Physical factors


Any extreme climate will hinder development, for example, being too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry. Many African countries are situated in very hot, arid climates. This makes food production difficult.

Many of these countries, like Burkina Faso for example, are prone to drought and famine. Some of the poorest least developed countries are in the Sahel zone of Africa, like Mali and Chad.

These countries have severe climatic problems, like drought, which can hamper development. This means they are unable to produce enough food to feed their populations. Money has to be borrowed for this, instead of it being invested in development projects.

Any extreme in weather will make life difficult. It will be difficult to build houses and roads, to farm the land, to attract industry and to earn a living generally.

Mountains and steep slopes again make it difficult to farm, travel and earn a living. This is true of mountainous countries like Afghanistan.

Natural hazards

Areas likely to be hit by floods, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes or by drought tend to remain less developed.

The map below shows some of the areas, recently affected by natural hazards.

Countries prone to natural disasters.

  • Mozambique has suffered serious flooding in recent years.
  • The Philippines has been devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.
  • Pakistan and Haiti have been affected by massive earthquakes.
  • Ethiopia is currently affected by drought.

Other factors

Areas lacking in mineral resources (eg coal, diamonds, oil) and areas with poor soils or poor drainage will remain less developed. Countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have vast oil reserves to export.

Oil is in great demand, so can be sold for a huge profit giving them a high GDP. Factors such as war, however, can prevent a country from developing. Iraq is not allowed to reap the benefits of its oil reserves due to conflict.

Areas that are naturally linked to endemic disease will also struggle to develop. Many countries in Africa have suffered a development setback due to Aids and malaria. Researchers have concluded that the world lost on average 1.3 years of human development progress due to the Aids pandemic between 1982 and 1992.

In some countries, the setback was particularly severe. It is estimated that Zambia's development has been held back ten years. Tanzania has been held back eight years, Rwanda seven years and the Central African Republic over six years.