Sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the world’s poorest regions. More than a third of its people live on less than $1 a day. Quality of life is low in this region because of literacy rate (ability to read), life expectancy (how long you will live) and income.
Living In Poverty Most people in Sub-Saharan Africa make their livings through agriculture. Lack of machinery means that most farmers produce barely enough to feed their families. As a result of this extreme poverty, many people are undernourished (not receiving enough food and nutrients).
The Role of Women It’s been reported that 63% of the countries in this region as having high to very high levels of hunger. Women are affected the most because they do most of the farming and have children to feed. Women work very hard and produce up to 80% of the food, but are becoming more impoverished.
Women Left in Charge Men frequently leave their homes to work in large cities, leaving the women as the head of the household. Children are greatly affected by the extreme poverty. As families become poorer, more and more children are forced to leave school and go to work at younger ages.
Child Laborers The number of working children has been predicted to rise from the current 80 million to over 100 million by 2015. Many of these child laborers work on family farms, but a growing number is forced into slavery. Child trafficking is a huge business, especially in West and Central Africa.
African Child Slaves Children are either kidnapped, sold, or willingly accept jobs that never actually pay wages. Child slaves are often physically or sexually abused and this concerns some human rights activists around the world. Women and children are not the only ones to suffer.
The Dangers of Making a Living Many men can find jobs, but most of the work is low paying, back-breaking and sometimes very dangerous. Recall how many people died working in mines under King Leopold II and they are underpaid . Gold is a major export for a number of these countries and South Africa is the largest producer.
Working in Mines South Africa’s mines are less productive these days and workers have to dig deeper into the earth to find valuable ore. Working in narrow, poorly lit, hot tunnels up to three miles underground is dangerous. Accidents are common and hundreds of workers lose their lives yearly in mines in South Africa and elsewhere.
Blood Diamonds Diamonds is another industry that causes misery as well. African nations produce more than half of the world’s diamonds. For some countries diamonds help stabilize their government and economies. But for others, diamonds have brought death and horrors as wars are fought for control of these riches.
The Cost of Bitter Wars Civil wars in Angola, Dem. Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone have been fueled by the money from illegal diamond sales. In Sierra Leone rebels supported by the illegal diamond profits have killed tens of thousands, maimed (wounded) hundreds of thousands and driven nearly five million civilians from their homes.
Help is Much Needed African countries desperately need money to address many of their problems. Wars, poverty, lack of education, diseases and hunger has people suffering there. Yet the governments in these regions spend very little money helping the people.
The Cost of Freedom One reason why the government spends very little helping their people is because of the foreign debt that most African nations. Since gaining their independence from European colonial rulers, Africa countries have accumulated massive debts to foreign governments, the World Bank, and International Money Fund (IMF).
A Nation of Debt With little money to pay back the debts, interest has built up over the years making the debts completely unmanageable. Rather than having money to spend on education and health care, African governments are forced to pay back overdue loans or face losing foreign aid.
A Bit of Good News for Africa Some nations have excused Africa’s debt, but the poor nations owe so much that they continue to fall behind financially. Not all of Africa’s economic news is bad. With the support of international agencies, corporations and hard workers improvements are being made. Many companies see Africa as an open market and are now exploring it.
A Helping Hand Modern cities offer many opportunities in technology to those that are educated. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) signed a treaty creating African Economic Community (AEC) in 1991. AEC works to increase trade and interdependence among African nations. Several countries are trying to attract tourism and have local owned businesses.
Some Progress and HopeIn villages, small organizations and women groups have projects that improve farming methods, building techniques and have encouraged the growth of small businesses. However, progress is slow and much of the continent, especially rural areas, remain terribly poor. There is hope, but much more work is needed to bring the continent out of its impoverished state.