Why is Africa so poor, and will it ever become developed?

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Joined: 13-08-14
Aug 13 2014 10:48

Ok, quick history lesson so get comfortable...

The true reason why Africa is perceived as backwards is not IQ, but because firstly, Africans (mainly sub-saharans and during ancient times) were never really motivated socially to progress or advance. They were not technoligically inclined either. The generally nomadic lifestlye suited them, and they didn't have a reason to change.

Africans weren't as motivated to progress (compared to Europe, Middle East and Asia) until they came into contact with other cultures--the first of which were the Arabs.

History shows that competition (and to an extent, diversity) are what fuels progression. Because coming into contact with other groups stimulates growth. For a simple example of this, look at the level of advancement between Greeks compared to the advancement of Vandals and Vikings. Scandinavians were uncivilized and savage precisely because they weren't diverse and came into contact with no one other than un-advanced tribes, and perhaps Celtic tribes (the Celts were more advanced in terms of metal-working) to the South.

Meanwhile, while Northern European tribes were considered backwards by the Greeks, the Greeks were building cities, their artisans made statues, and they created the Olympics, and they theorized about the atom, democracy, and the Republic.
Why was this? Because Greeks were not only naturally industrious, but they had access via trade with the premier empires of the world and the cradle of civilization.

Unlike Africa, there was a free flow of ideas into Europe from Asia. Ideas traveled from Persia and Egypt to Greece. And Persia, Greece, and Egypt all benefited mutually from their interractions. Because the competition stimulated growth.

No real competition existed in Africa to stimulate such growth, because Africans as a people were nomadic and hadn't made cities until within the past 2000 years. While Babylon, Sumeria, and Akkadia had established cities all over the Cradle of Civilization: Mesopotamia.

The Greeks have much that they owe to the Sumerians and Akkadians, who invented farming and civilization. This meme quickly spread from Mesopotamia, reaching Egypt, the Indus valley (Mohenjo Daro), and then Greece.

Meanwhile, Chinese were establishing a civilization in the Yangtzee river valley.

But Africa just was too isolated. As before stated, isolationism stagnates growth. It was Babylonian and Sumerian ideas which made Greece great--thus Greece benefited from this free-flow of ideas. In fact, Greek knowledge of astronomy and science doesn't even touch Sumeria, who famously depicted the Sun being orbited by the various planets.

Rome, likewise, would have never become great if not for the exchange of ideas. Rome was, as some of you may know, initially a trading port established by Phoenicia. Phoenicia was located in modern-day Palestine and Lebanon. And Greece and Phoenicia colonized much of the Mediterranean.

Not only did the Phoenicians establish Rome, they established trading points all along North Africa. Which was the precursor to the Carthaginian empire.

After Phoenicia fell, Carthage and Rome emerged from the remnants of their civilization. Romans were highly uncivilized and took most of their culture from the Etruscans who lived nearby. However, as Rome became larger, they recieved an influx of Greek culture. By the time Rome controlled the entire Italian peninsula, Alexander the Great had already conquered the known word, bringing in new ideas from Persia, Egypt and even India.

But Greece was eventually conquered by Romans. The Greeks viewed Romans as savages with no culture, and the Romans were in awe of Greek culture, thus they adopted not only words from the Greek language into Latin, but they adopted the Greek pantheon, Zodiac, astrology, and all Greek science.

Thus we can see an unbroken archeological line where ideas moved from Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) and made it to Phoenicia (Palestine/Lebanon) and from there to the warring city-states in Greece.

After the Vandals and other tribes invaded Rome from Northern Europe and Scandinavia they knocked Europe back intellectually perhaps a 1000 years. And Europe experienced a Dark Age and became more isolated than it was during the days of Rome. Thus, there is a correlation between isolationism and lack of intellectualism. Coupled with anti-scientific Church suppression, Europe languished as a continent of warring Christian kingdoms and factions. They had virtually abandoned the legacy laid down to them from Greece, Sumeria, Babylon, and others.

Meanwhile, the Islamic conquest was taking hold in the Middle East. After Northern European tribes had defeated Rome, leaving Constantinople behind, Arab conquests took control of North Africa, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. While Europe languished in the Dark Ages, the Islamic Empire created the greatest civilization of the time. It imported the ideas from Rome and Greece and the old Persian culture. It didn't have to start from scratch, just like Rome and Athens never started from scratch. There is a reason Mali is often cited as one of the few examples of Sub-Saharan civilization - the adoption of Islam, brought there by Muslim Berber and Tuareg merchants. Islam also spread in the region by the founders of Sufi brotherhoods. Even then, because of the (sub-saharan) African lack of emphasis on the written word, events were recorded only by outside muslims introducing the religion. With this came Islamic manuscripts. However, while the North, West and East coasts (esp the Horn of Africa) benefitted from contact with muslim traders (mostly Arabs), the interior's population were still largely nomadic and isolated, with no real need/motivation to advance themselves.

