Africa's poverty - is growth delivering enough?

Author:Addison, Tony

To Stockholm, for Sida's Development Talks on the theme 'Africa rising? Poverty and growth in sub-Saharan Africa', Finn Tarp and Andy McKay spoke about their new UNU-WIDER book, co-edited with Channing Amdt, entitled Growth and Poverty Reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa--the book Is on full open access and you can download it from here.

The event provided a perfect platform for a good discussion of the urgent importance of the daily crisis that poor people in Africa face. The key issues covered are well outlined in our policy brief on the topic, in addition to that here are my main reflections from the day:


A booming population

Africa's population is set to double to 2,5 billion by 2050, making the region's population bigger than China and India combined, Nigeria will have more people than the US, The current and future generations of Africans need better quality education, better healthcare, and infrastructure, investment and support that create good livelihoods--as farmers, informal entrepreneurs, and waged workers. These will help deliver more poverty reduction, better human development, and more social stability. This demanding task takes place in a region that needs to protect its environmental resources, adapt to climate change and, in some cases, achieve social peace and put an end to violence (Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan, especially).

Growing prosperity

Africa's growth successes over the last decade and more are much lauded in the media. This is not surprising after the terrible battering the continent took in the 1980s--an era of macroeconomic crisis and growth collapses--and the onset of much political turmoil and terrible violence from the 1980s through the 1990s (Somalia's collapse, war in the DRC, and genocide in Rwanda, to name three). Visit Africa today, and you will see much more economic prosperity than in the dismal days of the 1980s and 1990s. The percentage of Africa's population living in poverty has fallen compared to the 1980s.

Lack of data leaves an incomplete picture

However the picture is not a simple story of growth success, and a fall in poverty incidence. The picture is a jigsaw made up of many pieces. And some of those pieces are missing. We don't have enough data on many countries, especially the fragile states, nor enough data on poverty over time.

The UNU-WIDER research team has had to work with what data is available. And it has done a massive amount of work to assemble and interpret that information.

Growth and poverty reduction: a variety of paths

Some countries have grown...

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