In its 2016 list of the world’s richest individuals, Forbes put Aliko Dangote, a Nigerian tycoon, at the 51st position. Four other Africans were also featured on the list. There are still many other rising billionaires and millionaires in Africa. That said, if there were also a list detailing the poorest individuals in the world, Africans would feature on it prominently if not entirely. That is the reality of poverty in Africa. But why?
The African Continent is Getting Richer
Since the turn of the century, Sub-Saharan Africa has witnessed a slow but sure economic progression. According to the World Bank, the growth rose from 1.3% in 2016 to 2.4% in 2017. The Largest economies have been South Africa, Nigeria, and Angola. These have helped fast-track regional development. The entry of China in almost every African country has also had a regional impact on economies.
With increased development, poverty levels have come down. The World Bank estimates that poverty levels have fallen from 56% in 1990 to 43% in 2012. The level of adult literacy has also risen. Access to basic education is now easier in almost all countries. Infant and child mortality rates, though still high, have also notably gone down compared to 1990. A better health care system has been translated to marginal rises in life expectancy. HIV/AIDS infections and related deaths have also notably reduced.
Poverty in Africa is on the Rise
Despite these improvements, the number of the poor has been increasing. The World Bank, in its report, stated that the number of poor people rose from 280 million in 1990 to 330 million in 2012. Uncontrolled population increase has been pointed to be largely the cause. For instance, teenage pregnancies in Africa account for almost half of the total births per year. This mostly occurs in poor or war-torn countries. Moreover, millions of people earn less than a dollar per day across the continent and cannot afford basic human needs. This has inadvertently led to the rise of criminal gangs especially in urban areas that compromise security.
On the other hand, there are people who have continued to do well economically. This can be testified by the rising middle class all over Africa who have the key purchasing power. The number of international malls, corporations, and even hotels opening shop in Africa tells the story more loudly. Smartphone companies such as Tecno have made Africa their primary market while giant global auto manufacturer Toyota has opened a manufacturing plant on African soil. The uptake of the internet has also fast-tracked Africa’s rising status.
Poverty in Africa: A Worrying Trend
There is a worrying trend though. The ever-widening poverty gap. It lurks behind the shiny skyscrapers and pompous malls. The cities you see oozing with grandiosity are sharply contrasted by slums dwelling in the neighborhood. Africa has some of the most traumatizing slums in the world.
Ramshackle structures, outright unfit for human habitation and with rusty roofs pass as the only forms of shelters to the thousands of slum dwellers. Sewerage systems here are a far cry from accessible. Bucket toilets and, in some places, ‘flying toilets’ are the only available option. Crime and HIV infection rates remain at a perennial high. In the rural areas, the situation is not any different. Abject poverty in Africa is displayed all over. A farmer will have tracts and tracts of arable land lying idle simply because he cannot kick-start commercial farming. He also can’t sell it. It’s taboo to sell inherited land.
Why Poverty in Africa Exists
But how did we get here? How is poverty in Africa explained? Many factors add up to this. First of all, governments which should be working to uplift the living standards of their citizens are busy approving policies and taxes that are always punitive to the poor. Laws are made to punish the poor and stirr poverty in Africa. A hungry man stealing a banana to quell his hunger pangs will be slapped with a ten-year jail term while a tycoon who steals millions of tax-payers money will walk away scot-free.
Basic rights to food, shelter, and education will be denied from those who really need them. The poor majority does the donkey’s work to feed the well-off minority. A shameless dictator will hold onto presidency for decades and shit on the citizens while some lazy-asses cheer him on. It’s a dog eats dog society.
As things stand right now, the poor will continue to become poorer while the rich will continue to amass more wealth. If nothing is done, the inequality gap will continue to widen. Before long, being poor in Africa will be synonymous with a death sentence. Poverty in Africa is all but solved just yet.