Growing population worsens Africa’s extreme poverty: Report

Cape Town, Oct 17 (IANS) A rapid rise in population has led to an increase in the overall number of extreme poor in Africa, the World Bank said in a report released on Friday.

But the report says Africa’s strong economic growth has contributed to improving people’s health and education in the past 20 years as well as major reductions in poverty in several countries, reported Xinhua.

The report, titled “Poverty in a Rising Africa”, estimates that 388 million people – or 43 percent of all people living in Sub-Saharan Africa – lived in extreme poverty in 2012, the last year that figures were available, a decrease of five million people from 2011.

The report called for much better measurement of poverty, saying that data gaps make it extremely difficult for policymakers to target programs for the poor.

The report finds that progress in ending poverty in all its forms has varied greatly across countries and population groups, with the levels of achievement remaining challengingly low.

Africa posted the slowest rate of poverty reduction of all major developing regions, with the share of people living in extreme poverty (less than $1.9 a day) declining only slightly, from 56 percent in 1990 to 43 percent in 2012. But since 2012, extreme poverty fell to a projected 35 percent in 2015 in the region, based on the World Bank’s new poverty line of $1.9 a day.

Globally, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty will likely fall to under 10 percent for the first time, to 9.6 percent this year, according to Bank estimates released earlier this month.

Despite progress, more than 100 million more Africans lived in extreme poverty in 2012 compared to 1990, with at least 20 percent of the population estimated to be chronically poor.

Africa’s extreme poor live mainly in rural areas (home to 65-70 percent of the population), while the highest levels of inequality are recorded in Southern Africa, where six of the world’s 10 most unequal countries are located.

Conflict and violence are among the most important factors slowing economic growth or even reversing development gains.

Makhtar Diop, World Bank vice president for Africa, said the human toll of poverty in Africa remains unacceptably high. With the new target set by the Sustainable Development Goals to end extreme poverty by 2030, much more work is needed to accelerate poverty reduction.

“In particular, significant efforts must be made to boost productivity in agriculture, a sector that still employs most of the region’s poorest, and increase access to affordable and reliable electricity,” Diop said.

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