The dramatic drop in global poverty over the last two decades has been called the “best news in the world today” by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. But in sub-Saharan Africa, the story is mixed.
World Bank estimates show that the rate of extreme poverty fell in the region from 56% in 1990 to 43% in 2012. The continent’s population, however, increased at a fast pace, so there are actually more people – an estimated 63 million more – living in extreme poverty in Africa today than in 1990, as population growth outpaced the impressive economic and social forces that reduce extreme poverty.
A new World Bank report, “Poverty in a Rising Africa,” shows that these numbers don’t tell the whole story of a region that has seen strong economic growth in the last couple of decades and made great progress despite many challenges. The report focuses on the quality of data to track well-being – finding that poverty might have fallen even below 43% by 2011 when data quality and comparability is taken into account.
Data is sparse and inconsistent across the region and globally – 21 countries in Africa did not have at least two surveys with which to track poverty. It’s a situation that must change to improve the world’s ability to end extreme poverty by 2030, said Kim, in launching a new initiative to step up data collection in 78 of the world’s poorest countries.
The World Bank Group announced Oct. 4 that, for the first time, the number of extremely poor people is projected to drop below 10% of the world’s population in 2015 – to about 700 million people, down from about 900 million in 2012. The news bolsters efforts by the Bank Group and its 188 member countries to effectively end extreme poverty by 2030.
“We will not be able to reach our goal unless we have data to show whether people are actually lifting themselves out of poverty. Collecting good data is one of the most powerful tools to end extreme poverty,” said Kim, before visiting Ghana to recognize the country’s progress in tackling poverty just ahead of End Poverty Day on Oct. 17.
People still live without running water, toilets, electricity, and enough food to eat, even on the outskirts of one of Africa’s most modern and prosperous cities – Accra, Ghana. But here, as in many places in Africa, a social support system is emerging to help the poorest people cope.
Sarah Cofie, 48, and her 84-year-old mother receive bi-monthly cash payments from the national program to assist the country’s most vulnerable – the elderly, single mothers, and people with disabilities. It’s just enough to allow a household of seven to eat three meals a day, and for Cofie to set up a micro-business selling items from a cart in front of their home.