Inventors and entrepreneurs across Africa are using Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to tackle some of the ‘development problems’ which the continent faces.
Combating poaching, tracking illegal shipping activities, monitoring oil spills and adding value to Safaris.
In Nigeria, archaeologists are using drones to map traces of the ancient Yoruba civilization
In Sudan, they are being used to fight desertification: by monitoring signs of drought and to plant Acacia trees which prevent social erosion.
In Rwanda, drones deliver blood to 50% of the country’s blood transfusion centres: centres in remote areas can now receive emergency supplies within 30 minutes by drone-parachute, simply by sending a text message.
UK Development aid intended to maintain stability in Northern Syria has apparently ended up in the hands I Jihadists who abuse human rights.
This is according to a recent BBC Panorama documentary, which aired this Monday.
The problem seemed to be down to one private UK company who DFID channelled the money through.
The programme uses document evidence and interviews with aid workers based in Turkey who talk about bags of UK tax payers aid money being handed over to Syrian peacekeeping forces – who were actually working with local Jihadists to ‘maintain a balance of power’ in the region
The document evidence seemed to prove that the company knew this was going on…
So how strong an argument does this evidence make against aid?
Not a very strong one outside of this specific case IMO.
Aid refers to any flow of resources from developed countries to the developing world. Aid can come in the form of money, technology, gifts or training, and can either be provided in the form of a grant which does not have to pay back or a loan with interest which does have to be paid back.
There are different strengths and limitations of aid depending on where it comes from – and you need to be able to distinguish between Official Development Aid from large scale institutions such as the World Bank and Governments, aid organised through Non-Governmental Organisations – or Charities such as Oxfam and Private Aid – from organisations set up by wealthy individuals – such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
There are three main types of aid you need to know about:
Official Development Aid
Official Development Aid (ODA) is aid from public or official sources such as national governments or international agencies of development. Official Development Aid accounts for 80% aid.
There are two main types of ODA (which are not distinguished in the table above)
Bilateral Aid involves countries in the developed world giving money directly to governments, local communities or businesses in the developing world. In the UK this is knowns as ‘Official Development Assistance’ and in is delivered through the Department for International Development (DFID). 70% of ODA is bilateral.
Multilateral Aid involves the UK (and other countries) donating money to international agencies such as the World Bank and the European Commission. There are over 200 international agencies which provide aid to developing countries. 30% of ODA flows through such international agencies.
Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Aid – NGOs are independent charities such as OXFAM which raise donations from the general public. There are thousands of NGOs ranging from the very large and well-known such as OXFAM, which focus on a range of development projects, to the very localised and specific, which may consist of just a few individuals focussing on one development issue in one area of one country. NGO aid makes up the other 20% of aid.
This is aid from international foundations which are set up by wealthy individuals or Corporations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This accounts for a relatively small proportion of aid flows.
Chapman et al (2016) – A Level Sociology Student Book Two [Fourth Edition] Collins.
Andre Gunder Frank (1971) argues that the reason trade doesn’t work for poor countries is a legacy of colonialism – before independence, the colonizing power simply took these commodities. After independence, developing societies are often still over-dependent on exporting these primary commodities, which typically have a very low market-value, and rich countries are happy to keep things this way because this enables them to stay rich.
Dependency Theorists point to at least the following reasons why trade doesn’t help poor countries develop:
Poor countries are often dependent on low value, primary products for their export-earnings
Examples of countries over-dependent on low-value commodities include the Ivory Coast in West Africa, which to this day remains around 33% dependent on the export of raw cocoa beans or related products; Kenya (in East Africa) which is about 30% dependent on two primary products – tea and cut flowers, and Ethiopia (also in East Africa, although never a European colony) which is about 30% dependent on income from Coffee exports.
According to Elwood (2004) three commodities account for 75% of total export in the poorest 50 countries, but because of the declining value of such commodities, the developing nations need to export more and more every year just to stay in the same place. One developing nation leader described it as ‘running up the downward escalator’. For example, in 1960, the earnings from 25 tons of natural rubber would buy four tractors, today it would only buy one.
