Africa and the Middle East
Article: ""Fewer but still with us"
>In 1981 some 42% of the world’s population were extremely poor, according to the World Bank. Since then the number of people in absolute poverty has fallen by about 1 billion and the number of non-poor people has gone up by roughly 4 billion. By 2013, just 10.7% of the world’s population was poor (the modern yardstick is that a person consumes less than $1.90 a day at 2011 purchasing-power parity).
>Economic historians reckon that it took Britain about a century, from the 1820s to the 1920s, to cut extreme poverty from more than 40% of its population to below 10%. Japan started later, but moved faster. Beginning in the 1870s, the share of its population who were absolutely poor fell from 80% to almost nothing in a century. Today two large countries, China and Indonesia, are on course to achieve Japanese levels of poverty reduction more than twice as fast as Japan did.
>In China and India, economic growth has benefited the poor as well as the rich, peasants as well as city-dwellers: the magic ingredient in China’s poverty-reduction formula since the 1980s has been not its factories but highly productive small farms.
> Today about four-fifths of all extremely poor people live in the countryside, and just over half of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa is as studded with examples of failure as Asia is filled with success stories. Look at Nigeria, says Kaushik Basu, an economist at Cornell University. In 1985 the share of Nigerians below the international poverty line was estimated to be 45%—a lower proportion than in China or Indonesia. Now Nigeria has a much higher share of poor people than either country.
>African poverty is particularly intractable. The first problem is that economic growth has been weak, considering the continent’s swelling population. According to the IMF, since 2000 GDP per head at purchasing-power parity has doubled in sub-Saharan Africa; in emerging Asia it almost quadrupled. A second problem is that many African governments are flimsy, incompetent, authoritarian or rapacious. The OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, counts 56 places in the world as “fragile”—mostly countries, but including the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Fully 36 are in Africa.
>Interesting comment: “The dramatic progress in China and India was achieved mainly by opening up international trade opportunities, however the political tide looks set in the other direction for the next few years at least. We need other levers that will help Africa in particular make the jump to prosperity. One obvious step is to end Global tax havens and profit shifting, as Oxfam has advocated for years. Tax avoidance costs developing countries at least $170 billion per annum in lost tax revenues, and worse still fuels corruption in governments by enabling officials to freely milk off money into secret offshore accounts that should be going to help the poorest in their countries. The second big lever for Africa is to extend education, work opportunities, and access to birth control to women, and at the same time raise the legal minimum age for marriage. The dramatic progress in Bangladesh where birth rates have dropped to just 2.1 children per woman show what can be achieved by empowering women in poor communities. Few programs would have a bigger impact on the future of poverty in Africa.” (Robert P Bruce - author of "The Global Race")