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The Third World and Development in Cameroon Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Akwalla Johanness, Canada Feb 6, 2007
Health , Education   Opinions
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Many scholars have written about the problems of developing countries, outlining their characteristics as if it were one homogenous mass, despite the differences in income, values and culture from one
nation to the other. As a common characteristic, life in developing countries and Africa in particular is described in the most demeaning terms, portraying living conditions as unbearable.

Developing countries have variously been called backward, underdeveloped, third world. Sometimes the people of such countries are said to be unhappy, poor, and primitive. To support this claim, statistics of income per capita and other material goods are
manipulated, and estimates of the level of happiness among inhabitants of such regions are made, even though such statistics say nothing of the distribution neither of income within society nor of the level of
general well-being.

Through western films and pictorial magazines distributed through out the world, reports of starvation and poor living conditions (which are in
many cases real) are presented to the world. This is a narrow bias as it evaluates nations solely on the physical quantification of man-made goods, the results of which has been to attribute superiority to certain
nations of the world.

With the abundance of such articles, people have come to make very wrong associations and false assumptions about the living standards in the developing worlds. For example, most inhabitants of Africa, Asia, and Latin America believe that there are no miserable living conditions
in the developed worlds, while many inhabitants (youths) of the America and Europe believe that most of Africa is jungle and starving people.

The term “third world” is a remnant of cold war thinking, which divided the world into two rigid blocs, the capitalist western world and the communist eastern world, with all the countries not allied to the USA or former USSR, lumped in the remaining third category. This political use of the term was very imprecise because some countries like South Africa
could not fit well in any of the categories. Other nations were important political allies of each of the two main powers but did not even share the same political ideologies. With such imprecision and ambiguities, the use of the term third world gradually lost meaning, then shifted from political to economic, and today it is generally used to refer to states in Africa, Asia, and Latin America that are considered not highly industrialized.

It is important to recall that most of the countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, achieved independence after the Second World War and to differentiate them from older nations of Europe; they were collectively
referred to as Emergent Nations, expressing an ethnocentric outlook as if the people of these nations had no history and no past before achieving independence.

The problem the terms “developed” and “underdeveloped” faced was that many of those so called underdeveloped (now developing countries) societies were already making remarkable progress at the same time that some of the “developed nations” were undertaking
development projects to become more developed. More recently, the United Nations (UN) has used the expression “Less Developed Countries (LDCs) and “More Developed Countries (MDCs) to differentiate between
those countries that have not made much economic or industrial development from those that have some significant achievements. These UN expressions contain the essential fact of development as a continuing process in both societies be it the developed or underdeveloped.

Whatever term is used, it is essential to note that there are persistent efforts to contrast living standards of developed nations with those of other nations to be found in Africa, Asia and Latin America; even though there may be as many similarities as there are contrasts. Even when these contrasts in living standards are mentioned, another common characteristic is noticed: focus is on the under privileged (who are many and should be taken care of) and the upper strata is overlooked in the LDCs, and for the developed nations, focus is on the living standards of the rich people and almost completely the poor are ignored.

This is exemplified by Denis Austin who looks at the LDCs and MDCs. He writes and I quote “That there are not three worlds but two, a developed and an underdeveloped world- a world of those who have and those who have not. The haves, not only possess more goods; they have a richer life, enjoying political stability, old age, full stomachs, freedom from anarchy, warm houses in winter, cool houses in summer, the advantage of travel, and the ravels of technology”.

Such an assessment is grossly misleading because it compares the poor people in the LDCs to the rich portion of the population in the MDCs. It is not a parallel comparism because the millions of people languishing in misery in the crowded ghettoes of America and European cities are never discussed at the international level (it is a fact). No account is made of the thousands of homeless people lying in the subways and on the streets of the MDCs. They are also overlooked. Yet, these are shocking scenes to any newly arrived African or Asian to the United States of America. Not taking into account also the hunger-stricken, drug addicted and really poor people who are classified among the ‘first worlds’ nations.

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Akwalla Johanness

I am a young development activist who believes that for youths to be successful, we need to come together and share ideas that are beneficial to the whole of humanity.
I strongly believe that for Africa to come out of the political hostage its finds itself, our leaders must stop to consider themselves as traditional rulers. We all know that traditional rulers rule for life, and power is passed on to their descendant. And I think that once our leaders stop to think of themselves as such and concentrate on development by investing into the education and basic health care and social services, then can we say we are on the right path to human development.
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