Value is added to primary commodities by rich countries
Primary products such as cocoa, tea and coffee, sell for relatively low prices, so the farmers growing and selling such products make relatively little. However, once these products have been processed, branded and turned into the goods you see on the supermarket shelves, they can sell several times the original price. The problem (for developing countries) is that most of this processing and branding is done in the West. Thus, poor countries stay poor, and rich countries get rich.
With some commodities, there are several links in the chain of trade – take coffee for example – it goes from grower (in Ethiopia for example), to the local buyer, to the exporter, to the roaster (in Germany for example), to the supermarket and then to the consumer – 6 links in the chain. A bag of coffee might cost the consumer £2.50 in the supermarket, but the grower is lucky (very lucky) if they receive even 10% of this.
Two good video sources which illustrate how low-value exports don’t generate enough income for development are the movie „Black Gold‟ which illustrates exploitation of coffee farmers in Ethiopia, and there is also Stacey Dooley’s „Kids with Machetes‟ which illustrates the low wages paid to cocoa farmers in The Ivory Coast.
The terms of trade are often biased against poor countries
Western nations impose tariffs (import taxes) or quotas (simply limits on how much a country can import) on goods from the developing world, which seriously impairs the ability of poor countries to make money from exports.
At the same time as restricting imports from poorer countries, Western governments subsidize some of their own industries. This results in over-production in some sectors, which can result in cheap, subsidized Western goods being dumped on poor countries, which undermines local industries in poorer countries. This happened in Haiti in the early 1990s, when cheap, subsidized American rice was dumped on the Haitian market, forcing local rice farmers out of business (because the American rice was cheaper.
This 2015 video from Al Jazeera focuses on this issue in Kenya – Kenyan cotton farmers are finding it very difficult to compete with subsidized American cotton farmers. You get to see the large scale U.S. operation which is subsidized by the American government, who exports their cotton: the US is the largest cotton exporter in the world. And you also get to see how American cotton production contrasts with the much smaller scale nature of Kenyan cotton production, cotton which they cannot export because they cannot compete with the subsidized US cotton.
More recently, Dependency Theorists have become concerned with the recent increase in bilateral ‘free trade’ agreements (FTAs). For example, in 2007, the EU singed FTAs with India which opened up Indian markets to the import of poultry and dairy products, despite the fact that 85% of demand is met locally by Indian farmers, and the introduction of big supermarket chains into the Indian marketplace.
Poor countries have been pressurized into exporting to clear their debts
The World Bank sees loans and debt as a ‘normal’ part of development, and poor countries are required to maintain repayments on (often low-interest) development loans to be eligible for more loans, thus keeping up repayments on loans is a crucial part of development for many countries.
Ellwood (2004) argues that this has resulted in the ‘social violence of the market’ – the constantly escalating pressure on farmers and workers in the developing world to produce more for less, which results in a problem called ‘immiserating trade’ – the more a developing country trades, the poorer it gets.
Marxists conclude that the terms of world trade are far from equal. Developing countries are very much junior partners in global trading relationships and are consequently exploited by more powerful countries, TNCs and their agents.
Chapman et al (2016) – A Level Sociology Student Book Two [Fourth Edition] Collins. ISBN-10: 0007597495
International development professionals categorise countries into ‘more’ or ‘less’ developed. This post explores the meanings and origins of these terms, looking at the concepts of first, second and third world, before looking at the criticism that such systems of classification are ethnocentric, western constructions.
This post has primarily been written for students studying the Global Development option for A-Level Sociology.
What is development?
The term development is used in several ways, but most sociologists agree that development should mean, at the very least, improvement or progress for people who desperately need positive change in their lives.
The main debates about development are underpinned by modernity, meaning that development agencies such as the World Bank and the United Nations aim to replicate within developing societies the material and cultural experience of modern Western societies such as the United Kingdom and the United States.
Consequently, most sociologists believe that development is about achieving economic growth, and the positive consequences which have generally stemmed from that, such as improvements in life expectancy, mass education and social welfare.
