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While adequate food and clean water remains a daily challenges for millions of Africans, poverty at the household level – ‘lived poverty’ – has declined in two-thirds of countries surveyed by Afrobarometer, newly released survey findings show.
In results published on 21 January 2016 and lunched in Addis Ababa, Afrobarometer reports that in 22 of 33 countries across Africa, less citizens are going without enough food, clean water, needed medical care, fuel for cooking, and a cash income as compared to three years ago.
Lived poverty tended to decrease in countries that had made progress in developing basic infrastructure, according to the report.
Despite high levels of economic growth recorded in Africa over the past decade, previous Afrobarometer surveys of citizens found little evidence that this growth had reduced levels of poverty in any consistent way.
However, new data from Round 6 of Afrobarometer’s study suggests a very different picture.
“While “lived poverty” remains pervasive across much of the continent, especially in Central and West Africa, we now see evidence that the decade of economic growth seems to have finally delivered broad-based reductions in poverty,” the report emphasized.
“Lived poverty”, an index that measures the frequency with which people experience shortages of basic necessities, retreated across a broad range of countries.
“In the roughly three-year period between Round 5 (2011/2013) and Round 6 (2014/2015) surveys, our data suggests that “lived poverty” fell in 22 of 33 countries surveyed in both rounds,” the report said.
However, these changes show no systematic relation to recent rates of economic growth. While growing economies are undoubtedly important, what appears to be more important in improving the lives of ordinary people is the extent to which national governments and their donor partners put in place development infrastructure that enables people to build better lives.
The report, titled “Africa’s growth dividend? Lived poverty drops across much of the continent” is based on interviews in 2014/2015 with more than 52,700 citizens across Africa.
In 2014/2015, more than four in 10 survey respondents say they went without enough food (44%) or clean water (46%) at least once or twice in the year preceding the survey, and large proportions say the same thing with regard to needed medical care (49%), cooking fuel (38%), and a cash income (74%).
Respondents in Central and West Africa encounter the most frequent shortages, while North Africans experience the lowest levels of deprivation.
However, lived poverty increased in five countries, most steeply in Mozambique, Benin and Liberia, and remained stagnant in five other countries.
Lived poverty tended to decrease in countries that had made the most progress in building various forms of development infrastructure in local communities, such as tarred/paved roads and sewage systems.
Reflecting the continent’s ongoing employment crisis, the most commonly cited form of deprivation remains access to cash income, with three-quarters (74%) reporting that they went without cash at least once in the previous year, according to the survey.
“While cash income is not in itself a basic need, access to it can enable citizens to meet their basic and non-basic needs. Income shortages therefore have many spillover effects on people’s lives,” the report elaborated.
The fact that three-quarters of Africans report having gone without cash income at least once in the previous year – and that 40% did so frequently – poses a major development challenge; many adults on the continent cannot afford to buy resources for immediate use or to invest in assets.
The survey stated that yet Africa could no longer be characterized as uniformly poor, as levels of lived poverty vary widely across the continent.
Afrobarometer is a pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions and related issues across more than 30 countries in Africa. Five rounds of surveys were conducted between 1999 and 2013, and findings from surveys conducted in Round 6 (2014/2015) are currently being released.