New Internationalist

The Facts

Issue 139

Click here to subscribe to the print edition. [image, unknown] new internationalist 139[image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] September 1984[image, unknown] Click here to search the mega index.

AFRICA [image, unknown] The facts

[image, unknown]

The FACTS

Making Africa Poor
Africa's crisis has some very visible victims - victims born of drought, civil war, and despotism. But the majority are less visible. According to UN Secretary General Perez de Cuellar 'Five million African children will die from malnutrition in 1984 and another five million will be handicapped for life.' Most are victims, not of natural calamity, but of a cycle of dependence that is sinking Africa even deeper into debt and poverty.

EARNING IT

Raw Cash

Africa must buy what it does not produce - anything from railway engines to transistor radios - and that means earning hard currency, or foreign exchange’. MostAfrican economies depend for their foreign exchange on the export of just one or two raw materials: either cash crops or minerals. And here they are at the mercy of world markets: prices are fixed in New York and London and with nothing else to sell, a slump in cocoa or copper, tea or tobacco, spells immediate crisis.

[image, unknown]


SPENDING IT
[image, unknown] Imports

Food

16.9%

Agriculture-materials

2.2%

Ores-and-metals

6.3%

Fuels

9.5%

Manufactured goods
64.3%

Bare Necessities

The manufactured goods that Africa buys with its foreign exchange rise steadily in price. A large proportion are luxuries for the wealthy or expensive weapons for the military. The basic needs of the majority of Africans are frequently ignored.

[image, unknown]
Source: IMF

BORROWING IT

The Debt Trap

The gap between what is earned and what is spent is covered by borrowing. Paying back interest on these debts becomes yet another drain on scarce foreign exchange. Pressure grows to increase exports in order to meet debt repayments. When this fails more borrowing follows, and so the debt spiral takes another upward turn.

[image, unknown]
Source: World Bank


A world apart

The basic indicators of human well-being - health, life expectancy and literacy - reveal that Africa is very badly off indeed. Worse off not only than industrialised countries but the rest of the Third World as well.

[image, unknown]
Source: Overseas Development Council, Washington.


The Food Gap

Sub-Saharan Africa’s population of 362 million is expected to double in the next 25 years. Meanwhile agricultural production is in decline and expensive food imports are on the increase. The result, predicted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAQ), is that Africa will provide for only half its food needs by the year 2020.

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]


Poverty Index

 
Population
(in millions)
Birth Rate
(per 1000)
Infant Mortality
(per 1000)
Life Expectancy
Adult Literacy
$ GNP
(per capita)
Angola
8.0
49
165
43
5
1,247
Benin
3.7
49
117
48
25
310
Botswana
0.9
51
83
48
33
902
Burundi
4.3
47
123
47
23
280
Cameroon
9.3
46
92
53
41
890
Central Afr Rep
2.4
41
119
48
39
310
Chad
4.6
42
161
44
15
80
Congo
1.7
43
68
60
50
1,180
Equatorial Guinea
0.3
50
147
40
38
175
Ethiopia
32.9
47
122
47
15
140
Gabon
0.7
34
117
44
12
3,909
Gambia
0.6
49
198
41
15
348
Ghana
12.2
49
86
55
30
360
Guinea
5.7
49
190
38
20
310
Guinea-Bissau
0.8
40
149
41
28
185
Ivory Coast
8.9
48
119
47
41
950
Kenya
18.1
55
77
57
50
390
Lesotho
1.4
42
94
53
52
510
Liberia
2.0
50
91
54
25
490
Madagascar
9.2
47
116
48
50
320
Malawi
6.5
56
137
44
25
210
Mali
7.1
48
132
45
9
180
Mauritania
1.6
43
132
45
17
470
Mozambique
12.9
49
105
51
28
240
Niger
5.9
52
132
45
5
310
Nigeria
90.6
50
109
50
29
860
Rwanda
5.5
54
126
46
50
260
Senegal
6.0
48
155
44
10
490
Sierra Leone
3.2
49
190
38
15
390
Somalia
4.5
48
184
39
5
290
South Africa
30.4
40
55
63
57
2,670
Sudan
20.2
45
119
47
20
440
Swaziland
0.6
48
135
46
55
844
Tanzania
19.8
47
98
52
74
280
Togo
2.8
49
122
47
16
340
Uganda
13.5
50
120
47
48
230
Upper Volta
6.5
48
157
44
9
210
Zaire
30.7
46
106
55
58
190
Zambia
6.0
50
105
51
44
640
Zimbabwe
7.5
54
83
56
71
850

Source: World Bank; Overseas Development Council, Washington.


Previous page.
Choose another issue of NI.
Go to the contents page.
Go to the NI home page.
Next page.


This first appeared in our award-winning magazine - to read more, subscribe from just £7

Comments on The Facts

Leave your comment