This generally means that most countries in Europe are defined as being ‘more developed’ while countries in Sub-Saharan Africa tend to be defined as the ‘least developed’.
Nigeria, in West Africa is an example of a ‘less developed country’
Population: 207 million
GNI per capita – $2030 (2018)
Life Expectancy at Birth – 54 (2017)
Infant Mortality Rate – 74/ 1000 live births
Literacy Rates – Male 71%, Female – 53%
Child Labour Rate – 43%
Urban Population – 51%
Main export – Petroleum
Best World Cup performance – round of 16 (2014).
A Global Hierarchy of Development
Many sociologists and geographers today use the following four categories to distinguish between different ‘levels’ of economic and social development.
Key features of countries
More economically developed countries MEDCs
These are the wealthy industrial-capitalist countries which generally experience economic growth year on year. Their populations enjoy a good standard of living, which means high life expectancy of 80+ years, free primary and secondary education and access to good quality housing and consumer goods are the norm.
Western European countries The USA
Newly industrialized countries NICs
These are the so-called ‘Asian-Tiger’ economies of which have rapidly industrialised in the past 40 years and which today have a large share of the global market in computers, electronics, plastics and textiles.
China South Korea
Less economically developed countries LEDCs
Societies which have experienced extensive urbanization and therefor positive economic growth. However, the economies of these societies are also heavily dependent on agriculture, and extraction of raw materials. Poverty is still a big problem in many of these countries.
Brazil, India, Mexico Ghana
Least economically developed countries LLEDCs
The poorest countries in the world, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa where absolute poverty is the daily norm. These societies experience low life expectancy of around 60 years, and high child mortality rates, linked to preventable diseases such as malaria. They also lack basic infrastructure such as roads, electricity and clean water. Many of these countries also experience high levels of conflict, which is both a cause and consequences of their underdevelopment.
Sierra-Leone Somalia DRCongo Afghanistan Bangladesh Haiti
Some development thinkers from the ‘post-development perspective’ have criticised the above system of categorisation for being an ethnocentric, Western perspective on development, because it implies that industrialised, wealthy nations are superior, and less economically developed countries in other parts of the world as inferior. The implication of this hierarchy is that all countries should aim to become more like those Western countries at the top.
Questions to consider:
In general, do you think that it’s fair to make the generalisation that European countries are more developed than Sub-Saharan African countries?
Should less developed countries strive to become more like Western, Industrialised countries?
The Origins of Western Ideas of ‘International Development’
The concept of rich countries helping poor countries to develop emerged after World War II in the context of the Cold War.
By the end of the Second World War many of the countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America had failed to develop and remained poor, and there was concern amongst the leaders of the western developed countries, especially the United States, that communism might spread into many of these countries, potentially harming American business interests abroad and diminishing U.S. Power.
The conventional way of seeing the world was to split it into first, second and third worlds
Described the industrialised capitalist world – the USA, Western Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Described the industrialized communist world – The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Described the rest of the world and covered a vast range of countries in different circumstances and at different stages of development, but what most of them shared in common was the fact that they lacked an industrial base, they had not gone through industrialization.
From the perspective of the developed first world, it was essential to encourage the poorer countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America to adopt a capitalist-industrialist model of development in order to prevent them from forming alliances with the communist second world. In short, development was seen as essential to halt the spread of communism.
The term ‘third world’ also made sense from the perspective of many of those in poorer countries: many countries wanted to pursue their own paths to development, without the ‘assistance’ of either the United States or Communist Russia.
It was immediately after World War Two that the main international institutions of development were established – such as The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations, and for decades, aid money was deliberately channeled to those countries most likely to ‘fall into the hands of the communists’.
Dependency Theorists and Post-Development Theorists (covered in a future lesson) have been critical of Western attempts to help third world countries develop. They argue that aid money and aid programmes have really been about maintaining western political and economic superiority, and less about helping poor countries actually develop,
However, since the collapse of communism in the 1990s, and thanks to significant reforms in the way aid money is distributed through international institutions, ‘development’ today seems to be more about actually helping poor countries develop and less about the west maintaining its political and economic superiority.
