The world, is predicted to enter the New Year with the lowest level of extreme poverty in history – at eight percent.
According to latest estimates by World Data Lab, 600 million people globally, would start 2019 living in extreme poverty.
Out of the figure, 20 million are expected to be lifted out of that situation by the close of the year.
The numbers, however, hide underlying differences, especially for African countries.
Africa still has much of its population living in poverty or vulnerable with projections from the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA’s) unveiled Africa Poverty Clock (APC), copied to the Ghana News Agency, projecting that 70 per cent of the world’s poor would live in Africa, up from 50 percent in 2015.
It says, by 2023, the share of Africa’s poor would increase to over 80 per cent of the global total.
In other words, Africa would be adding more poor people to the world.
The African Poverty Clock provides real-time poverty estimates for every country on the continent.
Current projections indicate that almost all of Africa is off track for ending extreme poverty by 2030.
Thirteen (13) countries are forecast to see an increase in absolute numbers.
Africa’s poverty gap index, which is a measure of the intensity or depth of poverty, is nearly double the global average at 15.2 per cent in 2013 (global averages is 8.8 per cent).
The average consumption of the poor across the East, South, West and Central Africa is US$1.16 a day, which is US$0.74 below the international poverty line, thus posing a challenge to achieving the SDGs target of eliminating poverty by 2030.
Poverty reduction is further impacted by high inequality levels. When inequality levels are high, economic growth delivers less impact for poverty, the APC adds.
Across many countries in Africa, the richest 20 per cent controls up to 60 per cent of the wealth - growth has not been inclusive.
The mismatch between sectors of growth and employment remains a challenge as agriculture continues to be an important contributor to economic growth and the transition to industry remains slow.
In Burundi, Burkina Faso, and Madagascar, more than 80 percent of the labour force works in agriculture.
Africa’s manufacturing sector employs only 9 per cent of women and 16 per cent of men.
However, most of Africa’s working poor are predominantly found in the informal sector characterised by low productivity and low incomes. Despite the increase in employment within the services sector, the reality is that people are moving from low productivity agriculture to similar low productivity urban informal activities thus there is little impact on rising incomes.
The APC says the economic growth recorded for the last 20 years has made minimal impact due to rapid population growth.
With an average 2.6 per cent population growth rate, annual per capita growth in the last quarter century comes in at just 1.1 per cent, which is insufficient to reduce poverty quickly.
It notes, however, that the rate of population growth witnessed over the last two decades is unlikely to continue in the coming decades, thus presenting unique opportunities for countries to make significant impact on poverty reduction.
Nonetheless, 2019 may prove a significant turning point in Africa’s progress towards the elimination of extreme poverty by 2030.
For the first time, the absolute number of people living in extreme poverty in Africa would be reduced.
But there is no guarantee that this pace would continue in the absence of the right public policies and actions.
Sustained economic growth of the magnitude of at least 8-10 per cent is necessary for the quantum leap needed for faster poverty reduction and to achieve the SDGs.
APC is urging Africa to continue to focus on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), digital economy, scale up the push for gender inclusion, and to fiscal and structural policies to improve the private sector and infrastructure.