Why the world’s poorest starve in the age of plenty

By Ngor Khot Garang

In the world of ten billions, there is a life that is more important than the other but this is not the case with the universal declaration of human rights. To the western world, every life, even the one lived at the extreme is a life and must be protected. I don’t understand what this phrase means because poverty has been used by some of the world’s leaders as a weapon of war to keep people down. 

This is evidenced by hundreds of millions of dollars that has been poured to Africa in form of aid that left people poorer than the time when the aid arrived. I write from experience. I come from a country that depends largely on foreign aid. Apart from other resources, oil has been one of the leading causes of the country’s ills and civil conflict.

To me, foreign aid is harmful and must be avoided if Africa is to move forward. The resources money or petrodollars have been used by authoritarian leaders to bribe their way through the leadership ladder and hold their grip tightly on power.

In the book why Nations Fails, Acemoglu and Robinson Marshall answers the question that has stumped the world for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine? Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are? Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence?

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest.

The South forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities. The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people. Sadly, the people of the north have endured decades of famine, political repression, and very different economic institutions—with no end in sight. The differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories. The question now is, what is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity?

Poverty is bad but it is easy to fight, with billions of dollars used in buying military arsenal to kill these people, it would be wise to feed these masses with the money but it sucks that in the fight against poverty, the global leaders have done little or even nothing to lift people out of poverty. It has been one step forward and three steps backward. In Africa, it is normal to be poor but the price is hefty.

Let us talk of Democratic Republic of Congo, it is not a crime to be born there but poverty out of the wealth that can feed the rest of the world has been criminalized.  I have never been to Congo but I don’t think these people deserve the life they lead. I read and I was shocked that, a world that has advanced in technology is still hungry.

The African poverty is generational and it is one that worsens as time goes by. In South Sudan, poverty means that if you are a son of a soldier, you will have to stay home without going to school and will have days when getting a decent meal would be a miracle.  This is because a South Sudanese soldier gets home with less than eight dollars as his monthly salary.

Sometimes it is a luck if it comes on monthly basis but it used not to be that way. You also have to know that not all the soldiers are hungry, there are those who are lucky than others and that is inequality, a country where people are not the same can never find peace. It is now ten years since the country got its independence and people had it that the pain isn’t worth the price.

A country with so many resources, weak institutions and a weak people, how can a small win by people who should have made a difference in the lives of the people they lead make any sense? The truth is, if you are happy and rich but your people are suffering, you are not exceptional. I used to think that most of our blessings are our curses.

Poverty here means many things, if you cannot find clean drinking water. That is poverty, if the roads are poor and the cars expensive, it is another thing. For most people, if they find themselves in such awful situations, all that they will do is look up to their governments, sad.  

If you are born in Switzerland, you have four in five chances to go to school, graduate, get a good job and lead a very healthy life. In Africa, this is a different story. If you are born in South Sudan, you have high chances of dying before your fifth birthday and if you lived long enough, it will be a life of endless struggle untill you are dead.

This is because the system has failed us, blessed and cursed by our own leaders. But a look at the nature of thing can tell you that we are not poor. Leave about expensive cars and poor roads, a price of one IPhone 13 can feed a family of five. It can also pay school fees of two young people in one of the public universities. Maybe this phone was made out of the minerals extracted in one of the mining fields in Africa.

We cannot also close our eyes to the fact that, in the process of mining, children were used by the mining company to extract the minerals and they were underpaid. Some of them even died of treatable diseases. These minerals were bought by some foreign companies and the government took the money. These minerals came back to Africa as finished products and we are buying them with the money made on the backs of the poor Africans.

In the fight against malaria, we don’t need the western world to donate mosquito nets, we can make our own nets and move with Africa. It is time for Africa to have a plan for Africa, to breastfeed her own kids and find Africa solutions to African problems. I am of the school of thought that global poverty is man-made; I also argue that man can change the same situation and make the world a better place for everyone.

Thanks for reading, the writer is a law student, University of Juba. He is reachable via mobile +211925405723 or

Comments are closed.