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Underdevelopment is the sum of all the processes and forces at work, keeping a country’s society, polity and economy within a dependant framework i.e. depending on other countries for survival.

Characteristics of Underdevelopment
A country is said to be experiencing underdevelopment when it exhibits the following characteristics.

(i) Low per capital income –
Where the income per head is low; African countries are generally considered underdeveloped because they have low income per head, usually below $400 per head. In the more developed countries like United Kingdom, Germany, U.S.A., income per head are estimated at $10,700, $11,730, $13,920.

(ii) Low Growth Rate of National Income:
The United Nations statistics showed that the underdeveloped countries have an annual growth rate of 2.5 per cent while the developed countries have annual growth rate of about 4.6 per cent. This implies that where a country’s growth rate is low, the country is underdeveloped.

(iii) Great inequality in the distribution of national income:
In underdeveloped countries of Africa, the top 10 per cent of the population gets 80 per cent of the national income while the remaining 90 per cent of the population gets 20 per cent of the national income; while in the advanced countries the top 10 per cent gets 40 per cent of the national income, while the lowest 40 per cent gets about 20 per cent.

(iv) High rate of population growth and dependency ratio.

(v) High and rising levels of unemployment.

(vi) Substantial dependence on primary productive activities-for exports.

(vii) Large segment of the population suffers from malnutrition and ill health.

(viii) Low level of productivity.

(ix) High level of political instability.

(x) Dualistic economies:
Almost all underdeveloped countries have a dualistic economy. One is the market economy, the other is the subsistence economy. One is in and near the towns, the other in the rural areas.

(xi) Underdeveloped natural resources:
The natural resources are either under-utilised or unutilised or mis-utilised.

(xii) Economic backwardness.

(xiii) Technological backwardness.

(xiv) Insufficient capital equipment. They are characterised as capital poor, low-saving, low-investing economic.