Causes of Poverty in the Global South (2024)

Causes of Poverty in the Global South


The South-North divide is a concept used to describe the political and socioeconomic division of the earth. The global north encompasses countries such as the UK, China, Canada, the USA, New Zealand, Russia, Australia, Singapore, Japan, Israel, and other similar countries. On the other hand, the global south covers regions such as Africa, the Middle East, and the developing parts of Asia. Nations in the global north are perceived to be more democratic, less unequal, and wealthier. Countries in the global north are generally considered to be the ones that export technologically advanced products to the global south. On the other hand, countries in the global south are considered to be younger, with fragile or delicate democracies, and they have a history of being colonized by the global north. Generally, countries in the global south are poorer. This essay will explore the factors that lead to extreme poverty in the global south

Causes of Poverty in the Global South

There are a number of factors that can be attributed to extreme poverty in the global south. As explained above, most of the countries that constitute the global south are developing countries in the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa. One of the factors that facilitate extreme poverty in these countries is the lack of access to nutritious foods and clean water. It is estimated that over one million people suffer from hunger globally, and over two billion cannot access clean water. Out of these figures, the majority are from countries that constitute the global south. Water and hunger are two of the main reasons why people in the global south are struggling to escape from the chains of poverty (Fielmua and Darius 46-48. When people do not have enough food, they also lack the energy and the strength to work. On the other hand, the inability to access clean water and nutritious food lead to a host of illnesses such as diarrhea. These illnesses also force people in the global south to spend the little money they have to seek treatment.

High unemployment rates are also an accelerator of extreme poverty levels in countries that fall under the global south. Without jobs or ways to raise some money, people suffer in abject poverty. In developing and rural parts of the world, job seekers are facing very difficult times. Productive land is also dwindling in the global south (as a result of climate change, overpopulation, and conflicts). Additionally, traditional ways of livelihoods are also experiencing a lot of pressure as a result of overexploitation of resources such as minerals, fish, etc. in the DRC, for instance, most people live in rural areas where centuries of colonialism plundered most of the natural resources. Land disputes have also displaced many people from the lands that they previously relied on the DRC. The country’s youth have to deal with low paying and inconsistent jobs. DRC paints a good picture of how high rates of unemployment are pushing populations in the global south into abject poverty.

Conflicts in the global south also drive poverty in so many ways. For example, prolonged large scale poverty that we currently witness in places such as Syria has the potential to bring societies to a standstill, force families to sell or flee and leave their lands behind, and even destroy the infrastructure (Andregg 1-2). There was a time when poverty in Syria was very rare. Today, however, over 70 % of the country’s population is living beneath the poverty line. The effects of the conflicts in the Syrian country are felt the most by women because they are excluded from decision-making processes, and they cannot find well-paying jobs. Other countries in the global south witnessing small amounts of violence are also feeling the effects of poverty.

Countries in the global south are also characterized by inequality ranging from economic inequalities and social inequalities such as tribal affiliations, caste systems, and gender inequality. The existence of these inequalities prevents families from accessing the resources that they need to lift themselves from poverty (Fosu 306-336). Inequalities in these countries can either be elusive or obvious. For instance, the voices or concerns of certain groups of people may be suppressed or not hear, meaning that they lack the opportunity to participate in the making of important decisions. Whichever the way these inequalities are manifested, they still limit certain groups of people from accessing the tools needed to move forward. This is part of the reason why wealth in the global south countries is deposited in the hands of a few individuals while the rest of the populations suffer silently.

Educational levels in the global south are also inadequate. While not all uneducated people in these countries can be said to be poor, the majority of those that are poor lack an education. The reason for this trend is that a number of barriers prevent children from developing countries from going to school (Chege 81-88). Besides families lacking the money to pay for their children’s education, they also need them to work on their farms. Most families in the global south do not also see the need to put their girls in school. They fail to realize that education is the equalizer that will open doors of opportunity for their children. Millions of people in the global south could be lifted out of poverty if only these barriers could be reduced or eliminated (Chege 81-88).

