although in other places, including the United States, it has been brought under control. Malaria in Africa is, unfortunately, much hard to control that the types that used to flourish in North America and Europe. This is not to say that it cannot be done. However, until very recently, very little has been done. Malaria in Africa has never been a priority for the developed world, the UN, or pharmaceutical companies. (Sachs, 2005, p. 196-200)

As if malaria weren’t enough, Africa must also cope with the AIDS epidemic. The continent is suffering a cataclysmic disaster that seems beyond all imagining. Nearly 10,000 people die every day in Africa because of AIDS. It is practically incomprehensible.

Many of those who die are parents whose children must then fend for themselves. Figure 8 shows some AIDS orphans who are being cared for at an orphanage in Kenya.


Figure 8: AIDS orphans in Kenya

(Care and Feeding Program)

The children in this photograph are among 60 who live at the Kakamega AIDS Orphan Project and Care Centre run by the United Society of Friends Women.

So far, it is not clear why Africa has suffered so much more from AIDS than other continents. Various theories, especially moralistic ones for which there is no evidence, have been put forward, but nothing has been proven. (Sachs, 2005, pp. 200-207; 322-323)

The only certainty is that HIV/AIDS is an unmitigated tragedy and a development disaster throughout Africa . . . .

As for the economic costs of the disease, these certainly rival or exceed malaria’s in the disaster at hand. Africa is losing its teachers, doctors, its civil servants and farmers, its mothers and fathers. . . . Business costs have soared because of disarray from massive medical costs for workers, relentless absenteeism, and an avalanche of worker deaths. Foreign investors are deterred from stepping into Africa’s AIDS morass. And millions of households are battling the illness of the head of household, resulting in an incredible toll in time and expense, to say nothing of the emotional trauma for the family. (Sachs, 2005, pp. 200-201)

As for malaria, AIDS treatments abound and are readily available in the rich world, where they have both lengthened life expectancy and improved quality of life. But also, as for malaria, very little has been done until recently to fight the disease in Africa. (Sachs, 2005, pp. 201-202)

These overwhelming disadvantages have created unique problems for Africa.


Read More: It’s Their Own Fault If They Are PoorJared Diamond and Western (Cargo)Ineffective AidMuhammad Yunus and MicrocreditUnscrupulous PeopleThe SystemGrameen BankIt Doesn’t Affect Us, So Why Should We Care?The Poor Will Always Be With UsThere Is No Point In Giving AidWhere Does All The Money Go?Africa’s Onerous ChallengesAfrica’s Extreme PovertyCorruption and Poor GovernanceLack of Modern Values and Free Market EconomiesA Population Explosion?Why Not Leave It to the United Nations and the World’s Governments?The UNThe Governments of the WorldGrassroots Movements