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Read the following passage carefully and answer in your own words, as far as possible, the questions that follow.
Poverty, like malaria, is pandemic in many developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Why are most of these countries so economically backward and so slow to develop even many years after they have freed themselves from colonial rule?
Many theories have been put forward to explain this peculiar plight of developing counties in Africa. One common theory is that dark-skinned people living in Africa and elsewhere have been eternally cursed to be poor. This theory is sometimes referred to as the curse myth – a theory that has no shred of scientific evidence to support it. Perhaps it has been concocted by the fair-skinned race to enhance their feeling of superiority and to justify their treatment of black-skinned people.
Apartheid South Africa, for instance, used to defend the treatment the Dutch settlers gave to the indigenous African people on the crude assumption that black people had been, by the design of nature, condemned forever to be the hewers of wood and drawers of water.
The curse myth apart, there is another theory, dubbed the torrid-zone dwellers’ theory, which claims that people who live in the tropics are always being adversely affected by the heat of the sun. The propounders claim that the tropical climate is so enervating that the brains of the dwellers in the heat zone are enfeebled and are, in consequence, rendered incapable of deep sustained thinking. They further claim that the chronic poverty in the developing countries derives from the people’s inertia, lack of effort and inventiveness.
Strangely enough, this theory is sometimes expressed in more palatable version – that nature is so generous to tropical-zone dwellers that, by virtue of the kind climate, there is hardly any need for the people to worry about how to get food, provide themselves with decent clothing and seek permanent and comfortable shelter. As nature provides the people with these three basic necessities of life, the theorists claim that the people need not make any effort. Furthermore, tropical vegetation is so luxuriant that natural food such as pawpaw and banana grow without human prompting in and around people’s dwelling places. In fact, they also claim that there is no need for planning and foresight for people living in the ever warm and generous climate.
These specious theories, unfortunately, do not help solve the problems of Africa’s chronic poverty. What, then, are the real remedies? What would be done to remove the real obstacles in the way of development in Africa?
The real obstacles are, in fact within Africans themselves; these are embedded in their nature, attitudes and mindset. Some of the internal obstacles are technological ignorance, slavish attachment to retrogressive ideas, beliefs and practices.
These obstacles to development and wealth in Africa apart, there are some other hindrances – the dearth of selfless and committed leaders with clear vision and the courage to pursue and achieve them.
Until these obstacles to development and wealth are clearly identified and dealt with, chronic poverty and underdevelopment may persist in this great but dormant continent.
WASSCE Summary Questions
1) In three sentences, one for each, summarize the theories some people use to explain the prevalence of poverty in Africa.
2) In two sentences, one for each, state two suggestions indicated by the writer for solving the problems of poverty in developing countries in Africa.
Recommended English Summary Answers
a) i) Africans are destined to be poor.
ii) Africans are unable to think due to their exposure to the sun’s heat.
iii) Africa’s favourable climate has made the people lazy.
b) i) Africans must embrace modern ideas.
ii) Africans must choose selfless and visionary leaders.
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