But there are those who argue that even today the international development agenda really has a deeper, political purpose, and ‘development’ is not necessarily about helping poor countries. For example a quarter of the UK aid budget goes to the military, and much of this is spent fighting. Islamic extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan, which clearly has a political purpose, although you could just as easily argue that eradicating extremism is a necessary perquisite for any positive change to take place.
Questions to consider
Q1: Why where the countries of the first world concerned to help the countries of the first world develop after World War Two?
Q2: What is the ‘main purpose’ of the three development institutions mentioned above?
Q3: Why were some theorists critical of western attempts to help poor countries develop?
Criticisms of Western Constructs of Development
Writer Eduardo Galeano offers a (self-identified) third world perspective on ‘development’, which serves as a useful criticism of Western concepts of development. You should be able to find three criticisms of western ‘notions’ of development below.
It was the promise of the politicians, the justification of the technocrats, and the illusion of the outcast. The Third World will become like the First World – rich, cultivated and happy if it behaves and does what it is told, without saying anything or complaining. WE CAN BE LIKE THEM, proclaimed a gigantic illuminated board along the highway to development.
However, if the poor countries reached the levels of production and waste of the rich countries, our planet would die. Already it is in a coma, seriously contaminated by the industrial civilisation and emptied of its last drop of substance by the consumer society.
A further disadvantage with the Western notion of development is that it assumes that those countries that are more economically developed are better… i.e. more developed. In contrast, the developing world contains many worlds, the different melodies of life, their pains and strains: the thousand and one ways of living and speaking, thinking and creating, eating, working, dancing, playing, loving, suffering, and celebrating that we have discovered over so many thousands of years.
A further notion is that using terms such as ‘undeveloped’ implies that these countries are inferior and need help, it justifies intervention when this may not be wanted/ be perceived as interference.
Another, but substantially different, Third World approach to development was offered by the theory of self-reliance, put forward by Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere in 1967. The basic idea was self-reliance, or autonomy. It drew on the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi, who proposed a non-exploitative moral economics in which each level of society, from individual through village to state took only what was necessary and accumulation was perceived to be negative.
Case Study: The Island of Anuta
The island of Anuta, part of the Solomon Islands (population 300) seems pretty idyllic, but would these people be better off if they followed an industrial-capitalist model of development?
I first ‘discovered’ the island of Anuta thanks to the excellent BBC series Tribe, broadcast over a decade ago now. If you can track it down, the DVD is well worth a watch to see how things have changed for the islanders over the last decade.
Outline some of the differences between the least and most developed countries on earth.
Explain where the terms ‘first world’, ‘second world’ and ‘third world’ came from, and some of the limitations of these concepts.
Outline three criticisms of ‘Western’ ideas of development
See the ‘about’ page for the main A-level text books I use as references, which are the ones the AQA draws on for the exam.
This documentary is the story of a lawsuit by tens of thousands of Ecuadorans against Chevron over contamination of the Ecuadorean Amazon.The case, worth $27 billion is one of the largest and most controversial legal cases on the planet.
The Plaintiffs are suing Chevron for damage cause by 30 years of operation in the Amazon between 1960-1990. The plaintiffs claim that Texaco – which merged with Chevron in 2001 – spent three decades systematically contaminating one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth, poisoning the water, air and land. The plaintiffs allege that the pollution has created a “death zone” in an area the size of the Rhode Island, resulting in increased rates of cancer, leukemia, birth defects, and a multiplicity of other health ailments. They further allege that the oil operations in the region contributed to the destruction of indigenous peoples and irrevocably impacted their traditional way of life.
Chevron fights the claims, charging that the case is a complete fabrication, perpetrated by “environmental con men” who are seeking to line their pockets with the company’s billions.
In some respects the film is depressing, in others enlightening – it’s only being fought in Ecuador because Chevron demanded so, after spending 9 years dillydallying in American courtrooms, to get the case moved from the USA to Ecuador.
