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Survey shows growth still not helping poor Africans

Survey shows growth still not helping poor Africans

2 min. 01.10.2013 From our online archive
Poor Africans say they are still not benefiting from the continent's economic rise, according to a landmark survey of citizens across 34 countries released on Tuesday.

(AFP) Poor Africans say they are still not benefiting from the continent's economic rise, according to a landmark survey of citizens across 34 countries released on Tuesday.

Despite some of the world's highest economic growth rates, many Africans still report shortages of water, food, healthcare and cash according to an Afrobarometer survey of over 50,000 people.

"Meeting their basic daily needs remains a major challenge for a majority of Africans, even at a time when their countries are reporting impressive economic gains," the survey found.

The continent's economy is expected to grow by almost five percent this year.

But half of survey respondents said they occasionally lacked food, clean water, and medicine. One in five said they face frequent shortages.

"Either economic growth is not trickling down to average citizens and translating into poverty reduction... (or) there is reason to question whether reported growth rates are actually being realised," the researchers found.

People were poorer in areas where government spending on basic infrastructure lagged, the survey found.

"The data show significant correlations between access to electrical grids, piped water, and other basic services in communities and lower levels of lived poverty."

Low education levels also had a big influence on poverty.

Little improvement in lifestyle over last decade

People in West Africa and East Africa experienced most shortages, while North Africans reported the least.

The highest poverty levels were measured in Burundi, Guinea, Niger, Senegal and Togo, while Algeria and Mauritius had the lowest.

The study has been conducted roughly every three years since 1999, with more countries added to the survey each time round.

Carried out by independent African organisations, the Afrobarometer aims to measure poverty as an alternative to countries' own national income and expenditure surveys, which are often too costly for some governments.

Of 16 countries studied for the past decade, the researchers measured little improvement in lifestyle, said Afrobarometer's Robert Mattes at the study's release in Johannesburg.

"Poverty has come down very, very slightly," said Mattes, who also heads the University of Cape Town's Democracy in Africa Research Unit.

The lives of people in Cape Verde, Ghana, Malawi and Zambia improved over the past decade.

In this period however poverty went up in South Africa, Botswana, Senegal, Mali and Tanzania.

Zimbabweans also reported a dramatic drop in poverty since 2008, which researchers attributed to a "peace dividend" after a power-sharing government was formed following a decade of political and economic turmoil.

Reduce poverty while growing economy

Over half the respondents rated their country's economy bad, while only a third thought the economy and their living conditions had improved in the past year.

Most, however, thought things would look up in the coming year.

The researchers urged governments to focus on reducing poverty rather than simply growing their economies.

"Investments in education and infrastructure may be among the most effective ways to extend economic gains to the continent's poorest citizens."

The Afrobarometer study echoes a World Bank report earlier this year which found growth in Africa has been less poverty-reducing than elsewhere in the world.

While strides have been made in reducing the levels of Africans living on less 1.25 USD a day, more than a third of the world's extreme poor still live in sub-Saharan Africa.