Rarity or Reality of Some Theories of Poverty in Explaining the Poverty in Africa

Ernest Dube


This article examines the causes of poverty in Africa and the use of theories as a roadmap to dealing with poverty in African settings. The African continent is characterised by widespread poverty that includes lack of access to basic needs (such as shelter, clothes, food, clean water and clean environment) in addition to lack of income, opportunities, freedoms and choices. The main aim of the study was to explain the relevance—rarity or reality—of the theories of poverty in dealing with poverty in Africa in general, and Zimbabwe in particular. This desktop research analysed the theory of individualism of poverty, Karl Marx’s capitalist theory and opportunity theory of poverty. Through document analysis involving 47 publications, the study found that the theory of individual poverty lacks relevance—is a rarity—in analysing poverty in Africa, whilst the Marxian theory and opportunity theory are highly relevant—are a reality—because of Africa’s colonial history and current invasion of Africa by multi-national corporations. The study concluded that some theories of poverty are a panacea to understanding development in Africa. The theories are important in understanding the nature, causes and interventions of poverty in general. As such, theories of poverty are both a rarity and a reality when it comes to understanding poverty in African settings, particularly in Zimbabwe.

Keywords: Africa; rarity; reality; poverty; theories of poverty

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.