Chapter 2: Poverty has declined in Africa, but remains high

Key messages

  • Poverty increased in Africa until about 1993, and fell thereafter. However, despite progress in poverty reduction, the gap between Africa and other developing countries has been widening during this period. The gap appears to be wider for measures of poverty severity and depth than for ‘headcount’ or poverty incidence.
  • Besides income poverty reduction, higher growth is associated with improved social outcomes, well-being and advancements in human development as illustrated by increased youth literacy rates and declining child mortality. However, the positive impact of growth on social indicators and poverty is not automatic, as evidenced by stagnating completion rates for primary education in resource-rich African countries and the slow pace of poverty reduction in many countries.
  • Africa’s resource-rich and resource-poor countries fared differently in reducing income poverty. While resource-poor countries achieved a reduction in poverty of 16 percentage points between 1995 and 2000, resource-rich countries posted only 7 percentage points reduction. Resource-rich coun-tries tend to spend less on healthcare and education compared to resource-poor countries. The gap between resource-rich and resource-poor countries has widened. Many countries still have poverty rates close to 50% of the population, and these countries will need the greatest level of attention in the coming years.
  • Yet different data could lead to different conclusions depending on whether mean per capita income/ consumption is derived from survey data or from national accounts. With household survey data, poverty has declined only slowly, despite the recent high growth Africa has experienced. However, national accounts data suggests that poverty has declined steadily no matter the country’s initial conditions. Asset-based assessment of poverty on the other hand, suggests there was a more rapid decline in the earlier decade (1990-2000) compared to the last decade.