Meanwhile, Alexandria was arguably the greatest center of intellectual thought. The Byzantines had the rest of the Great Library effectively destroyed, previously (because the church in Constantinople viewed science as heretical to Christianity). Thus Alexandria passed to yet another culture. This sparked intellectual growth in the Arabic Empire. Among other things, Al Gebra was invented there. "Algebra" as it's known today still possesses its Arabic name. The modern checking and banking system was established there, whereby Islamic traders would establish their presence in Africa and China. The number system was also established there. The numbers we use today "1, 2, 3, 4..." are called "Arabic numerals" as they were invented and used by Arabic traders.

Why was the Arabic Empire so successful? Because it was diverse and open. It connected with other cultures. Paper money was invented by the Chinese and the Arabs quickly imported this concept. The word "Check" comes from the Arabic word "cheque/cheq" since Arabic traders couldn't afford to bring gold with them on trading excursions, since they might be robbed.

After Europe opened itself back up to diversity and knowledge, after the Arabs had been defeated by Ottomans, who brought guns and cannons to Europe, the resulting period became known as the "Renaissance." The Renaissance (And you can read the work of historian Gavin Menzies on this) was largely funded by Chinese and Arabic capital. The Arabs had economic interests in Venice. However, the Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese tried to find new routes of trade to China because. But the Arabic empire controlled a monopoly on most of the trade routes, so they could sell their products to Europe for higher prices because they viewed Europe as a new market for profit.

In the process, European explorers "discovered" the Americas. Once the Europeans started to colonize these areas, they brought in more capital--and the "Cold War" between the Arabic Empire and the European kingdoms was broken because the Arabs couldn't compete financially as Europeans had reached new markets. Thus, civilization started to return to Europe as the Middle East slunk into a Dark Age (that lasts today) and the Middle East and Europe traded places.

And that's the best summary as any that can be given for why Africans were always behind. They just weren't subject to the factors that made Indo-Europe and the Middle East great. As you can see, in the Old World, knowledge was shared and passed between peoples.

This was all thanks to the Phoenician, Sumerian, and Babylonian writing systems. The modern writing system we use today comes from Phoenician. Greeks developed their writing system centuries later to model the Phoenician system, and from the Greek and Phoenician alphabets emerged today's "Latin Alphabet" of the characters "A, B, C, D,..." and so on.

But no such writing system existed in Africa. Africans couldn't trade or exchange ideas because there was no writing system.

Thus, if you don't have the time to read the above summary, it boils down to six things.
SUMMARY: Trade, proximity, free-thought, diversity, trade routes, and written "PHONETIC" language from the Middle east helped the Old World become great.

Africans only had themselves, while Mesopotamia, being conveniently located in a "fertile crescent" surpassed them on all counts. Mesopotamia was also conveniently located within proximity to the Nile culture, as well as the Indus river valley (the Harappan civilization and Mohenjo Daro). Though, the Nile culture wouldn't exist for sometime after.

Anyway, thanks for your time. I realize this board isn't scientifically or intellectually inclined, and is instead nationalistically inclined, but I hopefully wasn't hurting anyone by stating facts.
Hopefully, there will be sensible responses.

boozemonarchy's picture
Joined: 28-12-06
Aug 13 2014 12:22
turkeyplate wrote:
The true reason why Africa is perceived as backwards is not IQ, but because firstly, Africans (mainly sub-saharans and during ancient times) were never really motivated socially to progress or advance. They were not technoligically inclined either. The generally nomadic lifestlye suited them, and they didn't have a reason to change.

turkeyplate, you're clearly a second rate troll (is that like all we'll ever get here???), but for those interested in some anthropology of Africa. . .

Africa is home to its own independent origin of agriculture. When the Sahara was more Sahel like, some 7000 years ago, farmers domesticated and cultivated pearl millet and other crops. Unsurprisingly, were folks farmed, they also settled. That said, a diversity of subsistence practices have for some time, and to this day, been employed throughout the continent, ranging from highly mobile hunting/gathering, horticulture, agriculture and pastoralism.

Metallurgy also has a very early and interesting history throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Recent discoveries are pointing towards iron production in the Nsukka region of Nigeria in the 3rd or early 2nd millennia BC. Copper smelting is generally excepted to have been invented much earlier. For those that don't know, that puts African metal technology generally in the same timeline (predating much of it actually) as other region's iron ages. Some of the earliest instances of carbon steel technology are also found in Africa.

