Reducing poverty in Africa: huge potential, but more realistic goals needed


Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – During the launch event of a new African Futures paper entitled ‘Reducing poverty in Africa’ on Tuesday 26 August, co-author and Executive Director of the Institute for Security Studies, Jakkie Cilliers, made the case that many African countries are unlikely to reduce extreme poverty to below 3% by 2030. ‘There is huge potential in Africa to make significant strides to reduce extreme poverty in coming decades, but more realistic targets are needed,’ Cilliers said, arguing in favour of a goal that would see Africa reducing extreme poverty to below 20% by 2030.

Global progress, but much remains to be done

Over the past 20 years, there has been remarkable progress in reducing poverty. However, Africa contains the largest remaining share of global extreme poverty. Approximately 400 million Africans are still living in extreme poverty – that is, on less than US$1,25 a day.

Eliminating extreme poverty lies at the heart of the post-2015 Development Agenda as well as the African Union’s long-term vision, entitled Agenda 2063. But the goal to reduce extreme poverty to below 3% in every African country by 2030 does not account for the extremely diverse starting points across the continent. ‘African countries vary widely in the extent and depth of poverty, as well as the degree of income quality,’ Cilliers pointed out. While more than half of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s population lives in extreme poverty, for example, the percentage of people living on less than US$1,25 a day in the Seychelles is close to zero. All countries in North Africa have already achieved this goal.

African states to take ownership of new development goals

‘National political leadership is key in achieving poverty reduction in coming decades,’ emphasised Cilliers. Policies that may boost poverty reduction in different contexts include programmes to provide social assistance to the poor, promote pro-poor economic growth, provide human development for marginalised individuals and communities and promote progressive social change.

In the paper, the authors used the International Futures forecasting system (IFs) to model such policy interventions. Results suggest that although these interventions may produce aggressive economic growth forecasts, reducing extreme poverty to below 3% of the population by 2030 is not a realistic goal for many African states.

The end of extreme poverty in Africa?

Cilliers said that the African Union’s Agenda 2063 process offers an important opportunity for Africa to take charge of its own development trajectory. But continental targets should only be a starting point. These targets could include African countries reducing extreme poverty to below 20% by 2030, below 10% by 2045 and to below 3% by 2063.

‘Country-level targets should play a significant role in shaping agenda-setting and policy analysis, because different countries face very different conditions’, stated Cilliers.


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