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close this bookDiversity, Globalization, and the Ways of Nature (IDRC, 1995, 234 p.)
close this folder10. Africa in the 21st Century: Sunrise or sunset?
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View the documentThe causes of poverty
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(introduction...)

With the end of the 20th century, sub-Saharan Africa is entering a new phase that is often viewed negatively. The 40-odd nations that are formally independent and recognized internationally display symptoms of disarticulation and impoverishment. The annual per-capita income in almost all countries of the continent is below $1000 (Table 6). The $450 average annual income in the countries of the intertropical region puts this population in the lowest quarter in the world (WRI 1992). Some people have called this group of countries the “Fourth World.”

During the last few decades, the participation of sub-Saharan Africa in international trade has fallen from 4% of world trade in the 1960s to 1.5% in the early 1990s, affecting its economic and geopolitical position. Today, many African nation-states are having trouble merely existing. There is little money to pay public employees, and national debts, which consume a large proportion of export revenues, are nearly impossible to service. In 1993, African debt stood at $140 billion. Some countries are paying more than a third of their export revenues in interest charges: Cote d’Ivoire, 41%; Ghana, 49%; Guinea-Bissau, 45%; Kenya, 33%; and Uganda, 81%. In most countries, income from legal exports does not cover the cost of the minimum

Table 6. Per-capita income in sub-Saharan Africa.

Country

Per-capita income (US$ per year)

Angola

620

Benin

380

Botswana

340

Burkina Faso

310

Burundi

220

Cameroon

1010

Cape Verde

780

Central African Republic

390

Chad

190

Comoros

460

Congo

930

Cote d’Ivoire

1070

Djibouti

430

Equatorial Guinea

120

Ethiopia

270

Gabon

230

Gambia

380

Ghana

430

Guinea

180

Guinea-Bissau

790

Kenya

380

Lesotho

470

Liberia

450

Madagascar

230

Malawi

180

Mali

260

Mauritania

490

Mozambique

80

Namibia

1245

Niger

290

Nigeria

250

Rwanda

310

Senegal

650

Sierra Leone

200

Somalia

170

Sudan

540

Swaziland

900

Tanzania

120

Togo

390

Uganda

250

Zaire

260

Zambia

390

Zimbabwe

640

Source: WRI (1992). amount of imported goods, and military expenses still absorb a large part of the states’ budgets.

Many African governments have obtained assistance from richer countries in the form of “soft” loans, subsidies, technical support, and, to a much lesser degree, preferential commercial treatment. This has encouraged them to become dependent on international aid to the extent that, if this assistance decreased, their political equilibrium would be disrupted and their institutional structures would be threatened. In some cases, official development assistance (ODA) accounts for a large part of the countries’ gross national product (GNP). ODA amounts to 74.2% of Mozambique’s GNP; in Guinea-Bissau, 64.4%; in the Gambia, 50.7%; in Somalia, 47.6%; in Cape Verde, 32.2%; in Tanzania, 31.8%; and in Equatorial Guinea, 30.4%.