Governments in Africa fail to reduce poverty despite economic progress

Report reveals a disconnect between growth and persistence of poverty

The Afrobarometer study reveals that about 50 per cent of all the respondents reported they occasionally lacked access to food, clean water and medicine in 2012.

The Afrobarometer study reveals that about 50 per cent of all the respondents reported they occasionally lacked access to food, clean water and medicine in 2012.

Thu, Oct 3, 2013, 16:54

Despite sustained economic growth in Africa over the past decade, most governments across the continent have failed to reduce poverty levels among their poorest citizens, a report has revealed.

Africa has been home to some of the fastest and highest economic growth rates in the world over the past 10 years, with many countries posting annual gross domestic product figures in excess of five percent.

This growth has not been mirrored in the developed world due to the effect of the global recession, and the situation in Africa has given rise to expectations that the continent might be on the verge of a developmental renaissance that would see it radically reduce poverty.

However, with only two years to go before the 2015 Millennium Development Goal benchmark, the Afrobarometer study, which surveyed over 50,000 people, shows that such optimism may unfortunately be misplaced.

“While economic data suggests that African countries may be making important strides in achieving and sustaining high growth rates, survey data from 34 countries shows there is a disconnect between reported growth and the persistence, in both frequency and severity, of poverty among ordinary citizens.

“Meeting their basic daily needs remains a major challenge for a majority of Africans, even at a time when their countries are reporting impressive economic gains,” the report released on Tuesday evening in Johannesburg reads.

The data reveals that bout 50 per cent of all the respondents reported they occasionally lacked access to food, clean water and medicine in 2012.

But more worryingly, one in five Africans surveyed still experience extreme deprivation with respect to these basic necessities over the same period.

“Either economic growth is not trickling down to average citizens and translating into poverty reduction... [or] there is reason to question whether reported growth rates are actually being realised,” the researchers found.

Unsurprisingly, rural respondents, where governments spend the least amount of money on basic infrastructure, remain the most in need. In addition, poor education also goes hand in hand with high poverty levels.

“The data show significant correlations between access to electrical grids, piped water, and other basic services in communities and lower levels of lived poverty,” the report said.

People living in West and East Africa were found to experience the most shortages, while the respondents from North Africans were the best off in terms of having these basic needs met.

The highest levels of poverty were found in Burundi, Guinea, Niger, Senegal and Togo, while the lowest were in Algeria and Mauritius.

While the general trend across Africa in terms of poverty reduction was one of stagnation, the lives of people in Cape Verde, Ghana, Malawi and Zambia have improved over the past decade.

However, poverty went up in Mali, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana and Senegal, even though the latter three countries are perceived as nations were development progress has been relatively good during that 10-year time frame.

“The evidence suggests that investments in education and infrastructure may be among the most effective ways to extend economic gains to the continent’s growth rate,” the study concludes

Since 1999 the Afrobarometer study has been conducted roughly every three years, and more countries get added to it each time.

The study aims to measure poverty as an alternative to countries’ own national income and expenditure surveys, which are often too costly for some governments.