Population Increase Impedes Africa’s Poverty Reduction

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A recent report published by the World Bank has revealed that though Sub-Saharan Africa is making steady progress in health and education, population growth is seriously affecting poverty reduction.In a release dispatched to our reporter, the World Bank quoting the Global Monitoring Report released earlier this month noted that 347 million people are living in extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa this year.

The report also indicates that 388 million people or 43 % of all people living in Sub-Saharan Africa live in extreme poverty in 2012. This figure, according to the report, is the result of a decrease of 5 million poor people in 2011.

The report titled, “Poverty in a Rising Africa,” was released in Ghana at a high-level event commemorating End Poverty Day, which was attended by World Bank
Group President Dr Jim Yong Kim, government leaders, and civil society partners.

The report is therefore calling for much better measurement of poverty, noting that data gaps make it extremely difficult for policy makers to target programs for the poor.

The World Bank President has in this regard pledged to work with developing countries and international partners to conduct household surveys once every three years in each of the 78 poorest countries in ensuring that proper data are gathered to help decision makers make the best decisions in reducing poverty in their respective countries.

This initiative is expected to be fully launched by 2020, and is estimated to cost U$300 million every three years.
“Africa’s economy is on the rise, but to avoid bypassing vulnerable people – whether in rural areas or in fragile states – we must improve how we measure human progress. Better data will tell us whether we’re delivering effective programs that will help end extreme poverty by 2030 and boost shared prosperity among the poorest,” said Dr. Kim, World Bank Group President.

Kim traveled to Ghana on Friday to draw attention to the country’s record in the past two decades in cutting poverty by more than half, from 53 percent in 1991 to 21 percent in 2012.

The report finds that progress in ending poverty in all its forms has varied greatly across countries and population groups, with the levels of achievement remaining challengingly low.

Africa posted the slowest rate of poverty reduction of all major developing regions, with the share of people living in extreme poverty (less than US$1.90 a day) declining only slightly, from 56% in 1990 to 43% in 2012.

But since 2012, extreme poverty fell to a projected 35% in 2015 in the region, based on the World Bank’s new poverty line of $1.90 a day. Globally, according to Bank estimates released earlier this month, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty will likely fall to under 10% for the first time, to 9.6% this year.Despite progress, more than 100 million more Africans lived in extreme poverty in 2012 compared to 1990, with at least 20% of the population estimated to be chronically poor. Africa’s extreme poor live mainly in rural areas (home to 65-70% of the population), while the highest levels of inequality are recorded in Southern Africa, where six of the world’s 10 most unequal countries are located.Disparities among Africans are accentuated by where they live (urban or rural areas); whether they live in a stable or conflict-affected or fragile country; and possibly their gender (limited evidence on household poverty shows women are at a disadvantage).

The report further states that while intergenerational mobility in education and occupation has improved, rates are still low. Lack of economic mobility perpetuates both poverty and inequality in the next generation.

Conflict and violence are said to be among the most important factors slowing economic growth or even reversing development gains.
However, while the number of large scale conflicts and civil wars has declined, the report said criminality, drug trafficking, terrorism, and piracy at sea are on the rise.

The effects of conflict are often long-lasting, as in Burundi, where the share of households living in extreme poverty rose from 21% before that country’s civil war to 64% in 2007.

(Sent in from the World Bank office in Washington, D.C., with introduction and added materials by Joaquin Sendolo)

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