Urban Poverty and Begging in African Countries. Possible Ways Out

Essay, 2019

10 Pages, Grade: A


Table of Contents




Causes of beggary in African cities

Effects of Begging

The way forward to African cities beggary




The pace of urbanization is rapidly increasing in countries all over the world, Africa included. Just under half of the world’s six billion people now live in towns. By 2025, four billion people in developing countries will be living in urban areas. Urbanization involves major challenges related to the environment, health and HIV/AIDS and exerts considerable pressure on land, housing, and infrastructure. Uncontrolled urbanization is linked to rising levels of begging and social unrest. The characteristics of urban poverty are different from those of rural poverty and have a particularly negative impact on women, children and young people. There is a clear link between urbanization and economic growth, and economic growth and poverty reduction. For towns to play a central role in poverty reduction, they must be well organized and well governed. The purpose of this position paper is to clarify why and how of urban poverty and begging in various African towns, and to look ahead to areas and methods those are particularly relevant to reducing urban begging. This includes measures targeted directly on urban begging, and areas of cooperation that will also benefit vulnerable groups in the urban population.

Keywords : African cities, begging, beggary, economic aspect , social aspect , urban areas, urbanization.


The developing countries especially the Sub Saharan Africa have been associated with the tremendous existence of the begging behaviour. Begging according to the international labour organization (ILO, 2004), is an act whereby an individual asks or solicit favours such as money, food, shelter or other charitable items based on being poor, disabled or physically challenged.

Whenever a conversation about beggars takes place, the first thing that comes to mind is poverty. This is to say beggary is closely linked to poverty. It has and more so continues to be a challenge and a problem in most of the African cities, the menace (begging) seems to be around for quite a long time. Currently, many families in Africa, more so in the cities live a life commonly known as “social bottom.” This aspect is further made noticeable from a foundation of strong stratification where the gap between the poor and the rich continues to enlarge. It is a dynamic process which has witnessed poor people growing poorer while the rich continue to become more prosperous. This dynamic process of a growing gap between the rich and the poor has also contributed to most illegal acts facing humanity. Although begging is a worldwide phenomenon it’s deeply rooted in the developing countries especially the African continent (Namwata & Mgabo, 2014). For the past years beggary in African cities has been fuelled by various factors and it has affected city dwelling, but there are some remedies which can be adopted to curb the menace.

Causes of beggary in African cities

For us to be able to understand begging in different African cities, it is important to determine the explanation to beggary, what really leads to begging and the resulting implication to the system and organization of African cities. There exist many causes to this menace, ranging from mental and physical disability, poverty, unemployment, the giving custom, and family business collapse among others. These causes may appear alone or in some instances a combination of two or more reasons to create a beggary situation. Despite mentioning the above causes, two underlying causes remain common – poverty within a family or underemployment which results in a family being unable to support disabled member(s) and also the absence of security from government social policies which in turn forces these members of the family to beggary.

The leading cause of beggary in African cities is linked to economic reasons. The economic causes include job loss, unemployment and lack of business income. Poverty takes the position of a significant factor which forces most people to resort to the habit of beggary. However, poverty cannot be the sole cause of beggary. Unemployment follows closely although not all who are unemployed have resorted to begging. According to Rugoho and Siziba (2014), the beggary menace in Harare, Zimbabwe, combines both poverty and unemployment as the leading causes of beggary in that city. Another contribution to the problem is the collapse of social disability fund. Unemployment takes a whole 89% of begging cases followed by poverty (Rugoho & Siziba, 2014)

Another unusual but unfortunate cause of beggary in most of the African cities is the lucrative business attached to it. Due to the possibility of earning profits in the easiest of ways, making an income from begging becomes a reality. Various cases have been witnessed where people have made money through beggary, making a career instead of toiling through honest means to get money. While others have made careers out of beggary, others are in the habit of exploiting other members of the society and in turn invest the proceeds in other business ventures. It is no wonder most cities in Africa have group activities which engage children to do this kind of job. Cases have been reported in cities such as Nairobi and Mombasa in Kenya where beggars have been ferried into the cities all the way from Tanzania to take part in the business of beggary for the financial advantage of their “bosses.”

Social causes that contribute to beggary in African cities include family disintegration or disorganization. The absence of parental care and control there increases disorganization and most families breakup due to social custom. A family is an important part of the component of a society. Disorganized families automatically result in disruption of social activities and behavior patterns. When a low-income family is disrupted by disorganization which leads to, beggary is bound to occur. Parental control is paramount to ensuring that children are advised and directed to positive activities. In some cases parents are required to go to factories to look for work, leaving behind their children without control. Due to unmonitored movements of the children it opens a loop for them to do according to their desires. Due to peer influence they are likely to fall into bad company and thus lead to beggary.

Another cause is biological where one may become ill, mental challenges or physical disability and also old age. Illness and disability can result in physical disabilities like deafness or blindness throwing people into harsh economic situations forcing them to resort to beggary. Seni (2017) explains a unique form of beggary which involves children is rampant within Dodoma, Tanzania. Most of the children are left by their parent to look for means of survival (Seni, 2017). Moreover, orphans are forced to beg by their guardians to survive. Some dishonest parents have also capitalized on the weaknesses of children under their care by turning them into beggars to earn an extra coin. Many African nations have not embraced the idea of transgender. This, therefore, means that those who are transgender find it a common occurrence of being deprived of opportunities in the employment sector and to survive, they resort to beggary.

