Children in a remote village in Nigeria in June 2017.
Photo credit: Lovelyn Obiakor/Creative Commons
Population explosion in west Africa and war in Syria slows decline of poverty.
A population surge in sub-Saharan Africa and the war in Syria has undermined efforts to bring down the number of people living in extreme poverty across the world, according to a report by the World Bank .
In its annual report, the Washington-based development agency said the proportion of people living in extreme poverty had fallen to a new low of 10% in 2015--the latest number available--down from 11% in 2013. It meant that the number of people living on less than $1.90 a day fell by 68 million to 736 million.
But the decline was half the rate of previous years and had slowed further according to preliminary figures that estimated a 1.4 percentage-point fall between 2015 and 2018.
Earlier this year the agency, which aims to support sustainable development, added to the gloomy picture with figures showing that those lifted out of extreme poverty struggled to make further progress up the income ladder .
The World Bank president, Jim Jong Kim, said the latest poverty audit represented “slow progress” towards a goal that would leave just 3% of people living in extreme poverty by 2030.
Building human capital
“Over the last 25 years, more than a billion people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty, and the global poverty rate is now lower than it has ever been in recorded history. This is one of the greatest human achievements of our time,” he said.
“But if we are going to end poverty by 2030, we need much more investment, particularly in building human capital, to help promote the inclusive growth it will take to reach the remaining poor. For their sake, we cannot fail.”
Much of the reduction in global poverty over recent decades has been in China and neighbouring countries in Asia that have benefited from China’s spectacular growth rate. The global average has also benefited from the efforts of south American countries such as Brazil and Chile to lift people out of poverty.
Sub-Saharan population explosion
Areas of east Africa have seen improvements in poverty rates, but much of sub-Saharan Africa has fallen back following a population explosion, especially in Nigeria and other west African nations.
The first chapter of the report, Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2018: Piecing Together the Poverty Puzzle, which is released ahead of the Bank’s annual meeting next month in Bali, found that in the Middle East and north Africa region, conflict in Syria and Yemen raised the level of extreme poverty from 9.5 million in 2013 to 18.6 million in 2015. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number grew from 405 million people in 2013 to 413 million in 2015.
Kim said that alongside population growth, higher than expected poverty rates also reflected falling commodity prices, growing trade tensions , internal conflicts and political instability.
Officials at the Bank have countered that they are working with most countries in the sub-Saharan region with tailor-made policies to promote growth and alleviate poverty without having a one-size-fits-all agenda.