The War on Poverty…in Africa

Kurt Hoffman of the Shell Foundation shares his views on combating poverty, leaving a place for charity as an important part of addressing immediate needs but putting emphasis on economic growth as an ultimate solution.

Charity can undoubtedly be used to relieve suffering, educate children, provide safe havens – for which there is great need in Africa. So more charity, effectively used, has its place. But let’s be clear. Philosophically and in causal terms, charity has made little contribution to economic growth. And economic growth has everything to do with eliminating poverty. Indeed, the only thing we know for sure from history is that economic growth offers the best route for poor people to escape poverty.

Plain and simple,

Many valid explanations have been offered about the causes of poverty in Africa spanning colonialism, conflict, and corruption. But ultimately, Africa is poor because its economies are not growing. Its people are poor because they do not have enough money to survive in the cash economy in which most of them live. And they don’t have money because they don’t have jobs.

In order to grow, African economies need to create and then sustain many millions of enterprises and tens of millions of jobs. So right now, its arguable the most critical lack in Africa is not food, water or education but enterprise – of all types – big and small, rural and urban, locally and foreign owned.

Check it out – its worth a read.

Zimbabwe, however, is picking a different route, says Mohammed A. R. Galadari in The Politics of Populism.  The country’s economy is in shambles thanks to the policies of Mr. Mugabe, such as taking away privately-owned agricultural land.

What has come of Mugabe’s own anti-White, land-grab movement is common knowledge. His agriculture minister is forecasting a bleak food harvest this season, citing problems of fertiliser shortages and technical ignorance of the black farmers resettled on formerly White-owned land. The minister says many new farmers who received land lacked the expertise to raise crops. The result is that, Zimbabwe, that had once been the regional bread basket, is not in a position to feed its millions.

There were both administrative failures and mismanagement, leading to this situation. Complaints are that seized farms were given away to those who didn’t have the experience in farming. Some of these men have not bothered to make use of the land at all, and used it as “weekend picnic spots”. Some others, it is said, have used agricultural loans to buy luxury vehicles for pleasure cruises, and sold off subsidised gasoline meant for agricultural use at higher prices and made profit.

While we know what needs to be done, at least on the fundamental level [see Kurt Hoffman’s piece], to combat poverty, there are often disagreements about how it should be done.  I can live with such a debate.  Yet, it seems that in many cases there is much convincing to do about the what before we can begin thinking about the how



2 responses to “The War on Poverty…in Africa

  1. Hello

    My name is Abdoul and I am working at Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders in London. I would like to get in touch as we launch a campaign of appeal to Zimbabwe.

    Indeed cholera has spread all over the country now and Zimbabwe is experiencing an unprecedented outbreak. The situation is even worse for the lack of sanitation and water. There are also concerns with the start of the rainy season and the shortage of drugs.

    We obviously want to spread this message as far as we can and I know that for this particular place, mainstream media isn’t necessarily the place to do that and that the online communities who care about the situation is big and very active. I was basically wondering if you would like to cover this issue on your blog.You can get more information about our involvement in Zimbabwe at

    I apologise for contacting you out of the blue – I found you through various online networks and through your blog itself and I have only contacted you because I thought you might be genuinely interested in this topic.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this far


  2. For Africa to crawl out of poverty, good governance must first all be realized. Otherwise all the efforts being done by different organisations will not achieve anything in the presence of dictators and corrupt leaders. On a positive note, it is important to point out that some countries (Botswana, Mozambique) are doing well in the area of good governance.