October 24, 2021

Lawlessness is Africa’s obstacle to economic stability and progress

5 min read

By Alpha Bedoh Kamara

What’s the biggest challenge for Africa in 2015?’ a 2014 assessment of Africa’s economies and challenges by the World Economic Forum cite three major challenges facing the continent: Education and skills development; building sustainable governance systems; and delivering hard infrastructures.

The World Bank’s projections on extreme poverty say progress in Sub-Saharan Africa has been uneven

Other findings point to the challenges the layman could understand: corruption, nepotism, unemployment and poverty, conflicts, droughts and firming. The challenges are just so many that the millions of young people, especially the most vulnerable, are totally lost in the abysmal economic mires, and made to believe and worship the status quo, and their future hanging onto the mercy of destiny.

The continent’s human and natural resources are enough to create a positive trajectory if these resources are effectively managed and put to use in the best interest of the people. Unfortunately, sustained efforts by the international community to guide African leaders in addressing these challenges are futile, and more people are dying of curable diseases and hunger.

For some countries in this 21st century, nothing changes for the people in rural Africa. Millions of these people still depend on old aged customs for their livelihood, such as the daily hassle of fetching drinking water in streams with no pipe-borne water facilities while public officials are knee-deep in corruption and lawlessness, busy cleaning the last penny that could help buy a poor child a meal.

There are also those people who believe that resorting to violence and destroying public properties, such as infrastructures, is payback for the governments, because they don’t trust the judicial systems. As a result, the situation creates a vicious circle that preys mostly on vulnerable people in society: women and children.

Today, millions of young Africans are exposed to violence and abuse and forced into prostitutions and criminal activities.

Poverty in a Rising Africa

The World Bank report, ‘Poverty in a Rising Africa’ states “Challenges remain substantial: more people are poor today than in 1990, two in five adults are still illiterate, and violence is on the rise. World Bank estimates show that the rate of extreme poverty fell in the region from 56% in 1990 to 43% in 2012. The continent’s population, however, increased at a fast pace, so there are actually more people – an estimated 63 million more – living in extreme poverty in Africa today than in 1990, as population growth outpaced the impressive economic and social forces that reduce extreme poverty.”

While the continent shows positive economic development transformations in some African countries, the successes are as a result of pragmatic policies that address transparency, accountability, and implementation of the rule of law. Countries such as Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa, Botswana, and Morocco, are prioritizing implementation of the rule of law.

There are ongoing development projects throughout Africa and expectations are high that with the growing youth population and ongoing aggressive investment by international private investors in internet technology and other economic platforms, Africa will surely make the mark. But again, the question that needed to be addressed is how will such positive efforts be sustainable and impact positively on the lives of the millions of people still languishing in poverty?

Successful investment relies on conducive environments to thrive. A business thrives in a place of stability and security, sustainable public utility services such as electricity and water facilities. Where these facilities are not reliable, running a business becomes costly and thus the challenge for an investor to thrive and provide employment opportunities. It is, therefore, no surprise that the common investments ventures that have continued to sustain operations in Africa are mining companies while other ventures, unfortunately, diedout over time.


The key to this problem could be ‘the change of attitude’ in Africa. Understanding the impact of lawlessness on social and economic progress and how the continent is impoverished because of continued actions of lawlessness by the top to the bottom in society will provide a clue to the missing link to the continent’s problems.

Therefore, ‘lawlessness’ should be a major concern for the international community and governments in Africa, such as, understanding the various acts of lawlessness that cause mismanagement of public resources, corruption, tribalism, and all those activities that derail the continent’s economic stability and growth.

The low in the community

In Africa, lawlessness is often looked at as misbehavior by the low in the community and not the rich and people in affluence positions. Therefore, can lawlessness be said of a public servant who violates the law to steal public money?  Can lawlessness be said of a police officer who takes a bribe? Can lawlessness be said of a spiritual leader who uses his/her platform to preach religious radicalism? Can lawlessness be said of the doctor who steals medical supply meant for the public hospital?

Corruption (dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery) is lawlessness perpetrated by public officials whose actions continue to bleed national resources and plundering donor monies meant for economic projects aimed at improving the lives of poor people. Perhaps, simplifying the word ‘Corruption’ to ‘Lawlessness’ would make the millions of people who are illiterate to fully comprehend the extent of the behavior of people in public offices and that may make leaders beware of their illegal acts in society.

The World Bank report ‘Access to Justice and Legal Process: Making Legal Institutions Responsive To Poor People in LDCs’ states that there is little understanding of how the rule of law contributes to poverty.

By understanding the relationship between lawlessness and economic development more emphasis will then be focused on addressing these menace. Because lawlessness (disobedient to the rule of law) includes everything deemed illegal by the state,  a Member of Parliament who takes a bribe to support the passing of a bill and the boy, who throws garbage in the streets despite municipality laws, both commit acts of lawlessness. As a result of the level of lawlessness in public governance, governments are unable to provide effective and sustainable public utility services, hospitals lack the essential drugs because someone at the top has pilfered them for his/her private clinic, and the city is in ‘blackout’ because the procurement authority procured a substandard machine.

But there is still hope. Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa, Botswana, Morocco, and few others are breaking the barrier, why not the rest of Africa?







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