Causes Of Poverty In Africa Essays

Although our world is developing at a rapid rate in terms of technology, and many problems of the 20th century have been solved, there still are issues that humanity cannot deal with. Among such challenges as hunger, wars, natural disasters, and pollution, poverty is one of the most significant problems; in fact, it is a scourge of many developing countries. Therefore, understanding and eliminating the reasons of why poverty is still present in the world is important.

When analyzing such a global issue, one should consider historical and cultural factors. Nations that are among the poorest in the world were once colonies, or areas from which richer countries exported slaves; also, some of these territories were drained of resources. Rare exceptions like Canada or Australia do not deny the fact that, for example, almost the entire continent of Africa is a problematic area in terms of poverty and hunger. This happened due to the fact that colonialism contributed to the establishment of conditions where people living in former colonies cannot access capital or education. In addition, there exist several hot spots in the world where wars and political instability also cause a significant decrease in the quality of life: Syria, Egypt, Ukraine, and so on (The Borgen Project).

Perhaps the most direct causal link exists between poverty and the balance between a country’s population density and its agricultural capabilities. Although such countries as the Netherlands or Belgium have a high density of population, their agricultural industry is based on mechanized farming and high-tech solutions, so poverty and hunger have no chance there. The same refers to other technologically-advanced countries. In contrast, Bangladesh, which has one of the world’s largest population densities (2,791 persons in a square mile) exists on the edge of extreme poverty—mostly because the majority of population is involved in low-efficient manual farming. On the other hand, there are countries in Africa with only about 80 persons per square mile, but because of low soil fertility, and the use of manual labor, these countries cannot boost their productivity and development (

Along with objective poverty factors, it is also important to consider social factors—in particular, psychological traits that many poor people possess. In many developed countries, poor people do not try to improve their financial conditions, relying on welfare payments provided to them by governments (CliffsNotes). Due to the lack of education and skills (also caused by the inability to pay for them), they cannot work at well-paid jobs, although they can still become maids, cleaners, postal workers, couriers, and so on. Doing so would enable such people to earn more money necessary for education and personal development, but they prefer to keep the status quo.

Reasons of poverty are numerous, and it is difficult to analyze the entire complex of causes of such a global issue. However, some of them are obvious: a colonial background, wars and political instability, dense population combined with low agricultural capabilities, and certain psychological traits of poor people. These factors help keep poverty in the world’s list of the most urgent problems.


“Top 5 Causes of Poverty.” The Borgen Project. N.p., 25 June 2013. Web. 21 May 2015.

“Poverty at Large: A Dark Spot in Humanity.”Http:// N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2015.

“Causes and Effects of Poverty.” CliffNotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2015.

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Some causes of poverty are, changing trends in a country’s economy, lack of education, high divorce rate which causes feminization of poverty, having a culture of poverty, overpopulation, epidemic diseases such as AIDS and malaria,[1]and environmental problems such as lack of rainfall and others.[2][3]

In California reduced poverty in the elderly with the creation of the social security program[4] Almost 50 percent of people in the world today live on less than $2.50 per day.[5]

The poverty rate among seniors in the United States is at 9 percent as of 2010[update].[6] In 1960 the official poverty rate among the elderly was 35 percent.[7] The Netherlands offers a universal pension and leads the world with a 1.7 percent poverty rate among the elderly.[citation needed] Extreme poverty may affect the lifespan and the lack of money via some type of pension system increases the poverty rate among the elderly worldwide.[8] Issues like hunger, illness and thirst are all causes and effects of poverty.

Extreme weather may be a cause of poverty in many countries. Drought, rainfall and flooding are some of the biggest causes of poverty by weather. When natural disasters do not gain media attention raising money becomes more difficult. This is made worse when governments spend money in the capitals instead of the poorest areas which need it most.[9]

In a BBC discussion, Tony Blair states that the cause of poverty is inequality of opportunity.[10]

Causes of Global Poverty[edit]

The International Food Study Institute had a brief on a collection of extensive studies that analyzed the causes of poverty, analyzing household data and reviewing empirical research in 20 countries. They found that some of the major causes of poverty were the inability of poor households to invest in property and education, limited access to credit, in some cases these instances produce more poverty via inherited poverty. The systematic exclusion of ethnic minorities, scheduled castes, tribes, women and people with disabilities and health issues. Persistence of poverty is partially attributed to these classes not having access to institutions and markets.[11]

War and violence may be some of the primary causes of poverty.[12] Political violence and organized crime have affected 39 countries since 2000, in those countries the poverty level is twice that of non-violent countries. These two items, poverty and violence may also feed themselves. When asked why young people joined gangs and rebel groups in half a dozen countries, two thirds of the respondents said that unemployment was their main reason, only one tenth cited a belief in the cause.[13]

Colonialism has been cited as a cause of poverty, this idea is rejected by Walter E. Williams citing that not all post colonial countries have high poverty rates.[14]

Third World countries have low GDP per capita percent taxed, middle income economies have average levels of GDP per capita taxed and developed countries have higher percent GDP per capita taxed.

