21 January 2016

Africans Report Decline in Poverty

Photo: INEC Nigeria
A Nigerian goes to the polls.

Cape Town — A decade of growth in Africa finally seems to have delivered "broad-based reductions in poverty", with Africans in 22 of 33 countries reporting an improvement in their access to basic necessities over the last three years, say the authors of a new report.

In the report, published in Addis Ababa on Thursday, Afrobarometer, the continent-wide public opinion research group, says fewer people are going without enough food, clean water, medical care, fuel for cooking and cash income.

The report makes clear that poverty levels are still high. Afrobarometer's latest survey in 35 countries shows that three in four people went without a cash income at least once or twice in the year prior to being questioned. Nearly half said the same about medical care, clean water, food and cooking fuel.

The new survey says consistent declines in poverty have occurred in Zambia and Ghana, and also in Cape Verde, which with Egypt has seen "very substantial reductions." But it reports "sustained increases" in poverty in Madagascar and Liberia, with the steepest increases being in Mozambique, Benin and Liberia.

Afrobarometer surveys what it calls "lived poverty," reflecting answers to questions posed to a representative sample of people to measure how often they suffer shortages of basic necessities.

Despite an average reduction in poverty having occurred during an era of economic growth, Afrobarometer researchers say there is no strong correlation between the two.

Introducing their report, researchers Robert Mattes, Boniface Dulani and E. Gyimah-Boadi write: "On the one hand, countries with both high (Sierra Leone) and low (Swaziland) levels of recent economic growth managed to reduce poverty. On the other hand, in some cases poverty has increased even in countries with very high levels of economic growth (Liberia, Mozambique, and Malawi).

"While growing economies are undoubtedly important, what appears to be more important in improving the lives of ordinary people is the extent to which national governments and their donor partners put in place the type of development infrastructure that enables people to build better lives...

"For example, countries that had increased the number of local communities with paved roads and sewage systems by 15 percent or more were far more likely to exhibit sharp reductions in lived poverty."

Across regions, the report says respondents in Central and West Africa experience the most frequent shortages of necessities, while North Africans experience the lowest levels of deprivation.

The latest survey is based on interviews in 2014 and 2015 with more than 52,700 citizens across Africa. Afrobarometer reports that the survey is based on "nationally representative samples that yield country-level results with margins of error of +/-2 percent (for samples of 2,400) or +/3 percent (for samples of 1,200) at a 95 percent confidence level."

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