Inadequate or lack of infrastructure is also another thing that causes extreme poverty levels in the global south. Alack of things such as the internet, roads, cell phones, bridges, etc. have isolated most of the developing countries from the countries in the global north. In most developing countries, for example, people travel long distances to get essential services, which not only cost their poor populations money and time but also continues to keep them in poverty. By being isolated from the developed countries in terms of infrastructure, populations in these countries are missing out on so many opportunities. And by missing out on these opportunities, they also find it difficult to escape from poverty (Faridi et al. 534-541).

Limited government capacity is also another factor that drives poverty. People in most developed countries or the global north countries are, for instance, have access to social welfare programs that they can turn to when they need food or health assistance. Countries in the global south are, however, unable to give these kinds of services to their people. Without these safety nets, people in developing countries continue to slide further into poverty. Most of these countries are also unable to provide their citizens with the needed infrastructure or guarantee the security and safety of citizens during moments of conflict.


The focus of this essay was to explore the causes or drivers of extreme poverty in the global south. As explained in the introduction above, the global south is a concept used to describe developing countries in regions such as Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. Developed countries such as China, Singapore, the US, Russia, Japan, etc. fall under the global north. The factors that drive poverty in the global south discussed include, inadequate education, lack of access to clean water, lack of enough and nutritious food, limited capacity of governments in the global south, poor infrastructure, inequality, and conflicts.

Works Cited

Andregg, Michael M. “The Unspoken Causes of Chaos in Syria Today.” (2015).

This article addresses the causes of conflicts in Syria and their effects. It argues that or the migrant crisis to be addressed, the root causes of the persistent wars and conflicts must be addressed.

Chege, Joyce, et al. “Education and poverty alleviation in Kenya: Interrogating the missing link.” International Journal of Humanities and Social Science 5.1 (2015): 81-88.

The researcher investigated the link between education and the development of Kenya. She argues that besides increasing literacy levels, educational initiatives are also aimed at alleviating poverty. Chege argues that for education to effectively foster national development and alleviate poverty, it must be properly managed and administered.

Faridi, Muhammad Zahir, Muhammad Omer Chaudhry, and Muhammad Ramzan. “Role of Infrastructure in Poverty Alleviation: Evidence from Pakistan.” Pakistan Journal of Social Sciences (PJSS) 35.2 (2015).

The paper investigated the role that infrastructure plays in the fight against poverty in Pakistan. The researchers concluded that providing physical and social infrastructures play a significant role in poverty alleviation.

Film, Nicholas, and Darius T. Mwingyine. “Water at the Centre of Poverty Reduction: Targeting Women as a Stepping Stone in the Nadowli District, Ghana.” Ghana Journal of Development Studies 15.2 (2018): 46-68.

This paper argues that the provision of water in developing countries can be an effective strategy for fighting poverty. The researchers established that access to water enables people to have access to multiple channels of income-generating activities, and therefore, a great tool for achieving sustainable development.

Fosu, Augustin Kwasi. “Growth, inequality, and poverty reduction in developing countries: Recent global evidence.” Research in Economics 71.2 (2017): 306-336.

This study investigated the relationship between income inequalities and poverty. The researchers established that high levels of income inequality limit the progress of poverty reduction. They concluded that for campaigns against poverty reduction to be effective, the focus must be on fighting unfavorable income inequalities.

Causes of Poverty in the Global South (2024)


What is the main cause of poverty in South? ›

Lack of access to basic services such as dwelling, electricity, water and sanitation was found to aggravate poverty. Socio-economic factors such as unemployment, education level, gender, income and household size also affect poverty.

What is the cause of global poverty? ›

Poverty has multiple root causes beyond just a lack of basic necessities like food, shelter, education, or healthcare. Discrimination based on gender or ethnicity, poor governance, conflict, exploitation, and domestic violence are all factors that contribute to this.

Is there a lot of poverty in the South? ›

In 2015-19, the South had a nonmetro poverty rate of 19.7 percent—nearly 6 percentage points higher than in the region's metro areas. Regional poverty rates for nonmetro and metro areas were most alike in the Midwest and the Northeast in 2015-19.

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