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How far Africa has to go…understanding the continent through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

10/26/09

Jay Wellik—Dallas, TX, USA

In 1943, Abraham Maslow published his theories characterizing the motivations that drive human psychology.  The basic premise was that there is a hierarchy of needs that each person has to have satisfied in incremental order.  The degree to which a person is able to satisfy those needs determines their overall well being.  Adapting Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs to the needs of sovereign states can help show how dire the straits are for the Least Developed Countries, especially Africa.

Maslow’s hierarchy for human motivation consists of five steps.  It starts with the most basic physiological needs and progresses to “self-actualization.”  Steps in between include fulfilling safety needs, psychological needs such as intimacy and friendship, and esteem needs such as confidence and autonomy.

Unfortunately, states in Africa are stuck at the first level—trying to provide fresh water, food, and suitable shelter for its people.  Erratic weather patterns from climate change have undermined crop production and led to depleting sources of fresh water.  Natural disasters from storms threaten the stability of the environment in which the people live.

Securing these basic needs is the biggest roadblock to success on the African continent.  The cost is also extremely high.  The African Union has asked for as much as US $67 billion while other estimates peak at US $90 billion—annually!  And that’s just to satisfy the first step.  Imagine how much work it’s going to take to turn Africa into a place of clean and sustained development.

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