Africa has finally reached breakout velocity in its fight against poverty, with more Africans are now escaping extreme poverty than are being born below the poverty line for the first time in history. Such a turning point should be celebrated, but the rate of change is not fast enough for the continent to meet its Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030, and more needs to be done on both a national and international level.
By the end of this year, it is predicted that around 3,000 people will be escaping poverty each day in Africa, which would mean around a million fewer people in poverty by the end of the decade. And if these trends continue, as many as 45 million fewer people will be considered extremely poor by 2030, resulting in a nearly 10 percent decline relative poverty. Nonetheless, this will still leave approximately 377 million Africans living below the poverty line on less than $1.90 per day by 2030, with very few African nations able to have eradicated poverty by the 2030.
There are significant success stories, but poverty reduction across the continent is far from uniform. Four countries already have poverty rates of below three percent: Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Mauritius, and Seychelles. Gambia and Mauritania are projected to have reached this goal by 2030, and if current trends continue then Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and Djibouti will have all joined the group by 2034.
However, two African countries remain a long way from meeting the target: Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Nigeria is the most populous country in the continent, and while it is expected to have lifted 10 million of its citizens out of poverty and into the middle class by 2030, rapid population growth means that in real-terms the number of people living in poverty in the country by that time will have increased by 20 million. In the DRC, where violence still rages in the east of the country, over half of the population, around 61 million people, are still expected to be living in poverty by 2030.
There is much good news to celebrate, with tens of millions of people raised out of poverty across the world by since the SDG targets were set in 2015. However, on the current trajectory it is clear that the goal of eradicating global poverty by 2030 will not be achieved, with the vast majority (87 percent) of those left in extreme poverty in 2030 living in Africa, and most within just a handful of countries where on the ground little will have improved since 2016.
The biggest struggle countries have in addressing extreme poverty is state capacity and monitoring. Charities can target individuals with sponsorship and support like Compassion or specific issues like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s focus on malaria, but to eradicate poverty national governments need the capacity, stability, and capabilities to identify their poorest citizens and effectively intervene.
Research suggests that countries with the most effective governments can reduce income poverty at up to twice the speed than countries with the weakest states, and it is here that some states in Africa fall far behind the likes of India and China that have seen such rapid progress against poverty. Improving the quality of government is a development goal itself, and it is only through the development of administrative capabilities and stable governmental institutions that countries can effectively identify the poorest within their borders and address their needs.
Will the next decade see the world turn its attention to providing the support African nations require to build the infrastructure and institutions needed to lift their citizens out of poverty?