Closing the Development Gap

Jeff Bezos is one of the richest people in the world. He earns more money than you'd ever need for a normal and comfortable life. His standard of living is probably incredibly high. He also calls the United States home, which is one of the top most developed countries in the world. Comparatively, some countries in the world offer low levels of education, no clean water, no food, and the list goes on. This produces a massive gap between the wealthy and the poor. How can we go about closing the development gap? What offers a good example of reducing this gap? Read on to find out more!

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Table of contents

    Closing the development gap: the context of development

    Development is a pretty broad topic in geography. The term refers to the improvement of the standard of living of the population of a certain country.

    The amount and levels of wealth, material goods, safety and leisure that people have can be understood as the standard of living.

    Countries can be divided up by their levels of economic development, into three categories; Low-Income Countries (LICs), Middle-Income Countries (MICs), and High-Income Countries (HICs). The level of development a country has can also be indicated by different Measures of Development. Development levels differ across the world, and development progression takes place at different speeds; this is known as Uneven Development.

    Before reading this explanation, it's important that you understand these points in detail. Make sure you read the explanations on Changing Economic World, Measures of Development, and Uneven Development.

    So, development levels are vastly uneven globally, and the differences between development levels can be a result of physical, economic, and historical factors. Some countries are super developed, whilst others, are much further behind. This is where we can introduce the development gap.

    The development gap describes how the standard of living (levels of development) differs between wealthy and poor countries. This means that there is a wide gap between HICs and LICs.

    Closing the Development Gap World map with differing development levels market on it StudySmarterFig. 1 - the differing development levels across the world.

    On the map above, countries in blue are considered developed countries, yellow represents developing/emerging countries, and red shows those countries that are the least developed.

    Closing the development gap: strategies

    This development gap and development inequality is a pretty big issue that needs addressing. So, what are some of the methods or strategies that are needed to close this development gap? Let's take a look.


    Investment in lower-income countries can help to increase economic growth. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is when large companies, such as Transnational Corporations (TNCs) set up business in the country of need, bringing money, building factories, creating jobs, improving skills and knowledge, and generally improving productivity, which can increase economic growth. Investment can also come from countries themselves, as well as large organisations, like the United Nations.

    Tourism and industrial development

    Tourism is a great way to bring money into a country. It creates jobs, allows the improvements of infrastructures, and benefits businesses and other sectors economically. Later in this explanation, we will discuss how tourism in one LIC has helped to reduce this development gap in much more detail. Also, the development of industries, like manufacturing, can provide jobs and boosts people's income and the economy.

    Money, money, money!

    Money truly does make the world go round, and it's a key strategy to reducing the development gap and improving development in low-income countries. Let's look at 3 financial support mechanisms; aid, debt relief, and microfinance loans.


    Providing aid is the act of one country giving something to another country for support. Aid can actually come in many different forms. Money is one form, which can be provided to help fund projects to improve development levels. Aid can also be provided to countries that experience natural disasters, where emergency support is needed.

    Debt relief

    Debt relief is a little similar to financial aid; it involves removing the large debts that may have accrued over time. Countries may have large debts from borrowing money in the past that was originally needed for development, and now, cannot this money back. In some cases, loans were stolen by corrupt country leaders, leaving the poverty-stricken population unable to pay this back.

    Microfinance loans

    Microfinance loans are a little smaller than those big loans that are given to whole countries. These loans help to fund people at a local level, by providing small amounts of money to individuals to support development, for example, subsistence farmers that can use the money to exit poverty.

    Intermediate technology

    Using technologies that are appropriate for a specific country, can be known as intermediate technology. It involves taking more knowledgeable concepts and combining them with simpler solutions. Intense technologies are often not suited for poorer countries, as people may not have the skills to use them properly, therefore using technologies that are easier to use is much more beneficial.

    In Bangladesh, clothing, like saris, were used as a water filter to combat the cholera disease found in water supplies. Other examples are things like hand water pumps, provided by charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

    Closing the Development Gap Three woman washing vegetables in a lake StudySmarterFig. 2 - a sari is being used to cover the pot to collect water.


    You've probably seen the Fairtrade logo before, on things like chocolate, or bananas, for example. The Fairtrade scheme means that farmers in producing countries are paid properly, to improve their livelihoods. Fairtrade also includes things like health schemes. This helps to improve the development levels of smaller and poorer areas.

