Africa: It's the Economy Stupid!

Hey again everybody! Most of you by reading the title of this essay

might be wondering the same question I was just a few hours before I typed

this up. Why is Sub-Saharan Africa poor? Is it due to race? Colonialism?

Corrupt leaders? Well, what is it?

Well, as Bill Clinton once said. It's the Economy, stupid! As in

regards to race, this claim can easily be shut down. After all, humans are the

most homogenous mammalian species on the planet. I believe modern

Human beings only left East Africa 120,000 years ago. The only difference

Separating the difference between a West African and a Western European

Is that the Western European will have a lighter skin tone because whiter

Skin tones can absorb more vitamin D from the sun in northern latitudes,

That and nutrition, but I'll get to that eventually.

Let's compare two countries which were granted independence from

Same nation, within the same year. Ghana and Malaysia. Of course they're

very different. One being in West Africa, the other being in South East Asia.

However, their economies were nearly the same if not looking better from a

Ghanaian outlook. Then something happened. Ghana remained fixed on

agriculture and mining, while Malaysia switched to manufacturing. Well,

Malaysia attracted foreign investment and Ghana clearly did not. It became

a large producer of electronic devices, its infrastructure was constructed to

Meet the demands of the growing economy and now it's five times GDP in

1980. While Ghana is about five times lower than Malaysia' current GDP

without about 60 billion dollars. What happened to Ghana? Malaysia had

Tin and rubber and Ghana had cocoa, timber and gold. What went wrong?

Ghana's first president set the precedent for things to come in that

Nation. Kwame Nkrumah destroyed the economy of a nation that had

so much to go for. More so than Malaysia which had to deal with Chinese

Communists at the time. This man decided to put a dash of socialism

(not very good for a developing country which had young citizens) and

random industralization schemes ranging from shoes to mangoes. Dreams

Of post-colonial grandeur instead of investing in schools, roads and maybe

even some tariffs for simple products like shoes meant that Ghana's

Economy was to collaspe. His control economy brought things that Ghana

didn't need at that moment of time instead of what the market demanded..

that being more cocoa and even that proved to be disastrous to Ghana.

Ghana only had basic, basic infrastructure at independence. No factories or foundries were found in that nation at independence.

After all, why would a colony need any. Ghana was merely a mine, in which

Its products would be produced in the UK, then shipped around the world at

a fast clip. Ghana didn't have the industrial strength to do so. It could've by

The 1970s had the factories need to manufacture its agricultural and mineral

Products but controlled economic planning derailed that. With its economy

Already geared to shipping raw products abroad. It was at the mercy of

Stock markets.

Commodities are a curse on African nations. With no industrial

Infrastructure, prices would often fluctuate concerning their goods. For

example, Nigeria had an oil boom in the 1970's but as soon as the 80's came

About. The price of oil crashed and the subsequent 90's didn't help the

Situation either. Sadly, oil went from being 40 of the countries exports in

The 50's to about 90 by this decade. A nation being handcuffed to the

Mercy of the markets is never a good thing. The cyclical booms and busts

Are evidence for such.

The economic volatility is made worse by the nations own military. In

The colonial past, the armed forces are seen as a force of stability but

African militaries after the Europeans go usually turn into corrupt sleazy outfits who think they can do a better job of managing a nation than a

corrupt leader. Most of the time, an Air force colonel as what happened to

Ghana can do a much worse job. Military juntas scare away investors and

Are pretty much useless with regards to the economy as often they will

Plunder it than try to improve it. Also, who's behind this coup. More

Often than not, it's a dominant ethnic group.

In Europe, Germany is for the Germans. France is where the French

live, and Italy is an Italian abode. Such, is not the case for Africa. Colonial

Borders were drawn to minimize cost. Why have a tiny colony with 500,000

People when you could have a large one with 5,000,000. But of 10 different

Ethnic groups. Economically volatile, supranational nations don't do well.

The only European nations who have supranational populations are Spain,

Russia and the UK. I believe all 3 have faced armed insurrection for this.

Africa is no different. Moving a society in a hundred years from a medieval

One to a modern one does leave some 'growing pains' . Civil war is

Ethnic war. Fighting over those commodities, driven wild by the stock

Market is worth it in those countries. War is far more damaging than a crazy

Autocrat though. Just recently, the Second Congo was has caused 5.4

Million to die and I believe the Congo shall never recover in my lifetime

or in yours. Rebel armies loyal to Tutsis and Hutus prowl the volcanic

Rainforests of the Eastern Congo. Killing, maiming, raping, exploting gold

and coltan found there. With combining an autocrat, no infrastructure, a

Military which is clearly too large for your nation and on average 20

Different peoples in your small nation. You're pretty much guaranteed

To have a crappy economy.

It doesn't mean you're never going to recover though. The People's

Republic of China, Vietnam and South Korea are success stories but the

Great European exception of one people for one nation exists here. Well,

Except for South Korea but that's a tale for later. However, aid can make

It worse. For example, you own a small shoe factory in Kumasi, Ghana.

Aid comes in because they believe your people are shoeless. They are

But they're not helpless. Soon, people are wearing cheaper made, foreign

Shoes instead of your homemade shoes. Your factory and your 50

Employees are now poor and have to resort to farming cocoa. But cheaper

Brazilian cocoa means you can make 30 dollars of year's worth of farming.

Isn't free trade and aid a twisted bitch?

I personally believe every developing nation needs tariffs. Free trade

Only benefits countries who have the huge industrial capacity to export their

Cheap goods (like shoes) into poor nations (like Ghana). If you are a

Economic minister in a 3rd world nation, try a tariff on some manufactured

Goods your country could easily make. After all, the US only stopped

Tariffs not too long ago.

Is the future bright for Sub-Saharan Africa. Sort of. Only 13

African nations are truly democratic and that helps provide rule of law and

More investment for your country. War still goes on in the Congo, Sudan

And elsewhere. Zimbabwe has hyper inflation not seen since 1920's

Germany. Yet Ghana, is getting richer! Not as rich as Malaysia. But if

It keeps this up, it could get there in 40-50 years. it's a hard long road

Of progress, and in Africa things are never easy. However, the road still

lies there. If you choose to follow it.