How did Africa get to become such an undeveloped and “backwards” continent?

Question by saudyganja: How did Africa get to become such an undeveloped and “backwards” continent?
While Europe has advanced greatly within the last 500 years, why is the continent of Africa continue to be poor and undeveloped. I know the Industrial Revolution began in Europe, but look at North America, technology certainly spread throughout there. When the Europeans began to first colonize North America, they brought the technology with them. Africa too, has been colonized be the Europeans, but the conitinent of Africa is far behind most other countries in the world. Now forget about the Europeans spreading their technology. Japan, having a history of being one of the most islotated countries, is far more advanced than Africa. Why is all this true? Will Africa ever catch up to the rest of the world?

Best answer:

Answer by Wonder Much
I am not an expert but education, opportunity, location and good old fashioned bad luck may be the culprit. My sister has gone there multiple times and loves the people and culture.. She as I are white. Terrible situation.. but from what I understand…the best of peoples.

Give your answer to this question below!


  1. Koen says:

    There are several causes: One the hand the Africans are partly responsible themselves, because of this ‘tribalism’ thing going on (i.e. most of the leaders, presidents, heads of state whether elected or not, tended to favor their own ethnic group instead of the whole country, which lead to jealousy, resentment and anger amongst the other ethic groups who invariably tended to get revenge whenever one of their ethnic group became the big cheese…..) – secondly: the colonial powers neglected (on purpose, or not- depends on the case) to prepare the Africans to take matters into their own hands once they became independent (in my case – I’m Belgian – it was Congo….it was a Belgian colony until 1960, and at that time it was probably the most modern and best developed African country, with roads, hospitals, schools, mines, railroads etc…..and 50 years later there’s nothing left….nothing works anymore, and while Congo is potentially one of the richest countries in the world due to its natural riches (gold, coltan, diamonds, copper, etc….), the country has been going down the drain ever since….
    Thirdly and most importantly: due to the continents’ natural riches, it has been preyed upon by most western countries, who find in their interests to sponsor war & rebellion and prevent stable, democratic rule, in order to plunder & steal those natural riches….that’s also the reason why the civil war in Congo seems to go on forever….

  2. Joshua S says:

    By the time the Europeans brought that technology, it was advanced and needed African raw materials and markets. They never introduced the actual production technology to the continent, because the point was to increase employment in Europe, not Africa. African colonies deliberately limited African education and intentionally destroyed the local economies to force dependency upon the European economy. Extractive industries were the only sector of the economy which was developed, and post-independence leaders have continued this relationship because it is profitable for those leaders. The exception is South Africa, which only demonstrates the difference between NA (colonized in the 1600-1800s) and Africa – Europeans actually moving to the colony. This created an expectation of local industrialization and development of a European-style economy, which is why South Africa is fully developed today (as well as having ample capital in the gold mines).
    Japan is a perfect counter-example for the reason you mention. After Commodore Perry’s little visit scared the crap out of the Shoguns, Japanese leaders made a CONSCIOUS decision to end their isolation and develop their nation on a European model. This is the Meiji Restoration of 1886, in which Japanese were sent to Europe to learn the new technology and help develop Japan. This happened in less than 20 years, so that by 1904 Japan’s modern navy defeated Russia. Notice also that post-WWII other Asian nations did the same thing, investing in educating their populace and creating a manufacturing base to export finished goods in addition to raw materials.
    No African nation has done this…even the relatively wealthy nations have wealth based upon the exportation raw materials (oil, diamonds, etc.). Only Egypt, Morocco, and South Africa have a real industrial base, and this is because of European settlement and investment during the colonial period. Therefore even relatively successful African economies are completely dependent upon foreign markets and cannot control their prices. There is also little domestic capital, and therefore little opportunity for domestic development. Since there is little opportunity, the few educated Africans who could possibly help build their nation’s economy (a la Japan in the 1880s), emigrate to South Africa, Europe, or North America.
    When I lived in Africa, a good friend of mine stated that Africa was 400 years behind the rest of the world and would never catch up, because its political and economic leaders do what they can to enrich themselves instead of investing in the nation’s future, and it had always been that way. So in summary, there are African and European reasons for the persistence of poverty in Africa.

  3. McShave 07 says:

    The simplest answer is that places like Europe, and Asia developed the technologies through warfare (War has always been the main force in technological advancement) mainly driven by large populations living in smaller areas, and don’t count out religion one the biggest causes of war.

    The African populous in the past was mostly spread out tribes. That basically shared their same religious beliefs. When the Europeans started to colonize African the did’nt help them out, they exploited them for all the were worth and left them in a state of anarchy. Since then, yes they seem to be at war all the time, but they did’nt develop any thing themselves. Us the western world are more than happy to sell them weapons.

    Plus because of not having our modern medicine, the mortality rates are fairly low keeping the populations low, well for the size of Africa anyway.

    Well that’s my theory.

  4. Semhal A says:

    I beleive it was colonization. Yes, Europeans colonized North America but they killed all it’s inhabitants and made a life of their own. So there is a difference between North American colonization and African colonization. When Europeans left Africa, they just got up and left. The people had no government, they’re former rulers were all dead. Europeans split up the land seperating people from their own people, this caused Civil War to erupt all over the continent. Wars that lasted 20 or 30 years. Africans were unable to develope their own countries because they were being ruled by people who did not give a damn about them. Now its as if Africa is in a big hole and cannot get out. Now that these countries are poor they cannot get rich again all of a sudden. Which by the way civilization flourished in African before colonization/

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