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The Source of African Poverty, Part Four: Blame It On Geography

Please check out our previous articles on this series; that is, Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

Today’s instalment, Part Four, of our discussion on the sources of African poverty will be based on a book by Ian Morris, called Why The West Rules – For Now (published in 2010, by Profile Books). It is a discussion that goes back to the times when civilisations were first developing across the world.

Please do not let the nature of the title of today’s article (Blame In On Geography) make you think that we do not think that Geography could be a cause of poverty or misfortune in general. We do not advocate certain causes over others. What we are merely doing in these articles is to present the different perspectives that experts, such Historians, Economists, etc, have proposed as the causes of poverty.

The theory of geography as a cause for lack, or slow, economic development does not only apply to the African continent. According to Ian Morris, there are regions on planet earth that were better positioned for easy economic development – solely because of where they were geographically placed. Morris mentions two types of places on earth that were better positioned.

The first type of place is called the Lucky Latitudes. The second type of place is called the Hilly Flanks. These two types of places are indicated on the maps that accompany this article. The Hilly Flanks are shaded in pick, on the map that is in colour.

Morris says that the Lucky Latitudes and the Hilly Franks were, by mere accident of geography, the areas that tended to develop first economically. This is because these areas had the kind of animals that could be husbanded and domesticated; they also had plants that could be domesticated. So the accident of history saw to it that the people who found themselves accidentally settled in these places, places that had the raw materials needed for economic development, hit the jackpot.

Only the northern part of Africa falls within the geographical designations proposed by Ian Morris!!

It must be noted though that the so-called Lucky Latitudes and the Hilly Flanks cover a very small part of the globe. They do not even cover some of the most prosperous areas in the world today; like Western Europe, Japan and the USA. So how can the economic success of these places be explained?

Many historians dispute geography as a factor in economic success. In the future, we will provide you with articles with points from Historians and Economists who disagree with the geography theory.

Stay tuned!

Further reading