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The Third World and Development in Cameroon Posté le Mercredi 3 Octobre 2007 à 15h50


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.


The third world is not one mass. It would be highly misleading to portray the third world as an unchanging world of widespread poverty and illnesses. Most third world countries have made, and are still making
significant progress. Yet there has hardly been a change in the number of world economic categories. China is not anything near what it was decades ago; even between one year and the next there are great changes.

It must be realized that physical development or technological development is but one aspect of national development. A balanced view of development should comprise the cultural, personal, and physical
aspects of the society. Thus we may define development as "the sustained improvement of an entire society and social system towards a better and MORE JUST LIFE". Walter Rodney notes that "development in human society is a many-sided process which comprises of the
-Physical development which includes man-made goods produced by the use of technology
-Cultural development which comprises of the values, norms and traditions of a society and,
-Personal development which includes the psychological
directions of individuals

Development is a continuing utility to mankind and the process of developing should be thought of as a continuing process and not as one that is static. This explains why such countries like Japan and the United
States continue to engage in research to become more developed. In other words, they are still developing.

Physical development: Natural resources like oil and minerals are provided by nature. The mere presence of natural resources within a nation is not development. Man-made resources result from the application of technology. If natural resources are harnessed to
provide food, shelter. Health and protection for the citizens and for other people with whom the citizens interact, and then there is physical development. This is what economists call "Economic Growth".
Technology, the utilization of knowledge for useful ends, is an important requirement for man-made resources. Technology is required for the production of:
a) Communication equipment
b) Transportation equipment
c) Military hardware and all other goods and services for public consumption.

Technology may also be directed against the process of
1) Communication equipment- If the modes of communication are controlled by high level national or private authorities so that the ordinary person in the street and villages cannot express his or her views, this has a negative effect on the intellectual development of the nations e.g. the typical images of Africa, Asia and Latin America on American Television reveal mostly the exotic and negative aspects:
starving people, huts and naked people. And because truth is distorted we cannot claim that this is development.

2) Military Equipment: Technological progress has produced weapons used for both international aggression and internal subjugation of some portion of national population. With technological progress, Africans were
uprooted from Africa and enslaved in the western Worlds; Thousands of people were decimated by bombs in Japan at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some individuals and nations (the merchant of the devil, as they are
sometimes called) increase their income by specializing in the production of weapons and inciting conflicts within weaker nations in order to sell weapons. To this day, the world is under the spectre of
nuclear extermination. These few examples only show how military technology has not served a useful purpose to mankind, yet, many would say this is development.

3) Cultural development: By culture we mean the body of all non-genetic information. Cultural development is an important component of development. The culture of a society is usually reflected in its values, norms and traditions. The economic and political institutions of any human society are structured to enhance the way of life of that society. Thus, two institutions are important here: the economic institutions and the political institutions.

Economic institutions embody those cultural values placed on the creation, governing and distribution of goods, whether in a traditional, market or planned economy. All these three types of economies involve
participation and decision-making in the production of goods and services. Two types of goods are produced in any society," fun items and life sustaining items" necessary for the basic human survival and any nation that discriminates against a portion of its population or does not create conditions that improve the well-being of all or most of its people, is uncivilized and underdeveloped.

The political institution is another cultural component in any appraisal of national development. The quality of any government or any leader should not be solely judged in terms of election criteria but in terms of the usefulness of that government and the dedication of the leader to his people. This quality also depends essentially on how the government

responds to its people's needs. Any government that comes to power through and approved procedure by the citizens and is of good service to its people is developed. On the other hand, any government that
seeks to be of service to only a portion of the population is underdeveloped.

4) Personal development: personal development means the inner feeling, increased skill and capacity, greater freedom, self-discipline, self-esteem and a sense of responsibility. This comprises the
psychological direction of individuals. It is doubtful if a rise in income alone or material wealth equally increases human happiness and one's self esteem. Many would agree that a person's contentment with his life
depends essentially on his sure sense that he is a valuable being, that his life has some worth and that he belongs to a community of human beings who care about him. If one is aware that his own community on
which he depends does not recognize and respect him, his life would appear to be useless. Self esteem is an important component of development of development. It is a sense of worth and self respect, of not being used as a tool by others for their own needs. It is
necessary for good life and people of all societies need it. They may term it dignity, honour, recognition, but it means the same thing. In the MDCs, television has replaced human companions and telephone
enables people to transact business at a distance with little or no human contact. Then the critical question must be asked: "is economic
development worth while?".

