Although the number of people living in extreme poverty in Africa is still high, poverty and inequality have generally declined across the continent, according to the latest report by the World Bank.
The share of Africans living in poverty has dropped from 56 percent in 1990 to 43 percent in 2012, with the report suggesting that the percentage may have declined even further based on available indicators.
However, population growth still remains one of the major obstacles to poverty eradication in Africa.
“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,” said Kathleen Beegle, World Bank program leader and co-author of the report.
Improvement in Inequality
While excluding seven African countries where inequality is still a major problem, the World Bank reports a significant improvement in inequality in Africa.
“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,” the report says.
It also records a major improvement in intergenerational mobility in education and occupation in the majority of African nations but notes a significant difference between urban and rural areas and across regions.
Adult literacy and gender parity have also been improving across Africa, and newborns can now expect to live six years longer. Chronic malnutrition among infants (below 5 years) has dropped from 45 percent in 1995 to 39 percent in 2012.
However, the report insists that the quality of education in Africa is still wanting and calls for urgent reinvigoration of the continent’s primary educational markers.
The World Bank has also, ironically, noted sustained poverty in resource-rich countries, where it says human welfare is still deficient, particularly with regards to income.
“These findings underscore that while economic growth is critical for poverty reduction, it is not sufficient,” the report concludes.
While economic growth and the decline in inequality have been cited as the major contributors to the current drop in poverty in Africa, the continent has been advised not to become complacent.