A country's level of development is influenced by a number of interrelated factors. While it is difficult to separate these factors, they can be broken down into five major categories: historical, political, economic, social and environmental. Most developing nations of the world face development challenges as a result of a combination of these factors.
Some environmental factors which contribute to a country's level of development, such as natural disasters, are beyond human control. The majority of the development issues discussed in this chapter, however, have been created and continue due to the direct actions of humans. The very high rate and level of development experienced by most rich countries of the world is another factor which perpetuates many challenges faced by people in developing countries.
Historical factors that hinder development
Studying the past gives humans an enormous insight into the present. Using historical analysis in development geography helps to explain why many countries face development challenges, because a country's history is a huge contributing factor to its level of development.
Often, analysing a country's history will provide explanations for many of the political, economic, social and environmental factors that also contribute to its level of development. In developing countries of the world today, one of the most significant historical factors that has hindered development is colonisation.
What is colonisation?
Colonisation occurs when a country or group of people who wish to control 'new' territories form permanent settlements (or colonies) there. It usually involves the large-scale movement of people from the colonising power (also known as the mother or parent country) to the 'new' territory (the colony). Colonisation also usually involves the domination of the original inhabitants of the colony (the indigenous population).
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In most historical cases, colonisation has occurred as a result of the colonising power's desire to exploit new lands and peoples for their own economic and political gain. Natural resources, agricultural commodities, minerals, plants and spices are some common examples of products that colonising powers throughout history have taken from their colonies. In addition to this, the indigenous populations of colonies have often been forced to work under slave-like conditions for colonising powers. In almost all instances, land has been taken away from indigenous peoples and divided amongst colonial settlers.
This was the case during the Age of Colonialism, which began in the early 16th century, soon after Christopher Columbus first arrived in the Americas. For centuries following this 'discovery' in 1492, the European colonial powers of Spain, Portugal, France, England and the Netherlands formed colonies in North, Central and South America, which had a detrimental effect on the indigenous culture and heritage of these regions.
At the same time colonisation was occurring in the Americas, the same process was unfolding throughout large sections of Asia and Africa. It is considered an effect of colonisation that today the regions of Asia, Africa and Latin America comprise the least developed countries of the world.
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Political factors that hinder development
The political environment of a country, which is often closely linked to its history, also has a significant impact on its level of development. In general, governments have the power to take actions which direct a country's social and economic development. In many developing countries with unstable political histories, however, government corruption and greed have caused problems which have hindered such progress.
Wars caused by political tensions - within and between countries - also hinder governments' abilities to find solutions to development challenges. This is because wars are very costly and cause widespread death...
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