It’s easy to make assumptions about a “developing” country from the comfort and privilege of a “developed” one. It’s hard to truly understand what it might actually be like to live in a country without everything a developed country is used to. Treading the murky waters of stereotypes, assumptions and clichés, here are some common misconceptions and myths about developing countries:
- Africa is a country/is the entire developing world
Africa is a continent with many countries of different backgrounds and diverse cultures. However, Africa is often the subject of sweeping generalizations and assumptions; for example, every person in Africa is poor and living in a rural area. This disregards the 54 nations in Africa with different histories, cultures and traditions, as well as countries on every other continent that might struggle with poverty.
- Developed nations spend a lot of their budgets on foreign aid
The Borgen Project works specifically to debunk this particular misconception, as the United States spends less than 1% of its federal budget on foreign aid. Norway, the most generous nation, spends 3%. Everyone can do better.
- Developing countries are technologically backward
Not only is this untrue, it disregards all of the middle-class working citizens who have found success in developing countries. The rise of technology use includes the rise of accessibility. Nigeria, for example, is one of many African countries that has embraced new technology and encouraged its spread with a Smart Cities Initiative.
- Developing countries are corrupt
The cause-effect relationship in this misconception is backwards. In terms of myths about developing countries, this one disregards all the corruption present in developed countries. It assumes that corrupt policies and practices are inherently rampant in developing countries, continuing to limit them. However, corruption happens everywhere; it is simply highlighted in developing nations. Furthermore, foreign aid makes developing countries less vulnerable to corruption, not more corrupt.
- People are poor because they have too many kids they can’t afford
“Too many” is a matter of opinion, and the opinion in developed countries is not inherently superior. Because of poverty, families do not have access to sex education or contraception, meaning the decision to have more kids is not really a decision.
These are just a few of the common misconceptions surrounding the developing world. However, all of them are due to be changed.
– Ellen Ray