A critical analysis on the reasons of underdevelopment in Africa

Failed states and reasons for social unrest in Africa

Essay, 2011

14 Pages


A critical analysis of underdevelopment in Africa

By Stephen Ekokobe Awung


This paper explores the factors responsible for the underdevelopment of most African states with an attempt to provide some possible recommendations to overcoming the socio-economic and political problems faced by the continent in a growing inter connected (globalised) world. Some of the factors that hinder Africa’s development are at the starting point of this essay. The possible measures that may help reduce the agony in the continent if applied sincerely were put forward for consideration. It is assumed that states do not fail because of accidents but primarily due to the faults of kleptocrats[1] who find themselves in power either through force or rigged elections.

3.2 Introduction

Most African countries are suffering from political unrest, economic catastrophes and social disaster. Africa, sometimes referred to as the forgotten continent[2] is blessed with various natural[3] and human resources but suffers under corruption, unemployment, civil strife and terror because of dictators[4] and citizens who are poor and desperate to earn a living despite the means. These characteristics have made African countries to be described as failed states by political pundits. In the failed states index published by FOREIGN POLICY and FUND FOR PEACE in 2010, Africa claims seven of the ten top slots and almost half of the 60 weakest states on earth.

The British department of International development defines failed states as “Governments that cannot or will not deliver core functions to the majority of its people, including the poor.” And adds that “The most important functions of the state for poverty reduction are territorial control, safety and security, capacity to manage public resources, delivery of basic services, and the ability to protect and support the ways in which

the poorest people sustain themselves.[5]

This means that failed states are states that are unable to provide their citizens with basic necessities like health care, security, employment and good infrastructures. According to the failed states index published by the Foreign Policy and Fund[6] for peace in 2010, the majority of African countries are failed states. Such countries include Somalia, Chad, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cameroon and Nigeria[7].

Some of these states are considered threats to the securities of other countries because of the weakness of their central governments to protect their citizens. The Neocons[8] in America argue that failed states have created breeding grounds for terrorists in some countries like Somalia[9], Sudan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The concept of failed states was popularised by Madeleine Albright at the United Nations in the early 1990s.[10]

This notion of failed states has encouraged the policy of anticipatory self-retaliation[11], a policy George. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan used to attack Iraq under Saddam Hussein in 2003 and Gaddafi`s Libya in 1986 respectively. Some countries, notably the United States of America (USA) are using this policy as a pretext to pursue her foreign policy goals.[12]

3.3 Factors that hinder Africa’s development

A. Security and Civil Unrest

Peace and security are vital elements in the running and functioning of any country[13]. According to Peter Lock (1999), security is the pre condition for economic development, especially today where states are in a serious competition to attract foreign investors.[14] Most African countries have failed to provide security to their citizens. Civil strife, social unrest and political violence are common phenomena in Africa.


[1] Leaders whose governments are characterized by rampant greed, corruption and human rights abuses

[2] Bayart wrote, “Africa south of the Sahara is often said to be the limbo of the international system, existing only at the outer limit of the planet which we inhabit” According to Hegel, Africa has remained cut off from all contacts with the rest of the world…the land of childhood, removed from the light of self-conscious history and wrapped in the dark mantle of night

[3] Butts .K. Hughes, Bankus Brent : 2009. China’s Pursuit of Africa’s Natural Resources. Online in: http://www.csl.army.mil/usacsl/publications/CCS1_09_ChinasPursuitofAfricasNaturalResources.pdf

[4] Collier (2010,July/August). Bad guys matter. They put the failed in failed states. Foreign Policy, 88

[5] Taylor,Rupert:2009. What is a failed state? Some Countries are so Dysfunctional they don’t Exist as Nations . Online in: http://www.suite101.com/content/what-is-a-failed-state-a120446

[6] Failed states index :Online in:


[7] Failed states index :Online in:


[8] North, Gary. (2003 ) An Introduction to Neoconservatism. Online in: http://www.lewrockwell.com/north/north180.html

[10] Cojanu, Valentin, Popescu Alina Irina .2002. Analysis of Failed States: Some Problems of Definition and Measurement. The Romanian Economic Journal. Online in http://rejournal.eu/Portals/0/Arhiva/JE%2025%20bis/JE%2025%20-%20Cojanu%20Popescu.pdf

[11] According to this policy, any nation facing a threat considered to be "instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment of deliberation," is considered justified in launching an attack before actually being attacked itself. The state of Israel has also used this policy against the Palestinians. Some scholars refer to this policy as the Bush doctrine. I am against this policy because I believe it may give room to global chaos. Stronger states may use it as a pretext to attack weaker states. I recommend that the UN be strengthen and given the sole legitimacy to decide on issues relating to international threats.

[12] Fujita, Steven: 2007.The Dangers of the Bush Doctrine. Online in:http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/430463/the_dangers_of_the_bush_doctrine.html

[13] Bayart, JF (2009). The state in Africa.Cambridge: Polity Press

[14] Peter Lock wrote a famous article in Afrika-Jahrbuch (1997) entitled “Privatisierung der Sicherheit oder private Militarisierung” Aktuelle Entwicklung in Afrika

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A critical analysis on the reasons of underdevelopment in Africa
Failed states and reasons for social unrest in Africa
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An explanation for the social unrest in Africa today
africa, failed, africa
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Stephen Ekokobe Awung (Author), 2011, A critical analysis on the reasons of underdevelopment in Africa , Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/168420


  • guest on 6/17/2016

    what features in the text is so amaizing and if African leaders would be positive minded on seeind Africa get developed then we will surely be at a better tomorrow. ANGEL from Kenya

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