Incomes Growth in Rural Botswana Lifts Thousands out of Poverty and Decreases Inequality

December 8, 2015

GABORONE, December 8, 2015 — Thousands of Batswana rose out of poverty thanks to increased growth in rural areas driven in part by rising agricultural incomes and welfare improvements, according to a World Bank Study released today in Gaborone.

The Botswana Poverty Assessment report, found that the number of poor people in the country declined by nearly 180 000 between 2002/3 and 2009/10. This denotes a poverty rate decrease of 19.4% from 30.6% when using the national poverty line. In this period, 87 percent of the decrease in poverty occurred in rural areas, where 158,000 people rose out of poverty.

“Tackling poverty is at the heart of our National Development Plan. We are pleased to see that our welfare programs have improved the lives of many and made a dent in poverty levels, says Mr. Olebile Gaborone, the Permanent Secretary for Poverty Eradication, in the Office of the President of Botswana.

Based on two nationally representative household income and expenditure surveys conducted by Statistics Botswana in 2002/2003 and 2009/10, the report analyzes recent trends in the monetary and nonmonetary aspects of poverty in Botswana. It examines the drivers of poverty reduction by systematically looking at the demographic, labor, and human capital dimensions of poverty.

The report shows that increased agriculture incomes strongly supported by government subsidies and substantial changes in the demographic structure including the reductions in household sizes and dependency ratios were responsible for Botswana’s poverty reduction.

It found that the decrease in the incidence of poverty was accompanied by a significant decline in both the depth and severity of poverty. Furthermore, the poverty gap eased from 11.7 percent in 2002/03 to 6.2 percent in 2009/10, indicating that consumption has improved among the poor. Real consumption per capita rose 47.6 percent in rural areas compared to a nationwide real consumption per capita increase of 13.3 percent during the same period.

Botswana has made much progress in its fight to end poverty. We will continue to support the Government efforts to make investments in a broad variety of areas to grow the economy, increase employment and eradicate extreme poverty”, says World Bank Country Director to Botswana, Guang Zhe Chen. This is aligned with the World Bank’s mission to help end extreme poverty by 2030 and to boost prosperity among the poorest 40 percent in low- and middle-income countries”.

The study also revealed a decrease in inequality although with a Gini coefficient of 60.5 percent, Botswana remains one of the world’s most unequal countries. The level of inequality in Botswana is the world’s third highest, after South Africa and Seychelles. But between 2002/03 and 2009/10, inequality, the Gini fell from 64.7 percent to 60.5 percent. Most of the decline occurred due to welfare improvements in rural areas, while inequality in cities increased.

It also found that large numbers of people still live just marginally above the poverty line and at risk of falling back into poverty. Vulnerability was significantly reduced between 2002/03 and 2009/10. However, half of Botswana’s population remains either poor or vulnerable, with close to 31 percent classified as vulnerable.

We see from our research that agricultural support programs were clearly a big part of the progress achieved during the period under review,” says World Bank Senior Economist Victor Sulla. “Going forwards, investments in human capital and efficient safety-net targeting will be critical to accelerating poverty reduction and reducing inequality further”.

The study also shows that the combined effect of labor, education and social protection improvements could help halve projected poverty by 2018 and eradicate it by 2030. It projects a fall in poverty levels of below 12% by 2018 and below 6% by 2030. However, inequality is not expected to fall significantly unless there is continued, broad-based employment growth.

The report recommends improving the quality of education and raising skills levels in order to close the skills gaps that dampen labor demand. It also recommends the development of a dynamic and productive private sector which is fundamental to creating more and better jobs and a greater focus on the most disadvantaged populations.

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