Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa

Slow growth meant increases in both the share and number of the poor in the 1990s leaving Africa as the region with the largest share of people living below $1 a day. In Nigeria, the number of people in extreme poverty rose steeply following the reversal of the 1985–92 reforms, reaching an estimated 70 million (66% of the population) based on the national definition (rather than the international, $1 a day definition used here). Nigeria now accounts for nearly a fourth of Sub-Saharan Africa's poor. Urban poverty has grown faster than rural poverty, owing to massive migration from rural areas to the cities, with the incidence of urban poverty now matching that of rural poverty.

By contrast, the rural poverty rate fell in Ethiopia, Sub-Saharan Africa's second most populous country and one of the poorest. The reforms after the end of the civil war in the early 1990s spurred a strong recovery, ending a two-decade slump. The benefits of agricultural price liberalization have spread quickly, boosting growth of rural incomes. Urban poverty, on the other hand, has been stagnant. Urban inequality has risen, in part due to large population movements resulting from the civil war, and in part as a result of economic reform, as agricultural price liberalization raised consumer prices in urban areas and civil service rationalization reduced urban employment. Unfortunately, progress is likely to have been slowed by the border conflict.

Countries with civil order, political openness and sound economic management saw improved economic performance and better outcomes for the poor (Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mauritania, Tanzania and Uganda). Other countries slipped into disorder and experienced a breakdown of the state and institutions, with profound effects on poverty (Burundi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan etc.) The immediate challenge is to help countries in the middle—countries like Cameroon, Chad, Kenya—so that they can achieve better living standards for their people.


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