Causes Of Underdevelopment In Africa, Effects & Solutions

Without a doubt, Africa is one of the most blessed continents on our planet in terms of both natural and human resources. So what are the causes of underdevelopment in Africa and possible solutions? The second most populous continent has an abundance of highly valuable minerals. It is therefore quite surprising that Africa is so backward when compared to most other continents. The reasons for this underdevelopment of Africa are varied hence it is important to outline as many of them as possible.


Slavery And Slave Trade

Slave trade of the 16th to 19th century deprived Africa of valuable manpower that would have been channeled towards the development of the continent. It is estimated that over 12 million Africans especially West and Central Africans were ferried to other climes on ships and sold to farmers who engaged them on plantations and other domestic activities. Up to that point in history, Africa was not too far behind other continents such as Europe in developed. It is believed that wealth currently being enjoyed by European countries came off the sweat of Africans that were used as slaves.

Colonial Legacies

The colonization of Africa by the Europeans created a lot of problems that are still being addressed today on the African continent. First, Africa was divided by European superpowers on paper without taking into account the people that were living there. This created countries that were mergers of tribes that were hitherto intolerant of one another and led to the splitting of some tribes into smaller units spread across different countries.

Also, transport and infrastructure facilities that were built during the colonial period were not evenly distributed in most colonies. This has created a sort of regional imbalance in development that is reflective of post-colonial Africa.

The colonization of Africa by the Europeans led to retardation and stagnation of technological and industrial development. The colonial masters deliberately did this so as to undermine the development of Africa.

In addition, there was a shift in agricultural practices during the colonial era. There was the concentration of agriculture in the production of a few cash crops that led to the neglect of food production. It led to Africans having to produce what they didn’t eat and eat what they didn’t produce. This created food shortages all over Africa that are yet to be fully corrected to date.

No Official Ideology

This is among the causes of underdevelopment in Africa. Virtually all African countries were creations of the colonial masters save for a few. Africa in the past used to operate tribal unit systems and there was really no large conglomeration of people into unique nations as we now have. Therefore, it is not surprising that most African countries do not have an official ideology. An ideology is defined as a set of ideas that govern a country’s political, economic and socio-cultural structures and development strategy. Without a proper ideology to guide the administration of African countries, there is bound to be confusion and this is exactly what is obtainable in many African countries today. Even in countries where such ideologies exist, there is hardly any political will to religiously follow through. Political gladiators rarely understand the correlation between ideology and development. In many African countries such as Congo, Uganda, and Kenya, there are many political parties but they are not ideologically driven. Instead, there is too much emphasis placed on the personalities behind the political parties.

Political Uncertainty And Civil Wars

All over Africa, there are impacts of inter and intrastate wars. In fact, the complete story of Africa cannot be told without making mention of its many wars. Many of the African states are plagued by massive corruption and widespread abuses of human rights both of which provide a medium for wounds of tribal divisions to fester and rotten further. This has often led to political conflicts that have blown over into full-scale civil wars. Some of these wars have been fought internally such as the civil war in Nigeria that led to the death of millions of people from the Igbo tribe and several border wars that have been fought between neighboring states such as the Kenya-Uganda dispute over mining island.

High Levels Of Illiteracy

Illiteracy is also among the major causes of underdevelopment in Africa. Africa is definitely blessed with a huge population but it is unfortunate that quite a significant percentage of this population is uneducated. Even amongst those that are educated, the education gotten is inadequate as they have gone through the inappropriate education system. This is so because the education system in most African countries is understaffed and under-equipped. As a result, products of such systems are not armed with the technological skills required to enhance industrial growth. This to a very large extent hinders the participation of the masses in the development process of Africa.

Decision Making Is Top To Bottom

The implication of this sort of system is that decisions taken are highly reflective of the interests of the ruling class and the masses are therefore forced to accept decisions taken elsewhere that may or may not be in their best interest. Therefore, the masses may not be aware of what is required of them and the significance of their efforts in promoting the welfare of the nation as a whole.


Africa is home to a very large percentage of the poorest people in the world. In fact, this year, the British Prime Minister Theresa May remarked that Africa and in particular Nigeria is home to some of the poorest people in the world. This widespread poverty serves as a chief cause of underdevelopment in Africa. Poverty has obvious economic, social and developmental implications that further compound the problems of underdevelopment in Africa.


There is the continued dependence of African nations on foreign aid. African nations are constantly running to world powers to beg for aids so that their countries do not derail.

Also, as a result of the underdevelopment of Africa, African nations rely on foreign countries for technological advancements.

Brain drain/Brain gain. Due to the underdevelopment of Africa, the brightest minds in Africa are constantly on the move seeking pastures greener in other lands.

The high incidence of underdevelopment of Africa is tied to underdevelopment. If Africa were as developed as other lands such as Europe, the poverty level will be much lower than it is today.

Widespread corruption and lack of accountability are results of the underdevelopment of Africa.


The mentality of the average African should be rewired such that there will be a reduced dependence on foreigners to come and fix our problems for us.

Our educational systems should be upgraded to meet the standard of developed countries so that the products of our educational institutions would be of the highest quality

Policies should be put in place that will ensure the alleviation of poverty.

Formulation and implementation of ideologies to guide the development of African nations.

There should be more efforts at peace talks to resolve conflicts rather than taking to arms.



Africa is gradually catching up with other continents in terms of development and it is quite commendable the efforts being put in by leaders all over Africa. However, there is still plenty of work to be done. There are no quick fixes to the problems created by underdevelopment in Africa but gradual steps are to be taken to achieve the desired result.