The film mostly follows the legal team representing the Indians – and it’s a bleak picture – we learn, for example, that the brother of one of them was tortured and murdered, and we also get see what a drawn out process this legal battle is – most of the time this team looks on the edge of exhaustion – but not as exhausted as some of the people living near Chevron’s oil spills who are suffering from Cancer.
You also get to see and hear from Chevron’s lawyers – who play a cunning game of ‘it’s not our fault, you have to blame the government that allowed us to drill here’ or ‘OK – we see that there’s oil here – but how can you prove it’s a result of our drilling processes rather than just natural seepage’? and similarly ‘how can you prove the skin rashes are due to oil and not just poor sanitation’?
The Movie doesn’t conclude, as at the time of production the legal battle was ongoing – but in Feburary 2011 Chevron were found guilty of environmental damage and slapped with a $9 billion dollar fine – only 1/3rd of what the Plaintiffs were asking for.
Chevron of course, rather than pay the fine are fighting back – arguing that the lawyers in the Movie have been engaged in Fraud in that they’v emade false allegations against Chevron, and they hold the state owned oil company of Equador, which took over prodcution since 1990, responsible for the pollution.
This is just about the perfect resource for teaching ‘environmental crime’ in the A2 Criminology course!
While recognising that relative poverty exists within rich and poor countries alike, the programme focuses on extreme poverty, defined as people living on less than $1 a day, a level at which daily life involves a struggle to get enough food to eat.
Hans (he’s so accessible I’m sure he wouldn’t mind first name terms) starts by putting poverty in historical context, by looking at how wealth (measured by GDP per capita) has changed over the last 200 years. To do this, Hans converts the GDP figures into the amount each person earns per day, ranging from those who live on $1 a day (as many do in Malawi) to those who live on $100 a day (as most people in Sweden do). As shown in the still below – only about 12% of the world’s population today live in extreme poverty.
The story of the last 200 years is that we’ve basically moved from a global situation characterised by extremes of wealth and poverty (broadly speaking 1800-1970) to one in which most people world now live in ‘the middle’ in terms of global wealth distribution. In the video clip below, Hans tells this story.
The biggest shift has occurred in the last 50 years – in the 1970s, 50% of the worlds population lived in absolute poverty (2 billion amongst a 4 billion global population). In 2015, even with world population growing by 3 million to 7+ billion, only 1 billion, or 12.5% of the world’s population live in poverty.
So the best-fit picture of today’s global population isn’t one of a massive divide between the rich and the poor, but one of the expanding or ‘big middle’** – Most people in the world today earn between $1 to $10 a day, and many of these have transitioned out of absolute poverty within the last few decades.
Dollar Street – A Global Family Portrait.
To illustrate the differences in living standards around the globe, Hans draws on a number of case studies.
$1/ day – Malawi – Here the focus is on a couple with eleven children. They are basically subsistence farmers and have a small field of maize which they rely on for their basic food. The field is so small they have to endure a hunger season, during which they only eat once a day, and the children fall sick because of lack of food. In a poor season (As shown later in the video), when the rains are irregular, the food may only last for half the year, so the hungry season is long!)
The children go to school, but there are no school meals, so there’s no food until bed time on some school days. The family struggle to pay for the ‘hidden costs’ of education such as school uniforms and books.
There are no jobs in the area, but the families keep grafting – the father turns old bits of tin into watering cans and the mother makes dumplings, two products which are sold to neighbours. However, local people are too poor to be anything other than occasional customers.
In the household there is no electricity or running water and everyone sleeps on the floor, no mattresses. The house is built from perishable materials and once a week the mother has to spread fresh mud on the walls and ceiling to stop the house falling apart. The husband is gradually building a brick house, but it will take him four years to complete it.
These people are literally struggling to build their future bit by bit.
Countries in which significant numbers of people live on less than $1 a day include Burundi and Malawi.
The Big Middle – Up to $10 a day
To illustrate where the majority of the world’s population now live in income terms, we go to Cambodia to focus on some new arrivals to the ‘big middle’ – We focus on a family who live about an hour away from the capital Phnom Penh, but are still close enough to feel the benefits of its development.
