Baylor College Medical School

159 3. Africa Seeks A Better Future

159 3. After World War II, African nations had little capital to invest, so they had to make difficult economic choices. Some nations chose socialism, a system in which the government controls parts of the economy. The leaders of these governments hoped to end foreign influence in their countries and to close the gap between the rich and the poor. However, socialism sometimes led to large, inefficient bureaucracies. Other nations relied on capitalism, or market economies. These economies were often more efficient, but foreign owners of businesses took profits out of the country. Some governments tried to fund development by growing crops for export, rather than food crops. However, this forced them to import food to replace the food crops. GOVERNMENTS THEN HAD TO SUBSIDIZE PART OF THE COST OF IMPORTING FOOD FROM OVERSEAS.

African nations faced many obstacles to development. Droughts led to famine in parts of Africa. This was especially true in the Sahel, where overgrazing and farming led to desertifciation. People in African nations also faced the devastating disease AIDS. In the early 2000s, more than 2 million Africans died of the disease each year. Urbanization has also created problems in Africa. This shift from rural areas to cities has meant hardship for many and has weakened traditional cultures and ethnic ties. However, in West Africa, the growth of urban markets has increased opportunities for women.

Another concern in Africa is environmental threats. Nearly 70 percent of Africa's animal habitats have been destroyed, causing many animals to become endangered species. Other animals species are being killed for their tusks or fur. One environmental activist, Wangari Maathai, has fought back by starting the Green Belt Movement. This organization promotes reforestation. It also helps local women with projects of sustainable development that aim to provide lasting benefits for future generations.

A close look at Tanzania reveals the problems that many African countries have faced. In the 1960s, the government embraced "African socialism." However, attempts to build on African traditions of cooperation failed to increase agricultural production. In 1985, new leaders introduced economic reforms. However, Tanzania remains poor and has had to rely on foreign loans to avoid economic crisis.


3. What is urbanization?

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Urbanization is the shift from rural areas to cities.