In the contemporary economic development theories prevailing all over the world and in the policy practices pursued by every country, sustainable development of social economy is becoming a focus. What is sustainable development ? The United Nations defines it as ” to satisfy the needs of this generation,without doing any detriment to the ability of the coming generations in satisfying their needs. ” According to the UN””definition, the balanced state of population growth, resource exploitation, and ecological protection is certainly the basic requirements for the realization of sustainable development. Africa is an area abounding in natural resources in the world ; however, a lot of African countries don””t realize the significance of the balanced state of this Kind in their economic development , and therefore this has not only become a cause of under-development, but also has evolved into main obstacles on the way to realizing sustainable development.
Obstacle One : Population Problems
Since human beings conduct all economic activities, the sustainable development of a social economy cannot be divorced from a balance in population growth. The balance between resources and environment cannot be realized unless population growth is brought under control. From national independence through the early 1990s, economic growth in African countries has continued to slide, while populations have leapt from 275 million in 1960 to 680 million in 1993. With the population explosion, a series of phenomena have emerged, such as a younger population, abnormal urbanization and the low quality of the work force and low education of the population.
A. Younger Population
Among the aggregate African population, nearly half are under the age of 15, and only 5% are over 65 years of age. Generally speaking, a younger population may provide ample labor resources for economic development. However, for the African countries, where economic development is under-developed, a large number of the young only pose a potential threat to economic development. First, the large number of the young in population is a potential factor for further population explosions. Facing a series of social and economic problems caused by exploding populations,many African countries have put forward varied solutions to control population growth. By the later 1980s, some three-fourths of African countries had laid out family planning programs. Nevertheless , the program were for the most part just words, never going into effect. Consequently human reproduction has been left in an uncontrolled state. Second, a large number of young population challenges the education system in each nation. Due to the poor base and short age of fund, education in Africa is comparatively backward.
The most conspicuous fact can be observed from the universal lack of educational infrastructure in every nation. Consequently the rates of enrollment, both in basic and higher education, are very low. Although one thing is not deniable that many African countries have made some progress in education, compared with the levels before independence, Africa””s limited education resources are now faced with increasing numbers of school age children and adolescents. And third, this group will intensify the employment crisis in Africa. The long-term economic depression in Africa has made Africa one of the regions with the highest unemployment rate.Since the 1990s, job opportunities have only increased by a modest 2.4% annually, keeping the urban unemployment rates at an average 30%. With the passage of time, the younger population will flow into the labor market, making the already bad employment situation worse.
B. Abnormal Urbanization
Urbanization should have been a mark of industrialization and modernization in a country or region, and therefore of a developed economy. However, in Africa the case is different. The swift development of African cities are not the result of the development of productivity, but of the influx of a large rural population into cities along with the population explosion. The abnormal expansion of urban populations has greatly surpassed the capabilities of cities. Increasing populations create difficulties for cities in housing, employment, food supply,transportation, and environmental management. Since most of the rural population that flows into the cities are either illiterate or with poor work skills, many certainly face unemployment. In addition, the abnormal expansion of urban populations has done tremendous harm to the development of rural economies in Africa. Among the flow of rural groups into the cities, the largest portions are laborers. Their migration has reduced the human resources available to rural construction. Agriculture in Africa is being drained of its vitality. A vicious cycle has begun.
C. Low Quality of Population
The quality of the population directly affects the level of economic development in any nation. A high rate of adult illiteracy means a low quality of laborers. In the modern high-tech world , social production has required increasingly higher quality from laborers. The large number of poor-quality laborers in Africa will definitely lead to low productivity, incompetent enterprises and the weak development of the continent. Furthermore , since most low-quality laborers can only be engaged in simple work, it has increasingly posed a major obstacle to the introduction of foreign capital to African countries. When foreign investors look for new homes for their capital, they certainly consider the factor of cheap labor costs. But they also emphasize the quality of the labor force, especially those involved in hightech industries.
Obstacle Two: Resource Problems
Natural resources are the material base for human sustenance and social development, and also the material base for the realization of the sustainable development of a society. Even though nature has bestowed upon Africa unusually abundant resources , the problem of unbalanced resource exploitation exists in every African country, and the reasons are as follows: First,the economies in Africa , based on the production and export of unfinished products, are characterized by a consumption of raw materials; Second, the population explosion adds to the pressure ; Third, there are many small countries in Africa, and natural resources are dispersed in an imbalanced state.
A. Over-exploitation of Mineral Resources
The African continent is famous for its abundant mineral resources. Africa boasts deposit of all the 50 most important minerals in the world. What””s more, the minerals in Africa occupy a very important status in terms of both explored deposits and outputs. Unluckily, with the exception of South Africa, most African countries export minerals in order to gain foreign currency deposits, instead of transforming them directly into effective resources for developing their national economies. Such use of resources is not only affected by fluctuating prices on the international market, but also not suited to the reform of the singleitem economic structure in African countries. More importantly, mineral resources are basically non-regenerated ones, or their regeneration rate is too little to count.The more use of this kind of resources ,the less deposit of them.At present, there are already some African countries where resources are exhausted because of over-exploitation.
B. Shortage of Energy
Ceveloped. Among the numerous hydroelectric power stations in Africa, most are small,larger ones are rare. Hydroelectric power is an energy supply characterized by easy regeneration. If the African countries that are short of minerals can overcome the difficulties in capital, technology, and materials to develop hydroelectricity, not only will the shortage of energy supply be relieved, but also sustainable development of social economy can be enhanced.
Obstacle Three: Ecological Problems
In the operation of a society, a balanced ecological system will allow for sustainable development. If the balance is not realized, sustainable development is hard, if not impossible. In Africa, the underdeveloped economies, exploding populations,and the serious harm done to the environment have formed one important factor working against the sustainable development of the social economy. One obvious sign that the environment in Africa is being destroyed is the increasingly serious situation of desertification.Over 20% of the continent is now covered by deserts, and another 60% is threatened with such a fate. During the 1980s, this phenomenon forced 10 million people away from their homes,causing an annual economic loss of some US $ 9 billion. Experts warn that if no measures are adopted to stem the tide of desertification, the per capita land occupied will be reduced by two -thirds in the coming three decades.
To understand the increasingly serious formation of wasteland, we must consider the global climate. Still, we cannot un dervalue the effects of the felling of large tracts of trees and the widespread slaughter of wild animals in Africa in order to enlarge exports. The destruction of forests and plants and the slaughtering of wild animals do not occur naturally, but are the result of human economic activities. So, under the pressure of population explosions, environmental destruction will directly affect the operation and quality of sustainable development in Africa. The situation will revolve around whether the African nations can improve the deteriorating environment and restore and maintain it with their own efforts, while catering to the growing necessity of production and demands for living materials.
The sustainable development of a social economy is mainly based on proportional population, necessary resources and suitable environment, and among them population is the most important factor. On the other hand, population, resources and environment are some changeable parameters which can be adjusted by the social and economic development. Africa””s social and economic development level is quite low compared with other areas,and its various contradictions existing in the aspects of population , resources and environment are heavily restraining the operation of sustainable development.Therefore, the need for African countries to control population growth, protect natural resources and maintain ecological balance during their realization of sustainable development has become an urgent task.