New AfDB report shows big variations on poverty in North Africa

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The low absolute poverty rate in North African countries is often used to demonstrate the strengths of the economic models of these countries. However, measuring poverty at the level of the nation often masks important variations in regional poverty rates.

In a new study from the African Development Bank entitled ‘Poverty and Inequality in Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritania’, the implications of unequal distribution are explored. By calculating the poverty, inequality and polarization measures of three countries—Tunisia Morocco and Mauritania—the paper also demonstrates whether the growth patterns experienced by these countries during the 1990s and in currently were pro poor and inclusive.

The research concludes that economic growth is crucial for regional development and poverty reduction. The lack of economic growth from 1991-1999 in Morocco, for instance, was the most important factor contributing to increasing poverty in the country. However, as the paper explains, North African experiences show that growth alone is not enough to ensure pro-poorness and regional inclusiveness.

The pattern of economic growth determines whether the growth process is pro-poor. Given the large development gap on a regional basis within North Africa, the rate at which poverty and social exclusion decline will depend not only on the rate of economic growth but also on its regional composition and on the distribution of benefits of growth itself.

Following a review of its findings, the paper recommends that North African countries should promote a sense of social cohesion, which requires a commitment to inclusion at the economic and political level. Reducing regional disparities requires the equitable distribution of public investments.

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