The SDGs can help to eliminate intergenerational poverty and inequality in Africa

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The 10th African Economic Conference (AEC), held in Kinshasa, included a session entitled “Intergenerational Poverty and Inequality in Africa”. A case study presented during this session revealed that attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2015, may have a significant impact on eliminating intergenerational poverty and inequality in Africa.

Sylvain Maliko, Resident Representative of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and chair of the session, set the tone with his initial address. “The health of the population, and the well-being of mothers and children, could – and indeed should – help to break the poverty transmission cycle from generation to generation,” he explained. “The continent’s leaders must prioritise attainment of SDG 3, relating to health and well-being. Many of the diseases that affect children and, in some cases, impact the rest of their lives can be prevented through vaccination.”

Pouirkèta Rita Nikiema, an economist from Burkina Faso, presented the results of a research project entitled “Impact of School Resources on Educational Outcomes: Evidence from school dry cereals in Burkina Faso”. This project, based on an initiative by NGO Catholic Relief Services (CRS), was intended to encourage parents to send their children – and especially girls – to school. The study revealed that food provision in educational settings can help to increase the number of children attending school, especially in arid regions where poverty is widespread. According to Nikiema, the project, which involved experimental programmes in the Bam and Sanmatenga provinces, pushed up school attendance and reduced the school drop-out rate. The NGO’s simple strategy involved providing a meal to all pupils at schools with an enrolment rate of 40% or more among girls. Where this rate fell below 30%, girls were given a ration of cereals in addition to their meal, which they then took home with them. She explained that these cereals provided a guaranteed meal and further encouraged families to send their children to school rather than keeping them at home and involving them in income-generating activities.

The programme, which ran from 2012 to 2014, increased the school enrolment rate by 6% among girls and 8% among boys. “Attending school helps those children living in the provinces covered by the project to break the endemic cycle of intergenerational poverty,” she added.

Jacob Novignon, from the Economics Department at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, presented a study entitled “Household Income inequality in Ghana: a decomposition analysis”. The findings of the study revealed that 44% of the poorest households are located in rural areas. Agricultural income is falling as a result of climate change, and rural populations are therefore turning away from farming. One of the few ways to help reduce inequalities is to transfer money to these populations, which have remained loyal to their villages.

According to the young researcher, the authorities need to introduce new policies to boost agricultural income, for example by providing fertilisers, offering micro-loans and assigning engineers to advise farmers on the best ways to deal with climate change.

In his paper entitled “Small Area Estimation of Poverty in Ethiopia”, young researcher Yegnanew A. Shiferaw focused on the fact that national statistical averages hide the actual poverty situation in Ethiopia, with dramatic realities in some regions of the country. According to the findings of a household consumption survey conducted in 2010-2011, 38% of Ethiopians live below the poverty line. However, Shiferaw stressed that this national average fails to reflect widespread poverty in certain provinces. He argued that dedicated policies are needed to ensure that these areas benefit from progress made under the SDGs.