Their house is made from more durable material – bricks and plastic/ iron sheets, they have clean water, bicycles, a little car, beds with mattresses, radios, TVs, and electricity.
The Family’s living conditions are far from easy but there is no hungry season like in Malawi, and they have earned enough to buy various life-changing technologies – such as a water pump so is there more time to devote to paid work.
The nearby capital city Phnom Penh is at the heart of an economic boom, mainly thanks to textile exports, and the benefits reach a long way into rural areas.
The father in this family has benefited from this – migration to the city has meant there are fewer farmers, so he now makes $300 a month from growing and selling grass which people feed to their cattle, and he has bought a small bike so he can deliver more efficiently.
However, the mother is currently pregnant with twins, and one of them is upside down…they want a cesarean and this will cost them $500 which will mean they need to borrow money, a price which could put them back into dire poverty for years to come as they struggle to pay it back.
The crucial thing which prevents this from happening is that the family qualify for Cambodia’s recently introduced free health care, available for free for the poorest families only. This is assessed by means of a ‘Poor Card’ – people are asked a number of questions about their standard of living (which is checked later) and if they score below a certain amount of points they qualify for free health care for the whole family, which ensures that complications in childbirth do not result in financial catastrophe.
Among the many countries included in the ‘big middle’ are The Philippines, Columbia, Rwanda, and Bangladesh. However, there are obviously differences, and if you look carefully, these are not all ‘equally poor’ (but this isn’t expanded on). How to eradicate extreme Poverty
It’s amazing how much life is improving for s many people in so many ways – this is the greatest story in human history, and if we want to lift the remaining billion people out of extreme poverty we need to learn from the lessons of the majority of countries which have lifted themselves out of poverty in the last century.
The basic lesson is that all of these countries have invested in human welfare, in such things as public health care systems and education, which has reduced the child mortality rate, and the birth rate, and altogether this has resulted in economic growth.
Hans demonstrated this by looking at the historical relationship between the child mortality rate and GDP per Capita from 1800-2015. (The child mortality rate depends on many things, such as improved health, education and gender empowerment, so it acts as a proxy indicator for these other aspects of human progress).
The general trend is that in many countries, the child mortality rate goes down first, which is followed by sustained economic growth for many years. It seems that once the Child Mortality rate gets to about 10%, this is when economic take off occurs. This happened in at least the following countries:
In short, the lesson of how to end poverty in 15 years – invest in human progress even when resources are limited.
The video rounds off with going back to Malawi to demonstrate that all is needed to lift many farmers out of poverty is investment in small scale irrigation systems, so crops can be easily watered when rains are irregular. A dam would transform the lives of small farmers in remote areas by allowing them to grow not only more staple food, but also a greater diversity of crops which could be sold.
The investment required is relatively little, but who will pay? The private sector won’t, because there is no profit, and governments in poor countries are still too poor, so the third option is International Development Aid.
However, Development aid needs to be refocused away from the richer developing countries – Currently, countries such as India and China receive aid equivalent to $300 per person, but the poorest countries, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, receive only $100 per person. In short, aid is going to the wrong places.
Hans argues that we should perceive aid to end poverty not as charity, but as an investment. There are three basic arguments for this:
1. Extreme poverty breeds problems such as war and conflict.
2. If we lift people out of extreme poverty, they will become the customers of tomorrow, and possibly the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
3. It is the most effective way of combating population growth – below $1 a day, the average number of babies per woman is five, above, it the average is 2 or less.
In conclusion, Hans suggests we would be mad not to end poverty in 15 years, and that compared to the other two problems the world faces: climate change and war and conflict, this goal is actually easy to achieve.
**Another way in which Hans illustrates the growth of the ‘big middle’ is by pointing out the following statistics:
80% of people have electricity at home? (the audience thought 40%)
83% have have got vaccinated against measles? (the audience thought 30% )
90% of girls out of ten go to primary school (in that age group) (the audience thought 40%).
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