Most of the countries with their gross domestic product (GDP) a twentieth less that of the United States of America. Looking at the location of these countries with low GDP they lie within or close to the Equator. The majority of the countries in Africa are within the proximity of the Equator. For example, sub-Saharan countries which appear more dragged economically face geographical challenges such as productivity of land and plant species in various regionswhich have attributed to the rise of beggary in the towns. Multhus (1960) says that there is a natural sex instinct in human beings and their number tend to grow in a higher rate compared to subsistence multiplication. As a result, population increases in geometrical progression and if unchecked doubles itself every 25 years. On the other hand, the food supply increases in a slow arithmetical progression due to the operation of the law of diminishing returns based on the supposition that the supply of land is constant. Since population increases in geometrical progression and the food supply in arithmetical progression, population tends to outrun food supply. Thus an imbalance is created which leads to over-population. The over-population is made hard to maintain due to geographical effects such as climate that influence rains for agricultural produce. They receive inadequate rainfall that cannot be depended on by the entire population. Due to lack on means to support the large population, the African cities become places for the beggars to earn their living from the well-wishers (Oluwole, 2016)

In African societies, some may be born poor and grow with the perspective of poverty in mind. This condition has made the African cities flourish with beggars. Lack of food drives many to the act of begging. This is because both parents are poor and might be with disabilities, so the only source of living is through begging. Since the assistance these people with disabilities get is not enough to cater for their daily needs their children can’t see the future without begging. Because their parents are poor and others even physically disabled the children become the immediate victims of the conditions. This makes them approach populated places to find their daily fortune more so these being the cities (Khan, Menka, & Shamshad, 2013).

Family breakup or divorce: The largest number of the street children in the African cities is the product of marital breakups. This causes the psychological torture to the children when their parents’ divorce and fail to bear the responsibility of parenting. As a result, the only place young children can sustain their daily lives is by going around asking for help from the rich which has become a custom by the poor where the disability, helplessness or social inadequacy is shown; beggary (Oluwole, 2016).

Weak Government Institutions: The governments in Africa have adopted the many programmes to be implemented on the eradication of the poverty and raise the standards of living of every citizen. The institutions involved in the implementation are full of self-minded people who instead of mindful of the low class in the society, get a chance to embezzle the capital allocated for these programs. This aspect of the key leaders in the weak and corrupt government of putting in their pocket the little acquired has made many lose hope in life and instead engage in observing the beggary alms in the cities. (Seni, 2017).

Minimal education amongst the African population is one of the factors leading to the existence of the unique begging style in the cities. This is because most of the adult beggars cannot afford to educate and since they didn’t go to school can’t value the education anymore. In like manner they are unable to understand their rights even from the beginning that the people with disabilities should be taken to schools and every child is entitled to the right of access to education as per the United Nations Charter or the Bill of human rights. Education opens the mind of many and even places them in the capability to compete for the existing career opportunities (Seni, 2017)

Effects of Begging

Sexual abuse: Female beggars are mostly abused sexually by men who seem to lure them to bed with the promise of food, better clothing, and mostly money. Most of those female beggars have been identified as the victim of sexually transmitted diseases for instance HIV/AIDS.

Kidnapping: in Africa, many beggars in the cities are victim of kidnapping, to be enrolled into harmful groups such as terrorist organisations, illegal organ harvesting, rituals such as magical practices and so on.

Crime: the majority of the beggars especially the male is involved in the robbery in the cities. The condition they are brought up in hardens them not to have mercy on individuals and this makes them vulnerable to be used in violent robbery activities and even deaths. Many in the cities are involved in item snatching from the public.

Accident Risks: Beggars risk being hit or run over by careless drivers as they beg for alms between moving vehicles in city highway traffic.

Psychosocial effects of the street are begging: Beggars are affected by psychological patterns such as the development of inferiority complex, lack of social interaction, loss of self-respect and increased loss of self-confidence which affect their way of living and the perspective about the worthiness of living.

Harassments from municipal officials and police beggars are usually caught up in the policies of free beggary in cities whereby when found by the government officials are easily harassed and even taken to cells.

Cold during the nights: Beggars are exposed to adverse weather conditions which may affect their health and even cause deaths. They pass through extreme coldness during the nights some even have light clothing. It is the survival of the fittest phenomenon where the tough lives and the weak pave the way for the strong.

The way forward to African cities beggary

Many African governments have introduced measures and schemes to remedy the situation of beggary in their cities. However, it is important for social responsibility to be promoted if the menace is to be nipped in the bud once and for all. Some of the remedies include support children given to parents especially those who have seen better years (aged). Most stories that the beggars tell are those of abandonment by children. Sad! As children, it is important to take care of parents in their old age, as it marks a turn in the life cycle (Adebayo, 2017). Children should always remember that one time; they also will age and become old. As much as the government has to take care of mentally ill people within a society by providing required drugs, the society at large is equally responsible for these people. It is sad to see mentally ill people roaming the streets of cities with nothing to eat or places to sleep. It is a social duty and one that should be taken seriously to ensure that these people do not end up begging for food or shelter. Helplines should be made available so these people can get assistance from rehabilitation centres fit for them. The menace of unemployment can be dealt with by governments from various states implementing small business, entrepreneurship and regional schemes directed at development. According to Nurse (2017), the society needs to understand the place for children and avoid involving them in activities that only affect them negatively. It is high time that transgender people are accepted within the African context and incorporate them into economic enriching activities so they can fend for themselves. The biological differences should not be seen as a deterrent to their accessing employment opportunities. African governments should take into consideration their predicament and offer training in skills while at the same time creating awareness about these people. Fake beggars should also face the full wrath of the law as they tend to paint the honest beggars in a bad light. In a nutshell, there is the need for various strategies to curb the situation.


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Urban Poverty and Begging in African Countries. Possible Ways Out
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african, begging, countries, possible, poverty, urban, ways
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Timothy Musa (Author)Roland Koech (Author), 2019, Urban Poverty and Begging in African Countries. Possible Ways Out, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/594507


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