Africa’s economic growth stands to rebound not unless we manage crisis

21Jul 2020
The Guardian
Africa’s economic growth stands to rebound not unless we manage crisis

Extreme poverty, deep poverty, abject poverty, absolute poverty, destitution, or penury, was defined by the United Nations (UN) in its 1995 report of the World Summit for Social Development as "a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food,-

-safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services." Historically, other definitions have been proposed within the United Nations.

In 2018, extreme poverty widely refers to an income below the international poverty line of $1.90 per day (in 2011 prices, equivalent to $2.16 in 2019), set by the World Bank. In October 2015, the World Bank updated the international poverty line, a global absolute minimum, to $1.90 a day.  This is the equivalent of $1.00 a day in 1996 US prices, hence the widely used expression "living on less than a dollar a day". The vast majority of those in extreme poverty reside in south Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, the West Indies, East Asia, and the Pacific. As of 2018, it is estimated that the country with the most people living in extreme poverty is Nigeria, at 86 million.  

In the past, the vast majority of the world population lived in conditions of extreme poverty.  The percentage of the global population living in absolute poverty fell from over 80 per cent in 1800 to 20 per cent by 2015. According to United Nations estimates, in 2015 roughly 734 million people or 10 per cent remained under those conditions.[12] The number had previously been measured as 1.9 billion in 1990, and 1.2 billion in 2008. Despite the significant number of individuals still below the international poverty line, these figures represent significant progress for the international community, as they reflect a decrease of more than one billion people over 15 years.  

In public opinion surveys around the world, people surveyed tend to incorrectly think that extreme poverty has not decreased.  

The reduction of extreme poverty and hunger was the second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 2), as set by the United Nations. Specifically, the target was to reduce the extreme poverty rate by half by 2015, a goal that was met five years ahead of schedule. In the Sustainable Development Goals, which succeeded the MDGs, the goal is to end extreme poverty in all its forms everywhere. With this declaration the international community, including the UN and the World Bank have adopted the target of ending extreme poverty by 2030.

According to the African Development Bank nearly 50 million Africans could be pushed into extreme poverty owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

West and Central Africa stand to be most hit by the economic slump. Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, would see the greatest rise in poverty.

In the bank’s latest economic outlook, roughly a third of the continent was already expected to live below the international poverty line of 1.90 US dollars per day in 2020.

Health crisis and ensuing lockdowns have destroyed jobs, crippled incomes and devastated economies continent-wide.

With this in mind, the AfDB expects Africa to suffer a major recession, with GDP forecast to contract between 1.7 per cent and 3.4 per cent this year.

Furthermore, the institution says that between 24.6 and 30 million jobs would be lost this year due to the virus crisis.

Nevertheless, the bank noted that Africa’s economic growth could rebound in 2021, provided that governments manage the COVID-19 infection rate well.

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