African Development: Is Poverty Diminishing?
How to assess African poverty? The Afrobarometer provides some answers that generated several perplexing questions.
The African Development Bank tells us that growth rates for many African nations have been a robust 4.8%. However, the Afrobarometer has concluded that in many of the same nations “lived poverty” has remained constant. Shouldn’t a rising GDP impact poverty?
Afrobarometer provides 3 answers.
- GDP growth does mean less poverty.
- Strong economic growth is not eradicating poverty.
- Economic growth numbers are inaccurate.
To measure “lived poverty” over a decade for certain African nations and for shorter time spans with others, the Afrobarometer asked questions about food, clean water and medical care. They inquired about electricity, paved roads and other infrastructure examples. Crucially, education was considered as well as the impact of war and unrest.
For us to get an impression of how they identified “lived poverty,” I copied their description. Later in the paper they present charts of responses to these questions and others.
“Over the past year, how often, if ever, have you or your family gone without enough: food to eat; clean water for home use; medicines or medical treatment; enough fuel to cook your food; a cash income? A range of response options are offered, starting with never for those that experienced no shortages, to just once or twice, several times, many times and always.”
You can see below which nations diminished poverty during the past decade.
By contrast, these countries fared worst.
Tomorrow, more on why GDP numbers could be inaccurate. But for now, we are still left with the question of whether GDP growth stats should correlate with changes in poverty. Your opinion?
Sources and resources: Hat tip to marginalrevolution.com for links to the Afrobarometer paper; for much more detail, do take a look at it. To gain insight about GDP inaccuracy, I also suggest reading Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What To Do About It. In addition, econlife looked at electrification in Lagos, Nigeria and the sub-Saharan energy gap.