Image source: http://theafricaneconomist.com/technology-can-assist-africa-in-its-development/#.VjkN61I0_fd

There’s a tendency of relating the concept of “development” to a positive and radical change to Third World countries, unfortunately that’s not always the case. The first step that needs to be taken is to clarify the concept of development, as it might be a bit confusing, because development is bound with ideologies and values (e.g. Neo-liberalism). According to Oxford dictionaries “development is a specified state of growth or advancement; a new and advanced product of idea; an event constituting a new stage in a changing situation.”

It is important to state that development is not all about economic growth but it also includes human development, in order words the human quality of life in a certain country, which is determined by access to education and healthcare, employment opportunities, availability of clean air and safe drinking water, the threat of crime, and so on. The Human Development Report 1996 (published by the United Nations Development Program) states that human development is the end and economic growth is the means”. Chamber (1997) considers development “Good change”, but it is not as simple as it sounds. For instance, at this point I can’t help but ask myself the question who decides what change is good? If we look at the history of development, this process has always been strongly associated to capitalism, with “Good change” that meant industrialisation, modernisation (another difficult concept) and promoting free market. This causes a vary unfair relationship of exploitation between poor and rich countries, and Wallerstein (1974) was able to examine this by identifying three structural positions which are core, peripheral and semi-peripheral.

Core countries consist of the world powers, in order words the first world countries. They benefit from the world system economy because they are the exploiters, they use the resources of the peripheral regions to improve their economy and develop their nations. Consequently, the peripheral regions find is very hard to come out of poverty. The directions often goes from North to South and the process is put into practice by international organisation that use development as a pretext to maintain their power structure, and free market is just promoted in order to have easy accessibility the natural resources of the underdeveloped countries. The actions of the core countries are justified by the values that capitalism have, that is in order to boom the economy, there are always winners and losers. Therefore a developed western country promotes development for its best interests and not for the interest of the country that receives help. Why can’t a country chose what’s the best way to improve its own situation? In my opinion the only way that western countries can “legally” exploit is by setting up organisations all in the name of development, but end up not helping.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) and NAFTA are typical examples of organisations that bring down barriers to promote free trade trying to convince developing countries that it is very good for their economy. Obviously these organisations are very inefficient, and there are not working for the purpose they are claiming, according to Shadlen (2007) when developing countries sign these agreements get more market access but, they have less space for industrial policy that would improve and expand their second and third sector. Is this the right way to help these poor countries?

Jessica Obah


Carlos A. Martinez-Vela n.d. World Systems Theory [Online].Available from: http://web.mit.edu/esd.83/www/notebook/WorldSystem.pdf [Accessed 8/11/2015]

Shadlen, C. Kenneth (2005): “Exchanging development for market access? Deep integration and industrial policy under multilateral and regional-bilateral trade agreements”

I. Wallerstein (1974), (vol. 16) no.4 pp 387-415 “Comparative studies in Society and History

World Bank “What is Development” [online] available from: www.worldbank.org/depweb/english/beyond/beyondco/beg_01.pdf [Accessed 8/11/2015]



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