They also had to hold free elections. Debtor nations had to undertake these reforms in order to have some of their debt cancelled or to get desperately needed new loans.
Many developing nations have welcomed foreign investment. Investors put money into businesses that produced profits for them and consumer goods for the industrialized world. Some critics have argued that these economic decisions benefited foreign investors more than the developing nation's economy.
During the 1950s and 1960s, scientists applied new technology to increasing food production for the world's growing population. They introduced new high-yield seeds that yielded more food per acre than older crops. These new crops, along with new fertilizers, pesticides, and new methods of farming, became known as the Green Revolution.
In Mexico, India, Indonesia, and elsewhere, the Green Revolution boosted food output. The Green Revolution had limits, however. It succeeded only in areas with regular moisture. Also, it required chemical fertilizers and pesticides, as well as irrigation systems, which only wealthy farmers with large acreage could afford. Many poor peasants were forced off their small farms, unable to compete with larger, more-efficient enterprises. These landless peasants became farm workers or moved to rapidly growing cities.
Western companies that want to reduce labor costs find a large, available workforce in developing nations. In this factory in India, women create computer parts for a rapidly growing electronics industry.
By what means did leaders of developing nations first try to modernize their economies?
While some developing nations have made progress toward modernization, others have not. The reasons varied, but many countries shared similar problems. In parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, geography has posed an obstacle to progress. Some newly created African countries are tiny and have few natural resources. Difficult climates, uncertain rainfall, lack of good farmland, and disease have added to the problems of some nations.
Better medical care and greater food supplies have reduced death rates and led to explosive population growth. Each year, the populations of countries like Nigeria, Egypt, and India increase by millions. All these people need food, housing, education, jobs, and medical care. Meeting the needs of so many puts a huge burden on developing nations.
Many developing nations have tried to slow population growth, but few countries, except China, tried to force people to limit family size. In many farming societies, children are valued as a source of labor and a support for parents in old age. Religious traditions also encourage large families.
Across the developing world, population growth has contributed to a cycle of poverty. The UN estimates that about 870 million people are undernourished, mostly in the developing world. Children are the most vulnerable to malnutrition and diseases related to hunger. Poor nutrition plays a role in the deaths of about five million children die each year. The major causes of poverty include lack of resources, hugely unequal distribution of income, and within some countries, conflict and famine.
The economic patterns established during age of imperialism changed little after developing countries won independence. Most new nations remained economically dependent on their former colonial rulers. They sold agricultural products and raw materials to the industrial world. In turn, they relied on the West for manufactured goods, technology, and investment. In recent years, lower labor costs have led Western companies to relocate their manufacturing operations to the global South.