In­crease in poor Africans

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

JO­HAN­NES­BURG — The num­ber of Africans trapped in poverty has surged by around 100 mil­lion over the past quar­ter cen­tury, the World Bank says, de­spite years of eco­nomic growth and multi-mil­lion dol­lar aid pro­grammes.

The re­port’s fig­ures, de­scribed as “stag­ger­ing” by the bank’s Africa head Makhtar Diop, showed wide­spread mal­nu­tri­tion, and ris­ing vi­o­lence against civil­ians, par­tic­u­larly in cen­tral re­gions and the Horn of Africa.

“It is pro­jected that the world’s ex­treme poor will be in­creas­ingly con­cen­trated in Africa,” Diop added in a fore­word.

A surge in pop­u­la­tion meant the pro­por­tion of Africans in poverty had ac­tu­ally fallen since 1990, but the ac­tual num­bers were up. In a ma­jor study of house­holds tak­ing stock of African economies and so­ci­eties af­ter two decades of rel­a­tively strong growth, the Bank said 388 mil­lion - 43 per­cent of the sub-sa­ha­ran re­gion’s 900 mil­lion peo­ple - lived on less than $1.90 a day. In 1990, at the start of the study pe­riod, the ra­tio was 56 per­cent, or 284 mil­lion. The find­ings present a mixed bag for coun­tries that, on av­er­age, en­joyed eco­nomic growth of 4.5 per­cent over the last two decades, dubbed the era of ‘Africa Ris­ing’ in con­trast to the post-in­de­pen­dence stag­na­tion, war and de­cay that typ­i­fied the 1970s and 1980s.

A child born in Africa now is likely to live more than six years longer than one born in 1995, the study found, while adult lit­er­acy rates over the same pe­riod have risen 4 per- cen­t­age points.

How­ever, the Bank de­fined Africa’s so­cial achieve­ments as “low in all do­mains” - for in­stance, tol­er­ance of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in Africa is twice as high as other de­vel­op­ing re­gions - and noted that the rates of im­prove­ment were lev­el­ling off.

“De­spite the in­crease in school en­rol­ment, to­day more than two out of five adults are un­able to read or write,” the re­port said.

“Nearly two in five chil­dren are mal­nour­ished and one in eight women is un­der­weight,” it con­tin­ued.

“At the other end of the spec­trum, obe­sity is emerg­ing as a new health con­cern.”

Per­haps most dis­turbingly, the study pre­sented more ev­i­dence of the ‘re­source curse’ that af­flicts states en­dowed with plen­ti­ful re­serves of hy­dro­car­bons or min­er­als, of­ten the source of in­ter­nal or ex­ter­nal con­flict, or cor­rup­tion and gov­ern­ment in­ep­ti­tude.

Cit­i­zens of re­source-rich coun­tries tended to be less lit­er­ate, live 4.5 years less and have higher rates of mal­nu­tri­tion among women and chil­dren than other African states, the study found.

Al­though the num­ber of full-scale wars af­flict­ing the con­ti­nent is down, the re­port also noted that out­breaks of vi­o­lence against civil­ians were on the rise, es­pe­cially in cen­tral Africa and the Horn of Africa. — Reuters

Makhtar Diop

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