New Internationalist

The Facts

Issue 208

new internationalist
issue 208 - June 1990

Africa - The FACTS

MOST AFRICANS are as poor today as they were 30 years ago
- and getting poorer. Famines, droughts and wars are commonplace.
And before a route out of the crisis can be plotted the
bare facts need to be stared in the face.

CREEPING DESERT

Around 650 million square kilometres of farming land in sub-Saharan Africa have become desert in the last 50 years - and the process is accelerating. And more than 10 million people have been forced to leave home as a result of desertification.2

Rural populations affected by severe desertification2

[image, unknown]

 

GRINDING POVERTY

Of the 20 poorest countries in the world, 14 are from sub-Saharan Africa. And at least half of these have gone backwards economically since 1965.

Africa's poorest countries3

(place among world's poorest)

GNP per capita 1987
(in US dollars)

Average annual economic growth 1965-87

1.

Ethiopia

(1)

130

0.1%

2.

Chad

(3)

150

-2.0%

3.

Zaire

(4)

150

2.4%

4.

Malawi

(6)

160

1.4%

5.

Mozambique

(9)

170

-

6.

Tanzania

(10)

180

-4.0%

7.

Burkina Faso

(11)

190

1.6%

8.

Madagascar

(12)

210

-1.8%

9.

Mali

(13)

210

-

10.

Burundi

(14)

250

1.6%

11.

Zambia

(15)

250

-2.1%

12.

Niger

(16)

260

-2.2%

13.

Uganda

(17)

260

-2.7%

14.

Togo

(20)

290

0.0

 

 

DOMINATING DEBTS

Sub-Saharan Africa's total debt increased from about 6 billion dollars in 1970 to 134 billion dollars in 1988. By 1988 the total debt was equal to the region's Gross National Product and three and a half times its export earnings.4 Those countries with the largest debts in Black Africa are Nigeria, the Sudan and Ivory Coast.3

This table shows the increase in Africa's total debt between 1980 and 1987.6
Figures are in $US billion.

[image, unknown]

 

PLUMMETING PRICES

The prices Africa gets for its primary products have slumped sharply in real terms during the 1980s while the prices it has to pay for goods from the West have continued to rise.

[image, unknown]

 

[image, unknown]
DESPERATE DEPENDENCE

Africa contributes only four per cent to the annual volume of world trade.4 Yet African economies often depend heavily on the trade of a single commodity for their foreign exchange.

 

The following table shows those countries which depended on one agricultural commodity for 40 percent or more of their total export earnings in 19871.

Country

Commodity

Percentage of
export earnings

Rwanda

Coffee

69.2%

Malawi

Tobacco

64.2%

Ethiopia

Coffee

50.5%

Ghana

Cocoa

46.4%

Burundi

Coffee

41.8%

Benin

Cotton

40.5%

Gambia

Ground nuts

40%

 

 

MILITARY MADNESS

[image, unknown] Between 1945 and 1989 sub-Saharan Africa saw at least 30 major military conflicts. Most of the world's military-controlled governments are found in this region.

 

Military spending
Five of Africa's poorest countries increased their spending on the military between 1972 and 1987 while cutting their spending on social welfare.2

Defence

Housing, amenities
social services
and welfare

1972

1987

1972

1987

Malawi

3.1

6.6

5.8

2.3

Tanzania

11.9

15.8

2.1

1.7

Uganda

23.1

26.3

7.3

2.9

Kenya

6.0

9.1

3.9

1.7

Liberia

5.3

8.9

3.5

1.9


Wars in Sub-Saharan Africa 1945 - 1989

Angola 1961-75, 1975-89
Burundi - 197, 1988
Cameroon
1955-60
Chad
1980-87
Ethiopia
1974-89, 1976-83
Ghana
1981
Guinea-Bissau
- 1962-74
Kenya
1952-63
Madagascar
1947-48
Mozambique
1965-75, 1981-89
Nigeria
1967-70, 1980-81, 1984
Rwanda
1956-65
Somalia 1988
Sudan
1963-72, 1984-89
Uganda
1966, 1971-78, 1978-79, 1981-87
West Sahara
1975-87
Zaire 1960-65
Zambia
1964
Zimbabwe 1972-79, 1983

 

WEARY WOMEN
  • Women do 75% of Africa's agricultural work and 95% of the domestic work.8
  • In Mozambique 90% of women are engaged in food production.9
  • African women do 70% of hoeing and weeding, 60% of harvesting, 50% of planting, 60% of marketing, 90% of food processing and 80% of transporting crops home and storing them.10

 

UNPRODUCTIVE FARMING

Kilograms per person

[image, unknown]

1 Sub-Saharan Africa From Crisis to Sustainable Development, World Bank 1989.
2 State of the Worlds Population 1988, UNFPA.
3 World Development Report 1989, World Bank.
4 A Fate Worse than Debt, Susan George (Pelican 1988).
5 Handbook of International Trade and Development Statistics, UNCTAD 1988.
6 World Debt Tables, World Bank 1988-9.
7 Africa: What Can Be Done, Ben Turok (Zed 1987).
8 State of the World, Brown and Wolf 1985.
9 Women of The World - An International Atlas, Joni Seagar and Ann Olson (Pan 1986).
10 Women: Key to African Food Security, FAO 1988.
11 World Military and Social Expenditures, Ruth Leger Sivard (World Priorities 1989).

previous page choose a different magazine 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