At the end of the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, and the introduction of Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, World Bank indicated that poverty rate in Africa has substantially reduced; however, it is ironic that according to this WB’s report, the number of poor people has continued to increase A NEW World Bank report shows that poverty in Africa may be lower than current estimates suggest and no systematic increase in inequality, given the available data. Challenges remain substantial: more people are poor today than in 1990, two in five adults are still illiterate, and violence is on the rise. Improving the coverage, comparability and quality of poverty and inequality data in Africa will be equally important. Poverty across the continent may be lower than what current estimates suggest, though the number of people living in extreme poverty has grown substantially since 1990, according to the latest World Bank Africa poverty report. Poverty in a Rising Africa, the first of two upcoming reports on poverty in Africa, documents the data challenges facing the region and reviews the status of Africa’s poverty and inequality, both monetary and nonmonetary, taking these data challenges into account. “The main messages which emerge from this effort to assess poverty in Africa are both encouraging and sobering,” said Kathleen Beegle, World Bank programme leader and co-author of the report. “Although the data show that the share of the African population in extreme poverty did decline, major poverty challenges still remain, especially in light of the region’s rapid population growth.” Talking about Poverty in a Rising Africa report, Makhtar Diop, the Vice President, Africa Region World Bank, in a Forward of th report observed that “after two decades of unprecedented economic growth, how much have the lives of African families improved? The latest estimates from the World Bank suggest that the share of the African population in extreme poverty did decline— from 57 percent in 1990 to 43 per- cent in 2012. “At the same time, however, Africa’s population continued to expand rapidly. As a result, the number of people living in extreme poverty still increased by more than 100 million. These are staggering numbers. Further, it is projected that the world’s extreme poor will be increasingly concentrated in Africa. “With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, including the eradica- tion of extreme poverty by 2030, successful implementation of the post-2015 develop- ment agenda will require a solid understand- ing of poverty and inequality in the region, across countries and population groups, and in different dimensions. “Poverty in a Rising Africa is the first of two sequential reports aimed at better under- standing progress in poverty reduction in Africa and articulating a policy agenda to accelerate it”, he said. According to latest World Bank estimates, the share of Africans who are poor fell from 56% in 1990 to 43% in 2012. The report argues that the poverty rate may have declined even more if the quality and comparability of the underlying data are taken into consideration. However, because of population growth many more people are poor, the report says. The most optimistic scenario shows about 330 million poor in 2012, up from about 280 million in 1990. Poverty reduction has been slowest in fragile countries, the report notes, and rural areas remain much poorer, although the urban-rural gap has narrowed. Other key findings of the report are: Nonmonetary dimensions of poverty have been improving, but the challenges remain enormous. Compared with 1995, adult literacy rates are up by four percentage points and the gender gap is shrinking. Newborns can expect to live six years longer and the prevalence of chronic malnutrition among under five-year-olds is down six percentage points to 39%. At the same time, despite substantial improvement in school enrollment, the quality of schooling is often low and more than two in five adults are still illiterate. Reinvigorating Africa’s primary educational achievements is urgent. Paradoxically, citizens in resource-rich countries have worse outcomes in human welfare indicators, conditional on income. This findings underscores that while economic growth is critical for poverty reduction, it is not sufficient. The picture on African inequality is complex. Seven of the 10 most unequal countries in the world are in Africa, most of them in southern Africa. Excluding these countries and controlling for GDP levels, inequality is not higher in Africa than elsewhere in the world. The household survey data do not reveal a systematic increase in inequality across countries in Africa. But the number of extremely wealthy Africans is increasing. Differences between urban and rural areas and across regions are large. Intergenerational mobility in education and occupation has improved, but remains low. The report concludes with a plea to strengthen Africa’s poverty data. While the availability, comparability and quality of data to track non-monetary poverty has improved, in 2012, 25 of Sub- Saharan Africa’s 48 countries had conducted at least two household surveys over the past decade to track monetary poverty, and many of these surveys are not comparable over time. On October 15, the World Bank and its partners announced stronger support to complete household-level surveys every three years in the world’s poorest countries, including several in Africa, to address huge data gaps that have previously stunted poverty- fighting efforts. “Better data will make for better decisions and better lives,” said Luc Christiaensen, World Bank lead economist and co-author of the report. “It is not just about quantity, the quality of the data also matters. The report offers examples of missed opportunities when surveys are not conducted with quality standards. Maintaining and accelerating the momentum of progress of the past two decades requires collective efforts.” What then is the way out of this socio-economic and political predicament in the continent of Africa? Diop suggested that a lot of concerted efforts by relevant governments in the area of pragmatic positive policy shift are required. First of all, he Whole lamented that “Despite improvements in primary school enrollment rates, the poor quality of learning outcomes, as evidenced by the fact that two in five adults are illiterate, highlights the urgency of poli- cies to improve educational outcomes, par- ticularly for girls. “Perpetuation of inequality, in the absence of intergenerational mobility in education, further highlights the long-run consequences of failure to do so. Not surprisingly, poverty reduction has been slowest in fragile states. This trend is compounded by the fact that violence against civilians is once again on the rise, after a decade of relative peace. “There is also the paradoxical fact that citizens in resource-rich countries are expe- riencing systematically lower outcomes in all human welfare indicators controlling for their income level. Clearly, policies matter beyond resource availability”, he said. The way out, he said that “To maintain and accelerate the momentum of progress of the past two decades, con- certed and collective efforts are also needed to further improve the quality and timeliness of poverty statistics in the region. Domestic political support for statistics can be the most important factor in the quest for better data. “Development partners and the international community also have an important role to play in terms of promoting regional cooperation, new financing models, open access policies, and clearer international standards”, he said. (Source: World Bank Africa Poverty Report)
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