Poverty reduction rate too slow in Africa, new report indicates

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The newly launched Millennium Development Goals 2014 Report (MDG 2014) has assessed that although poverty rates in Africa are declining at an accelerated rate since 2005, the pace is still too slow to meet the poverty reduction target.

The report is a product of Africa Development Bank (AfDB) in partnership with United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), African Union (AU) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The publication was officially launched Saturday at the 2014 Africa Economic Conference, a three-day event that has attracted hundreds of experts from Africa and elsewhere to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Josephine Ngure, the Resident Representative of AfDB in Ethiopia, said that the report produced a mixed bag of feelings, and indicated that there is still a long way to go before all the goals can be fully achieved.

“Africa has generally accelerated towards the MDGs despite its initial political, social and economic conditions. We must realize that these goals are very much about the betterment of human life and, therefore, they must be pursued until the very end,” she said.

“We have realized that despite an upward trend, income inequality is still unacceptably high, and gender disparities have continued to exist. We need to fight this because it continues to drag the continent down despite our achievements.”

According to the report, most countries are on track to meet the primary education enrollment target; however, Ayodele Odusola, the Chief Economist at the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, observed that the continent still struggles with low completion rates.

“Africa still has weak infrastructure that cannot support quality education – and funding also remains a major problem,” Odusola said.

“We need significant investment in the education systems to nurture the continent’s youth and make them more skilled and entrepreneurial.”

The Director of the Macroeconomic Policy Division at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Adam Elhiraika, noted that Africa is now viewed as a continent on the rise – and that its positive contributions to the post-2015 development agenda is a sign of its increasing influence on debates that shape the world.

“Africa’s growth acceleration offers potential to offset, at least in part, the revenue shortfalls that some countries may experience as a result of declines in foreign assistance,” he said.

“Higher rates of growth and revenue can be achieved if illicit financial flows are curbed, public resources are used more prudently and policies implemented from evidence-based research.”

Africa’s poverty rates have continued to decline, according to the report, despite adverse effects of recent food, fuel and financial crises in the Euro zone.

The proportion of people living on less than US $1.25 a day in Southern, East, Central and West Africa decreased from 56.5% in 1990 to 48.5% in 2010.

However, this figure is 20.25% off the 2015 target compared to 4.1% for South Asia.

It also indicates that job creation is not growing fast enough to absorb youth in spite of resounding progress of African economies.

Unemployment is markedly high in North Africa, where 27.7% of young people in the labour force were without jobs in 2013 compared to 26.6% in 2012.