Wide-Spread Poverty in Africa

Africa is portrayed as poverty-stricken continent day in, day out, yet ordinary Africans are working hard under the African scorching sun to till the soil to plant food and commercial crops in deep rural remote parts of the continent. The media is likely to report about Africa’s plight of poverty. Some institutes based in upmarket, metropolitan western cities would even go to the extent of suggesting or rather imposing remedial ways and means of eliminating poverty in Africa. We are indeed at cross roads, and the  question is: do we take the route advised by the west of free trade and arable land accessible to multinational companies, or we follow our States route, of subsistence farming?

Africans in rural areas are toiling hard to produce food, albeit in small scale for home consumption. The surplus is commercially traded, since in agriculture economies of scale determine how much revenue you can generate. In their case it is matter of living from hand to mouth. So why do such hardworking Africans remain entangled in the cobweb of poverty? Basically, their traditional techniques or methods, which are not bad at all,but given changing times – socially, geographically, and economically – the methods are rendered inefficient, ineffective or somehow redundant, given the demand, to be met with meager income from subsistence farming trade. Kids have got to go to school, therefore they need money for uniforms and all necessities such as trasport fees, unlike 100 years ago where children would be groomed, nurtured, and trained at home, so their upbringing didn’t have have price tag attached. So this renders subsistence or small scale farming obsolete as an antidote for poverty, even though in the short term it can be solution for hunger. On the other hand, commercial farming/agriculture can ensure enough food production, to bolster food security for the people with buying power. So poverty is multi-layered, complex challenge, ranging from social,economic, political and food issues. So can agriculture counterattack aggressively such plight? Obviously, agriculture can bring about economic change and indeed poverty alleviation, provided industrialization is implemented as pillar of economy. Industrialization in this case, does not refer to nuclear power station building and utilization thereof, but the value adding or further processing of any agricultural product, natural resource we produce in a sustainable fashion. To industrialize calls for the educating the people with technical skills. Subsistence farming does not break the poverty cycle, but keeps it under control before it further fetters to abject poverty or crisis.An example of this is the first born son who inherits a smallhodling farm and continues like his father, eating from to hand to mouth, a  mere survival activity. The whole picture is gloomy and sombre. Our wide-spread poverty in Afrika requires remedy more in the form of Brain Power, than physical power. This includes quality Education and Training with an emphasis in Technical, Scientific, Engineering and Technological areas.

Our daily lives, either in remote, rural areas or leafy suburbs in cities, is somehow influenced by eurocentic patterns or trends, like the way we trade etc. Thus we can hardly stick to ancient methods of doing things, changing times call for fluid mindset. We need to blend traditonal and contemporary methods in order to get extraordinary methods to apply in real life. Such strategies are truly an assets that come from educated, well trained people. Currently, Africa is reported to have vast tracks of arable, fertile land and western business institutes are recommending, or rather imposing systemically that Africa must avail those resources to multinationals to exploit, yet the African farmers are struggling to eke out decent living, due to lack of relevant education & training, access to latest technology, finance and infrastructure. As much as foreign direct investment in agriculture is sought and promoted,in the same vein as donor aid, it is likely to further impoverish Africa, particularly rural people, whilst fattening the purses and wallets of people where multinational companies originate.

The key, local direct investment that is much needed by Africa is good,quality education of the people (precious human resources), and from this agriculture and other fields will flourish and secondary agribusiness will further add value almost double or more to the processed product, hence creating robust,vibrant economy driven by technically strong people. Agriculture can hardly be pioneering element in poverty alleviation war, however it is indeed education that will shatter poverty to pieces. Whether we change the theme “Wide spread poverty in Africa” for the media houses is directly dependent on Africans themselves.

As I often tell my friends, when we chat having taken some sips from alcohol beverage of choice,”being poor is a state of mind!” True or false,only time will tell.

Sithembiso Mahlaba

An agriculturist by profession, blogger by passion, prominent opinion-maker without favour or fear.

One thought on “Wide-Spread Poverty in Africa

  • July 2, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    I agree, our poverty is caused by lack of relevant education. Many black African people have graduated from universuties but do we have the relevant skills. All the relevant ones are quickly absorbed by countries like Australia and britain leavins us with nothing. I think governments must invest heavily in agricultural education and development.

    However I don’t think poverty is a state of the mind. I think its a reflection of bad policies, lack of adequate planning, wrong priorities and unaccointability on the part of our african governments. Our governments are not serious about poverty alleviation. There is no reason why they are not changing policies, there is no reason why they buy all those shiny cars.


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