Natural resources ‘widening inequality’ in sub-Saharan Africa

More than half a billion people live on less than $1.25 a day, World Economic Forum hears

African governments must do more to spread the spoils of a resources boom that threatens to generate jobless growth and widen inequality, according to the Africa Progress Panel, led by former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan.

“If the next decade looks like the last decade, Africa will unquestionably emerge with impressive gains in gross domestic product,” the panel said in a report released at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town today.

“What matters for African people is the rate at which new resource wealth reduces poverty and expands opportunity. Governments across the region have paid insufficient attention to this.”

The 10-member panel includes former International Monetary Fund managing director Michel Camdessus, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and musician Bob Geldof.


While the size of sub-Saharan Africa's economy has more than tripled since 2000 to about $1.33 trillion last year, more than half its 1 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day, World Bank data shows.

In many countries “natural resource revenues are widening the gap between rich and poor,” Mr Annan said in the forward of the report. “National strategies have to set out how the extractive sector fits with plans for poverty reduction, inclusive growth and social transformation.”

The panel painted a mixed report of development across the continent. Tanzania, Mozambique and Ghana have made large strides in reducing the ranks of the poor, yet poverty has increased marginally in Nigeria and Zambia even as their economies expand, according to the report.

In Cameroon and Mali, increased growth had no discernible effect on poverty. Oil producers Angola and Equatorial Guinea were among the nations criticized for failing to ensure their populations benefitted from their oil wealth.