Large numbers of Peace Corps volunteers, upon returning to their home countries have examined their own society with critical new eyes.
After their experience say in Africa, they can compare the treatment accorded old people in the MDCs with that dispensed to the aged is societies where the extended family provides satisfying roles for grand
parents. Any society where individuals have very little self-esteem (dependence on anti-depressant, tranquilizers etc), where killing is rampant and the rate of suicide so high is not civilized and its development should be questioned.

The economic crises that Cameroon is facing today are as a result of the inefficiency of the economic system, a mental problem and as a consequence, a violation of human rights. It is not possible to
understand a human being on the basis of economics alone. A human being is better understood in a more complete way when situated within the spheres of culture through language, history and the position one
takes towards the fundamental events of life, such as birth, love, work and death.

For the purpose of economic growth, Cameroon needs to sustain its economy and technology. There can be no doubt that Cameroon has an abundant labour force, but a good portion is unskilled. A person's capacity for mental and physical energy and even his physical
comfort are affected by a number of factors-nutrition, training, cultural habits, religion, standard of living and even psychological factors. All these factors affect the quality of labour force in one way or another, and the Cameroon government and its partners like Japan, China, France, The US, etc. should help implement the economic policies that will take Cameroon closer to its objective of caring for the common man. These include the construction of more schools for higher and quality education. As a result of semi-literacy, there is therefore a
shortage of high quality labour force. With this semi literacy status, most Cameroonians are content with the idea of belonging to the civil service and a large portion of the business sector is controlled by
non-Cameroonians. The few available Cameroonian businessmen lack the real entrepreneurial skills; they delight essentially in acting as middlemen or sale representatives of some foreign produced goods and
because of the low quality of their education, which is also based on theory, they do not engage in the actual production of tangible goods.

With a sound quality educational system (informal and vocational inclusive), Cameroonians will be able to develop creative and enterprising attitudes which are the key factors to success. Also, skilled technical labour supply remains an acute problem. The shortage in skilled technical labour results essentially from inappropriate educational
structures, curricula, school system and lack of facilities in technical schools. The technical schools in particular instead of sending out professionals turn out graduates who only know scientific facts in theory with little ability to apply them.

To solve this problem, the government should improve on the quality of education both formal and informal as well as encourage corporations to
accepts students for internships, so that they can learn to put the scientific facts they acquire into practice.

Also, there is the problem of international brain-drain which affects many developing countries, including Cameroon. By this I mean, the emigration of professional and skilled personnel educated in the country but living and working in the more industrialized nations. Typical among such professionals are doctors, engineers, and economists,
so of whom where sponsored abroad but decided to settle there after their studies for higher salaries. The government of Cameroon and other developing countries should encourage its geniuses to come back
and work in their countries of origin after their studies by providing them with all the guarantees and facilities that would enable them fully express their potential and develop their country.

5) Adequate and Appropriate Government Action: Every nation and every people in the world are capable of developing a strong economy if the right policies and programs are implemented. To have a good economic ministry and a competent team of economic advisers capable of implementing good policies, is certainly the only way towards development. This does not apply only for Cameroon but for all the LDCs of the world. Many economic undertakings in Cameroon have
failed because they were either poorly conceived, or badly managed by not only incompetent and selfish officials but by those who have no respect for human dignity and respect to the need of those who voted
them to power.

This abuse (embezzlement) of public wealth under heavy concealment has allow the social services to decay, favouritism of one ethnic group against the other (Francophone against the Anglophones). Because of these practices, the government has succeeded in creating a confused citizenry (youths in particular) unable to understand their country with all its resources has gotten so impoverished. The present economic crises that the country is experiencing is as a result of mass embezzlement of public funds and little or no accountability on the part of many public officials not to mention tax evasion by many industries and corporation in the country.

With the political will and a good economic policy, Cameroonian engineers will find themselves exercising their skills in the field rather than sitting in their offices idle and doing nothing while expatriates
technicians are imported and paid heavily for minor jobs which could be performed by Cameroonians. A typical example is the sport complex the Chinese are building in Yaoude. Almost all of the engineers are
from China giving the impression that Cameroonian engineers are not up to the task.

The government should also encourage a general attitude in the population about amount and quality of work, level of saving (though most civil servants earn less than 400$ month), consumption and sustainability of our natural resources and the environment;
especially our forests.

With government action in this line, development will be visible and the economy will grow to the advantage of all Cameroonian and the youths in particular as there will be job opportunities. This will help reduce
the unemployment rate, which stands at the moment over 70%.