Places like the Arctic and Antarctic are inhabitable but many people debate how much a role climate plays in Africa’s poverty.

Primary Causes by Country[edit]


In Bangladesh, the United Nations has found that marital instability is one of the main sources of poverty among women, along with overpopulation, and corruption of government.[15]


The Fraser Institute, a public policy think-tank have reported that characteristics increasing Canadians' risk of "experiencing persistent low income" include "having a physical or mental disability, being part of a lone-parent family, and having less than a high school education."



From 1921 to 2001 food prices increased due to a change in the policies of commodity prices which increased the poverty rate.[17] From 1960 to 2009 slow economic growth has contributed to the persistence of poverty and has also contributed to the non-poor becoming poor. Although poverty has been reduced overall, the inequality of poverty has increased according to the Asian Development Bank. [18]

United States[edit]

Unemployment was the leading cause of poverty within the US. In 1999 and 2005, 71 percent of the families that were below the poverty line did not have any working family members. Among the families below the poverty line that had at least one family member working, low wages and insufficient benefits were also leading causes.[19]

South Africa[edit]

One of South Africa's major cause and effect of poverty is unemployment. Unemployment causes families to live in unsanitary conditions because a lack of financial means to improve living conditions. If the parents are unemployed, this can also affect how the child is brought up and what kind of education they receive. This issue has been recognized by the South African government and they have created organisations like the Expanded Public Works Program, also known as the EPWP. This program is an important gateway to labor absorption and provides income for poor families. Poverty stricken people now have the chance to receive income thanks to the jobs that the EPWP provides.[20]

Main causes of poverty[edit]

Primary causes of poverty[edit]

  • Lack of control in local food[21]
  • Corruption: Corruption is both a major cause and a result of poverty around the world.
  • Lack of access to education[22]
  • Mental illness, Lack of proper psychiatric care
  • World Hunger, the economic development in the world.
  • Epidemic diseases
  • Population

Historical causes:[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

  1. ^Lusted, Marcia Amidon (2010). Poverty. Edina, Minn.: ABDO Pub. p. 31. ISBN 9781604539578. 
  2. ^Harrison, Paul (1993). Inside the Third World: The Anatomy of Poverty (3. ed.). New York: Penguin Books. p. 20. ISBN 9780140172171. 
  3. ^White, Howard; Killick, Tony (2001). African Poverty at the Millennium: Causes, Complexities, and Challenges (1. print. ed.). Washington, D.C.: World Bank. p. 27. ISBN 0821348671. 
  4. ^[1]
  5. ^"Causes of Poverty — Global Issues". Retrieved 2015-11-02. 
  6. ^West, Loraine A.; Cole, Samantha; Goodkind, Daniel; He, Wan (June 2014). 65+ in the United States: 2010(PDF) (Report). U.S. Census Bureau. p. 78. Retrieved 21 March 2017.  
  7. ^Social Security and the Evolution of Elderly Poverty
  8. ^Poverty among the Elderly
  9. ^Extreme weather can be the 'most important cause of poverty'
  10. ^Why poverty? Part 1 - BBC
  11. ^Ahmed,, Akhter U.; Hill, Ruth Vargas; Smith, Lisa C.; Frankenberger, Tim (October 2007). "Characteristics and causes of severe poverty and hunger"(PDF). 7 International Food Policy Research Institut: 4. Archived from the original(PDF) on August 12, 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2015. 
  12. ^"Root Causes of Violent Conflict in Developing Countries."BMJ: British Medical Journal. 324: 342–345. 2002. doi:10.1136/bmj.324.7333.342. PMC 1122271. PMID 11834564. 
  13. ^"The economics of violence". The Economist. 16 April 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  14. ^Williams, Walter. "Poverty Is Easy to Explain". The Freeman. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  15. ^"Discrimination, Inequality, and Poverty—A Human Rights Perspective". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 15 July 2015. 
  16. ^Charles Lammam and Hugh MacIntyre (2015). An Introduction to the State of Poverty in Canada. Fraser Institute. <>
  17. ^Balisacan, Arsenio M. (October 1995). "Anatomy of Poverty during Adjustment: The Case of the Philippines". Economic Development and Cultural Change. 44 (1): 57. doi:10.1086/452200. ISSN 0013-0079. 
  18. ^Poverty in the Philippines : causes, constraints, and opportunities. Mandaluyong City, Philippines: Asian Development Bank. 2009. p. 39. ISBN 978-971-561-857-1. 
  19. ^"What causes poverty?". Child Poverty Action Group. Retrieved 14 July 2015. 
  20. ^
  21. ^Thomas Pogge on Global Poverty
  22. ^Shah, Anup. "Causes of Poverty". Retrieved 14 July 2015. 
  23. ^Factors of Poverty - The Big Five by Phil Bartle, PhD

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