Living in the third world comes with a set of problems you do not encounter in the developed world. Some are so baked into the psyche of the residents that they are not even thought of as problems again but as regular day to day minor inconveniences to be managed!
A visitor to a third world country will have a system shock right from when the plane lands, when crossing into the country by land – only for the brave -, and all through their stay. For both visitors and residents, we have gone ahead to list the top 7 problems in third world countries here
Note: This was compiled from my Facebook page via a series of live videos with audience feedback used to update the list.
No. 1 Checkpoints
One thing not lacking in third world countries are checkpoints. There so many of them everywhere you go. Lining the roads are all the security agencies the country can muster, from the police to the army, customs, and some that are unique creations. I counted 12 police checks in a 100km stretch once on a road in Nigeria!
If only these checkpoints had any useful value, then we would be ok with them. The ones I know and have come across serve mainly two purposes;
a. Delay your travel
b. Extort money
This is common in all the 3rd World places I have been to, from Nigeria all the way to Senegal in West Africa, the roads are littered with checkpoints with various level of menacing gun toting uniform and non-uniform people manning them. The main difference between the English speaking and French speaking countries is the mode of collection payment, or rather the way the payment amount is arrived at.
In the English-speaking countries, there is more bargaining, to and forth and attempt to justify the shakedown. The officials even have the nerve to try and strike up a conversation after shaking you down.
The French-speaking countries are more business like, a fixed amount depending on the type of checkpoint. The money is collected openly and this is the neat part, you can get change!
Both delay equally though, you would expect the French model to be more efficient and faster, but the love of fondling documents, painstaking checks of the most minutiae, recording useless data in failing notebooks adds a whole layer of delay to the process.
The only exception I have seen is Ghana, where checkpoints are few and far between. I did meet a police checkpoint along the Aflao-Tema highway, where the policemen on duty tried collecting money from me in 2015 though.
During the easter weekend this 2017, I was kept for more than four hours at a checkpoint/police station/police cell along the Benin bypass for failing to pay up promptly. The unit commander had the nerve to blame me for not negotiating the payoff and said I was responsible for being delayed and should learn. Inspector Afolabi, I remember what you did.
What crime do you need to commit to be delayed at checkpoints and asked to pay up? If you think this question is rational, you are in the wrong place. Being on the road is a crime! or at least something you have to pay to do.
No. 2 Bad Roads
This more than any other factor is an open sign you are in Hades! Horrible roads that look like a postwar playground or something deliberately done for a film set in the post civilisation earth after mankind has left on Ellon’s Rockets to the NewEarth.
Most of our roads have to been experienced to be believed, and these are roads with no alternative available. Our roads are so bad that travel is something people do as a last resort!
Gabon still ranks as the top of my list for horrible roads, the few roads in that country are a constant test of man and machine and something people travel thousand of kilometres just to suffer on and say “Yes, I have travelled through the worst roads in the World”.
Nigeria, of course, has a nice selection of bad roads on offer, from craters in the middle of a nice looking highway to mud pits along roads that have thousands of cars passing daily.
Just so you do not have the impression that only the major roads are in poor shape, the roads within cities as bad if not worse off.
And this applies across the board from high brow areas to the deepest slums. The road above is from Agungi in the Lekki area of Lagos, the houses in the background are selling for sixty million naira and above (150,000 USD at May 2017).
No. 3 Border Officials from hell
Travelling within one country is so hard and comes at such high cost venturing to the next country across is done mostly by people who have no choice! Traders, students and tradesmen whose livelihood is tied to moving across borders.
The border between Nigeria and Benin republic at Seme is one of the worst borders in the world ever! The sheer chaos of the place, the noise, dust and constant harassment from men in and out of uniform is enough to make you regret getting there.
On the Nigerian side, you have to run a gauntlet of officials – Customs, NDLEA, Port Health, Police (several types and flavours), Immigrations, various security agencies, official and unofficial touts, and they all want a look at your passport.
You have fees for registering your passport, different rates for virgin vs non-virgin passports, payments for Yellow Card (different rates if you have or need a fresh one), payments for the barrier to be opened for you to finally cross.
Over in Benin, at least they concentrate their fees and payoff into one or two buildings only.
Most people give up and just pay the touts to process everything and bring back a stamped passport.
Nigeria and Benin belong to ECOWAS which is meant to guarantee free movement of goods, services and humans across West Africa. Yeah, keep dreaming. Trucks spend days at each border crossing and carrying even a dollar worth of material across the border is for the brave or battle-hardened traders only.
This repeats at ALL the borders across West and Central Africa I have been to. The level of corruption varies. Ghana is an exception as you may be asked for a tip but you do not have to pay to enter or leave. Their processing is S L O W though if you have a vehicle. The usual bane of the third world, a computer processing system that is too sophisticated for the operators so every action is like drawing water from a desert plant.
No. 4 High Birth Rates
Some depressing stats from IndexMundi shows just how bad the situation is. High Births are correlated with all sorts of bad things; infant mortality, maternal mortality and of course, third world countries occupy the top 10 positions in all, even going down, it is a graphic display of how bad things are.
Apart from just looking at the chart, the actual numbers themselves are something to chill the bones.
Coupled with women not having access to basic education in some areas, reversing this trend is going to be hard work
No. 5 Slave Masters as Rulers
Paul Biya of Cameroon has been the president of the country since 1982 (this article was written in May 2017) and has no plans to step down. For most rulers, their relationship with the office is ’till death do us part’.
The populace is seen as useful tools to generate revenue, be cowed and used as required by the folks on high. The poster boy for the current crop of rulers is Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the chap who has been in charge of Equatorial Guinea since 1979.
While it is fun to pole fun at the crazy people at the top, coming down closer to the people does not show any improvement in behaviour or performance. In Nigeria for instance, even a Local Government Chairman goes around in a motorcade and cannot be caught with0ut his police escorts. The escorts for government officials, at least in Nigeria, serve such useful functions as flogging people in traffic, breaking glasses of cars that do not give way, general harassment and the most important function, carrying bags for their bosses!
No. 6 No Transport Infrastructure
The basic system for moving people and goods from point A to B is solely lacking. Some countries may have one functional road across the whole country, not really across but most times from the capital to some other place and that is it.
The roads where they exist are mostly seasonal for places with rains, the dry countries do not fare any better though.
The few roads that exist are in very poor state and you see accidents almost every 5km in most countries.
Railway system? Well, not available or functional in most places. I did a trip recently on the Nigeria Railway system, it still has a long way to go to be called a transport system.
The air and river/sea alternatives are not developed either. Look at the map of Africa, travelling from say Port Harcourt in Nigeria to a destination in Congo is a major logistical endeavour. The only method now that will take less than a month is via air through several hops that will first take you away and then back.
And this is improved from the last decade where the only air link between Port Harcourt in Nigeria and Doula in Cameroon was through Paris! And the two cities are less than 350km!
No. 7 No Electricity
I will make this one very short. In Nigeria, the electricity generation capacity was 2600 MW in January 2017! Yes, that figure is not a mistake 2600. In areas with electricity supply, the average expected from the grid is about 2 hours a day. And most areas go for weeks without electricity.
Industries run on diesel generators and homes on small noisy petrol powered units. The rich can afford diesel generators but most run it for a few hours per day only.
Across Africa, some countries fare better but it is mostly the key urban areas that get any electricity.
Since the modern world runs on electricity, we are far from being in the modern world. The effects of lack of electrical power is all over. From not being able to start a basic business to hospitals not having basic drugs that need refrigeration.