Chilli Sauce's picture
Chilli Sauce
Joined: 5-10-07
Aug 13 2014 12:54
I realize this board isn't scientifically or intellectually inclined, and is instead nationalistically inclined.

Yeah, you have misunderstood this board to an impressive degree.

To be honest, I find large parts of your post pretty offensive and bordering on racism, but if you are interested in the politics of this board:


Joined: 9-06-11
Aug 13 2014 13:03

Parts of that post, like the bit you quoted Chilli, made me think it was copypasta. Indeed, Google it and you'll see it's been posted on at least one other board recently.

Khawaga's picture
Joined: 7-08-06
Aug 13 2014 14:49

Racist drivel, like it's written by a 14 year old white supremacist who thinks he's really clever. Or someone who still thinks the British Empire exists.

Joined: 21-02-12
Aug 13 2014 15:06
Or someone who still thinks the British Empire exists.

Well, according to a recent survey 1 in 3 people in the UK world like the British Empire to still exist and 59% think that it was something to be proud of, which is a bit dispiriting if you ask me.

Ictin's picture
Joined: 2-04-15
Apr 2 2015 18:18

There is a plethora of reasons for the dismal state of Africa. One could begin with CORRUPTION. The countless billions of dollars in aid along with the food supplies that has been given to the country is shameful. The warlords that have control see to it that the people in dire need of assistance are the last to receive it, if at all. It's shameful. In turn there's no improvement in the infra structure, education, employment, construction, exports, etc.etc. The dream was that after Apartheid ended the country would provide a level playing field. Nothing could be further from the truth. The country is one big corrupt and crime ridden gutter. It seems no one is capable of governing, and if so they are quickly disposed of by the criminals that are in control. At this point there is no hope in the immediate future for the poor souls that desire change. The country is not going to progress any time so.

Khawaga's picture
Joined: 7-08-06
Apr 2 2015 18:29
The countless billions of dollars in aid along with the food supplies that has been given to the country is shameful.

FYI, Africa is not a country. And fucking hell, what a load of ideological garbage you're spouting; straight from the mouths of the conservatives.

Soapy's picture
Joined: 30-05-10
Apr 2 2015 19:05


Joined: 27-08-15
Aug 27 2015 09:30

I am African myself and having lived my whole life here I think I can answer that question too. The problem with Africa is the complex political and economic ties. African communities did not get sufficient time to develop. While Europens were "ganging up", African communities were still engaging in bloody ethnic clashes. Then came the shock of the slave trade that increased the animosity between warring tribes. Colonalism divided Africa and brought together communities that could not coexist. Additionally, the Europeans introduced a class struggle that did not exist in African communities. When they left, this struggle increased. Presently, all our political and economic systems are intertwined with social systems and directly depend on ethnicity. It is a pity to note that in my country we elect our national leaders depending on their tribes and not policies. 50 years since independence and we are still stuck. Our leaders lack the incentives to provide public goods and most citizens do not understand what the government should do for them. We lack social services that translate to very poor economic systems. Bank interests are high, land ownership systems are poor and political systems hopeless. We grow too much cash crops and too little food. These cash crops are expoerted and the money benefits those people at the very top of the social structures. Governments are slow and few people are motivated to provide services. Governments are so slow that people have opted to use "other means" to get basic services. This has led to high levels of corruption. For example, getting a job with the government is difficult. You have to know someone or pay some money. Unemployment is so high that last month, they advertised 300 job openings and got over 80,000 applications with most of these applicants qualified for the jobs. How do we proceed? Will this situation change? I don't think Africa can catch up with the world. I have been to the US and the middle east (UAE) and was surprised to see that people actually act responsibly and understand that the government is there to serve them unlike in my own country where most people don't understand the role of the public service. It is important to note that despite being home to the poorest people on earth, services in Africa are expensive. Basic infrastructure such as the internet and telephone networks are too expensive. For example, the iPhone is almost 50% more expensive here. All imported items are more expensive in Africa than any other place on the planet. Internaitonal firms partner with local companies in order to bypass taxes therefore we end up with a lot of unaccounted money in the economy which increases inflation. Market trends here are unpredictable which discourages investors. We lack basic human needs such as water and electricity. Am saying the problem here is unsolvable because we try to bring in solutions that are tailored for different societies. The problem with Africa is a complex one and internatioal aid can not solve it. We need to increase our means of production and look for ways of wealth redistribution. People from other areas think Africa lacks leaders but it isn't absolutely true. Communities are too insecure and most of these eternal presidents are put therer by their communities and despite everything, these communitites will not let them go. Absolutism is rampant here. What about education? Education in Africa fails to focus on the problem. We are slowly developing a consumer economy wtihout any means of production. We want to use computers yet we do not have sufficient energy to power them up. We import all our infrastructure which makes them even more expensive.