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Afrobarometer 5 Finds Pervasive Poverty in Africa Despite Economic Growth

By Jane Tingley  (Intern, IHC)
October 4, 2013

On October 1st, results from the Round 5 Afrobarometer Survey of 34 countries were released, and despite improved economic growth, the study reported continued shortages in basic needs, including access to water, food, and healthcare.  Just two years before the completion of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, the study found that roughly one in five Africans frequently lack access to food (17%), clean water (22%), or medical care (20%), with one in two people experiencing occasional shortages.

Each Afrobarometer survey collects data on national public attitudes towards democracy and governance in Africa, using indicators such as opinions and behaviors related to macro-economics and markets, social capital, conflict and crime, and national identity.  Round 5 included the special topic modules of taxation, gender issues, crime, conflict and insecurity, globalization, and social service delivery. The aim of each survey is to measure poverty in alternative ways to traditional indicators, such as a country’s GDP or annual expenditures.

In an effort to measure “lived poverty” which is based on combining answers to questions on deprivation, researchers asked participants whether they lacked access to food, water, medical care, fuel, or cash income in the past year.  In general, the West African countries reported highest levels of “lived poverty” and North African countries reported the lowest.  Roots of poverty were identified as low levels of education, poor government investment and substandard infrastructure such as electricity, piped water, paved roads, sewage systems and health clinics.  Researchers urged policy makers to focus on poverty-reduction programs, rather than economic growth.

These findings align with previous studies from the World Bank, released earlier this year, which found that economic growth in Africa has had less effect on poverty-reduction than in other areas of the world.  More information about the Round 5 Afrobarometer survey results is available here.

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