Africa’s Poverty Amid Plenty

PRETORIA – Poverty and inequality still blight much of the developing world, especially Africa, and breed other social ills, including crime and social instability. But considerable progress has been made in addressing both problems, and with more investment, they can be eradicated in our lifetime.

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals, established in 2000, aim at halving global poverty by 2015, a target that was achieved in many countries five years ahead of schedule. Many people are now optimistic that poverty can be reduced even faster in coming years.

Much of the progress made thus far can be attributed to sound macroeconomic policy, stronger social-welfare programs, and above-average economic growth. China has made the most progress in absolute terms, having lifted some 680 million people out of poverty from 1981 to 2010, with the share of its population living in extreme poverty (less than $1.25 per day) plummeting from around 84% to 10% over that period.

In Africa, too, strong economic growth, macroeconomic reform, fiscal prudence, and improved governance have helped to reduce poverty. Governments have become more democratic, and economies have become more open. Longstanding violent conflicts – in Mozambique, Angola, Rwanda, and elsewhere – have ended. Once a sorry tale of corruption and hunger, Africa’s development narrative has become overwhelmingly positive.