    Closing the development gap: challenges

    Reducing the gap between the world's richest and poorest countries isn't an easy ride. There are challenges and obstacles that can drastically impact how the development gap can be reduced. Let's briefly bullet point some of the factors that could hinder the attempts to reduce this development gap.

    • Some countries are more vulnerable to major natural disasters, which can drastically hinder economic development. Many countries are also going to be much worse off as climate change takes hold, making natural disasters more common and more severe; aid could be given to help redevelop after a major natural disaster, to only be followed by another, and another...
    • Some countries have ongoing conflicts, which can make investment and development much harder.
    • Some governments are corrupt, which makes it much less likely for other countries to invest. Some countries are even completely closed off to outside support, such as North Korea.
    • Although investment from TNCs into countries brings benefits, inequalities are still a major problem here; they exploit workers for cheaper labour, and can often be super harmful to the environment.
    • Although tourism has its benefits, it can bring many issues with it (more on this later).

    Closing the development gap: example

    Tourism, as we have already mentioned, is a great way to bring money into a country, and therefore improve development to help to reduce this global development gap. In geography, we love a case study. So, let's take a trip to Tunisia, the tourist destination of North Africa.

    Closing the Development Gap Map showing the location of Tunisia StudySmarterFig. 3 - Tunisia, located in northern Africa, map data: © 2022 Google

    Tunisia, surrounded by Libya, Algeria, and the Mediterranean Sea, was once a low-income country, with agriculture being its main source of income. That was until tourism began to boom! Tunisia actually has many benefits as a tourist destination; it has a warm climate, there is culture, such as UNESCO World Heritage sites, natural beauty, and people can travel there pretty cheaply, with things like package holidays. As a result of increased tourism, the economy has benefitted dramatically, from money being spent on hotels, as well as money being funnelled into local businesses and the agricultural/food sector. Tunisia is now pretty wealthy; people have more money, and other development indicators have improved, such as health and literacy levels.

    Did you know, that Star Wars was filmed in Tunisia? Cool right?

    Closing the Development Gap A pool view from a Balcony in Tunisia StudySmarterFig. 4 - a view from a hotel balcony in Tunisia

    Although tourism has brought vast benefits, there have been some challenges; pollution from hotels has affected some of the natural environment, and the larger holiday companies take a large amount of profit, leaving less money available for local development. There have also been terrorist attacks in the area, making it less attractive for people to travel there.

    Closing the development gap - Key takeaways

    • Development is the improvement of the standard of living of populations in a country. It can be measured using various indicators of development.
    • The development across the world is vastly uneven, with a large difference between the standard of living for rich and poor countries. This is the development gap.
    • There are many strategies for combatting the development gap, such as investment, industrial development, tourism, aid, debt relief, microfinance loans, intermediate technology, and Fairtrade programmes.
    • There are challenges to closing this development gap; things like natural disasters, political corruption, and exploitation, all need to be considered when creating strategies to reduce the gap.
    • Tunisia offers a great example of how tourism has helped in improving development and reducing the development gap.


    1. Figure 1, water collection with a filter ( by Allice Hunter (, Licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0 (
    2. Figure 2, map of global development levels ( by Anwar Huq, Licensed by CC BY 2.5 (
    3. Figure 4, tunisia from a balcony ( by garfey (, Licensed by CC BY 2.0 (
    Frequently Asked Questions about Closing the Development Gap

    What is meant by the development gap?

    The development gap is the large difference between the standard of living of rich and poor countries. 

    What causes the development gap?

    The development gap is caused by uneven development, as a result of environmental, economic, and historical factors. 

    How can we reduce the development gap?

    The development gap can be reduced through several strategies, such as investment, tourism, industrial development, aid, debt relief, microfinance loans, intermediate technology, and Fairtrade. 

    What can we do to overcome the development gap?

    Overcoming the development gap involves implementing many strategies to close the gap, such as investment, tourism, industrial development, aid, debt relief, microfinance loans, intermediate technology, and Fairtrade. 

    What are the challenges facing development?

    Some of the challenges facing development include natural disasters, conflicts, corruption, and exploitation. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What is debt relief?

    True or false: microfinance loans can help individuals escape poverty.

    What is intermediate technology?


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