Oxfam and Development Finance International have launched the first ever Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index (CRII) regional report. The index measures, compares and ranks West African governments' commitment on 3 pillars: public spending, taxation, and labour markets. The report also includes a regional analysis of agriculture and land rights.
As the poorest continent, Africa is also one of the most unequal, with some of the most extreme divides between rich and poor in the world. Inequality is at crisis levels in West Africa, yet these governments are less committed to reducing inequality than the rest of the continent.
While a small but growing group becomes fantastically rich, a clear majority of the region's citizens are denied the most essential elements of a dignified life like access to quality education, healthcare and decent jobs.
"This index reveals that West African governments are exacerbating inequality by underfunding public services, such as healthcare and education. It also shows that ECOWAS governments are underfunding the agriculture sector on the one hand, while under-taxing corporations and the wealthy, and failing to clamp down on tax evasion, tax avoidance and corruption, on the other. This is unacceptable," said Adama Coulibaly, Regional Director of Oxfam in West Africa.
The report also presents an ambitious policy agenda to address inequality in West Africa, both for national governments and for ECOWAS.
"There is nothing inevitable about the inequality crisis in the West Africa region, and without radically increasing the commitment to reduce inequality, the crisis is likely to only worsen. Governments can build a brighter future for everyone, including women and girls who are the most impacted by inequality - not just a privileged few" said Joel Akhator Odigie of the African regional organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa).
Oxfam has released this index ahead of the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development in New York, which is starting today and urges West African governments to prioritize fighting inequality. This year marks the fourth year the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and acting to cut down on inequalities is one of the 17 SDGs
"it's time for West African governments to act decisively. To strengthen this commitment, West African governments must promote progressive taxation, boost social spending, strengthen labour market protection, invest in agriculture and strengthen land rights for smallholder farmers. We cannot beat poverty without fighting against inequality." said Adama Coulibaly, Regional Director of Oxfam in West Africa.