Cameroon has a bright prospect because of the availability of raw materials like trees (for the paper industries and construction), agriculture (palm oil, rubber, banana, cocoa, coffee and abundant food
supply for energy) and natural resources like oil and gas. But the Cameroon economy is handicapped by limited political will and adequate means of commercialization, employment of imported qualified labour and managerial personnel and above all embezzlement and corruption, which has ranked the country among the first ten corrupt nations of the
world after wearing the yellow jersey for two to three straight years.

6)Politics: In almost every country in the world, governments have an unquestionable responsibility for stimulating progress in most spheres of economic, social and political development. The government has a number of functions which include building of public services, influencing attitudes, shaping the economic institutions which influence resource utilisation, ensuring full employment and influencing the level and
areas of investment.

Very important in Cameroon and most developing countries, and Africa in particular, is the way political changes occur which in turn has a profound effect upon the direction and scope of economic development and future prosperity. Whatever the amount of natural resources and whatever theories economists develop, sociologists and geographers at a particular time; in the final analysis, it is governmental action that will determine the direction and scope of economic policy. The building of roads, railways, the motivation of national cooperation and the maintenance of a calm political atmosphere depends essentially on the governmental ability to act justly and wisely without bias and favouritism.

7) Environmental Conservation and pollution: The earth is finite with mostly non-renewable resources. As the population of the world continues to increase, there will be ever greater demands by man on his
environment, which is also his home. The uncontrolled exploitation of the natural environment and its resources for energy has created more problems which have seriously affected and at the same timethreatened our very existence. In some cases, natural resources such as soil and forest have been destroyed and fresh water supplies heavily polluted.

The major problem in the world today and Cameroon in particular is how best to utilize and sustain the natural environment for future generations and ours. As the world's population continues to grow, increasing demand will be made on land that has not been touched. Also, there will be increased demand on natural resources such as minerals, wood and sea products. It is essential that the methods to be used to exploit these resources do not cause an imbalance in the already fragile ecosystem as we are already witnessing global warming (increase in temperature) in some parts of the world. The utilisation of all these resources must be accompanied by their conservation.
Natural resources like oil and natural gas, coal and metallic minerals are finite and their exploitation must be carefully controlled by states. As mature trees are felled, young trees should be planted to ensure that the forest reserves do not diminish. Governments all over the world should encourage tree farming as it is being done in the east
province of Cameroon. This tree farming should be done on large areas of land for posterity.

Marine animals are also irreplaceable. The seas, oceans and rivers can continue to provide man with energy. Most countries with large fishing industries have solve the problem of over fishing and marine
pollution by passing legislatures that guarantees all small fish which are caught must be return to the sea immediately to enable them reproduce themselves. But in Africa and Cameroon where the economic realities are different, it is difficult to implement such policies.

Man's attempt to survive and improve his living conditions has unfortunately lead to the pollution of his environment. This has upset nature's delicate ecological balance and unwittingly brought about a
threat to his very survival. The most important health hazard faced by Cameroon and most developing countries is the indiscriminate
dumping of garbage into the surrounding land. This has lead to land pollution. This dumping is not only unsightly and foul-smelling, but also breeds places for vectors of disease like mosquitoes, which cause malaria. In Cameroon, the government has gone a mile in solving this problem by hiring HYSACAM (Sanitation Company) for the collection of garbage and subsidizes the cost for all local councils to keep their municipalities clean.

Another major problem is air pollution. Industrialization in many countries is creating a grave problem for man and his future is at stake. Air pollution which is as a result of the combustion of fossil fuels and the discharge of toxic gases like carbon dioxide from chemical plants into the
surrounding atmosphere has serious health hazards (cancer and liver impairment) besides destroying plants foliage, reduce crop yield. Also, the more than extra ozone discharge from these plants has upset the
ozone layer in the atmosphere which serves as a protective blanket against cosmic rays from the sun. The effects of the ozone depletion are increase in temperature (global warming) in the North Pole, which
has seen the breaking and subsequent melting of large masses of ice from the Polar Regions. If measures are not taken to control the emission of these toxic gases, most coastal cities are in danger of flooding.

I want to believe that the effect of the global warming is causing more than enough havoc in Asia and Indonesia, and the Americas.

It is time for us Cameroonian to join this fight and improve our economy and conserve our resources and our natural environment for real development. To strive for development based on conscience and the respect of human values.


by Ntamack John Billong, Cameroon



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