It is not correct to judge a whole continent, yet Robert Guest’s book “The Shackled Continent” has made a couple of valid points why Africa as a whole is stuck.
Some blame the climate. Most African countries are tropical. Parasites and diseases are abundant. Asia also is hot, with better growth and less conflicts.
Some blame historic Europe for the arbitrary borders, slavery and colonialism. It looks like nowadays African countries don’t touch the border situation out of fear to spark more conflicts. Slavery was existing centuries earlier than when Europeans sold Africans to America. Colonialists left some useful things in place, like roads, clinics and law. These factors cannot explain the apparent lack of success.
If these days Africans still feel inferior (what Steve Biko called “colonization of the mind”) it is pretty much unfounded on an individual level. Yet it might keep too many from reaching their full potential, especially if combined with poverty.
HIV/AIDS is another challenge ravaging in some African countries. Countries addressing it responsibly acknowledge how it spreads. Failing to do so has wiped away a generation of productive people in some countries.
Many countries throughout history proved that success and wealth is not a matter of climate, natural resources or a favorable history. Instead it is self-made and based on participating in markets for skills and goods. Cutting down on corruption and deliberate mismanagement also helps.
There are also some hopeful candidates in Africa: Botswana, Senegal, Ghana, Burkina Faso and South Africa all are showing remarkable progress.
(photo by G.S. Matthews on flickr)