African Region Poverty Debates and Policy Brief

The word poverty line is measured by people’s cost of living each day, estimated at $1.9. People living below the set average per day are said to be poor. The United Nations (UN) (2019) has targeted various goals to improve people living conditions globally. They have recorded the goals under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The first SDG aims to eradicate poverty and all the conditions it manifests globally by 2030. Also, the goals focus on improving social security for the poor and ensuring access to basic needs for all people. In addition, the goal aims at supporting the victims of natural, economic, political, environmental, and social disasters.

The UN organization has put various strategies into practice to enable them to meet its objective by 2030. Fortunately, the world has recorded an improvement as poverty levels have decreased from 36 percent in 1990 to 10 percent in 2015 (Filho et al., 2020). However, the prevalence of COVID-19 has resulted in an increase in poverty levels due to the economic fallout experienced. According to UNU World Institute for Development Economics Research, the COVID-19 pandemic could severely affect the world’s economy and lead to more than half a billion (8% of the world’s population) people in extreme poverty.

Consequently, to address the debate on poverty, governments have to unite with other organizations, such as the UN, to ensure access to basic needs for the poor. According to the World Social Summit, poverty eradication should be a political, economic, ethical, and social duty of all human beings (Campbell, 2017). The government also must ensure that the poor population has access to productive resources such as education, training, and credit (Filho et al., 2020). The 24 special summits of the General Assembly recognized stagnation in the efforts to decrease poverty in 2007. To address the issue, the summit proposed a review of the Copenhagen dedication to set a goal of 50% poverty reduction by 2015.

Another debate focused on reducing global poverty levels is the social perspective on development. This approach targets involving the poorest population and the most vulnerable in the economic, social, and political decision-making process. The approach is most emphasized during the making and implementation of policies that affect them. The social perspective on development is a people-centered method that aims at establishing policies that ensure equitable distribution of income, wealth, and coverage of social protection.

Poverty goes beyond the shortage of income, a decent livelihood, and productive resources. Poverty also entails its manifestations, such as lack of proper nutrition, unavailable access to good health care systems, limited access to education and educational resources, discrimination, and other basic needs and services (Moon, 2017). People are living in extreme poverty lack representation in the political, social, and economic decision-making processes. There one in every five people lives in extreme poverty globally.

Traditionally, the level of poverty in a population is measured but comparing the total income with the number of dependents. The UNDP supports the same method of measurement, which is used to identify different countries that require financial assistance. The average income per day of an economically well-up population was set at $1.9 in September 2015. However, the UNDP has proposed a broadening measure to measure the levels of poverty (UN, 2019). In 1990, the organization suggested the measurement of the Human Development Index as a way of determining a population’s poverty levels. The HDI approach requires measurement of the amount of income per person in a country together with accessibility to services such as education and health (Clermont, 2020). However, the approach had a limitation, as the information provided did not reveal a correlation between the level of income and HDI.

Certainly, the UNDP, associated with other researchers, worked to incorporate other aspects in the measurement of poverty or income levels. The aspects omitted from HDI include gender equality, discrimination, inequality in income distribution, impact on human activities on the environment, sustainability, and level of vulnerability to disasters, among other factors (Pedersen, 2018). These factors were included in the Humanity divided report in 2015. Gender inequality was represented in the report by identifying the labor market, empowerment, and reproduction health.

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty Eradication Strategy

The world is currently experiencing one of the worst pandemics of all time through the COVID-19 pandemics. The effects of the infection have deeply been felt globally. The COVID-19 virus has claimed so many lives, with recent statistics showing that more than three million people have succumbed to the disease (Campbell, 2017). As a result of these deaths, many households have been left without breadwinners, leaving them at a heightened risk of poverty. According to the UN (2019), one in five people in developing regions still live on less than $1.90 a day. COVID-19 has made these statistics even worse and has, without doubt, reversed any progress that many nations and households have made to combat poverty.

COVID-19 has left many of its contractors bankrupt and in debt. This is because treatment for the disease is quite expensive, and not all people can afford it. The effects of COVID-19 have cut across many economic departments and sectors, although some severely affected (Clermont, 2020). For example, the transport, tourism, and entertainment industries have been impacted more (Filho et al., 2020). The pandemic has caused many businesses to close, increasing unemployment rates. The high rate of unemployment from impacts of COVID-19 results in extreme poverty.

According to Gulseven et al. (2020), the China COVID-19 V –curve is a temporary shock to the global economy. COVID-19 has resulted in significant negative impacts in African countries. These include food insecurity, lack of medical supplies, loss of income and livelihood, increased debt, loss of lives, and many more. According to the UN (2019), Africa has had more than 5 million COVID-19 cases, reporting more than 130,000 deaths. These deaths have caused a reduction in the labor force, and since Africa is mostly an agricultural continent, this comes as a huge challenge to the African states. Without labor, food security is under threat, and small-scale farmers have especially felt these effects. Workers in large-scale farms are exposed to unsafe working conditions but have to keep working since they need the benefits (Moon, 2017). Farmers have also felt the effects of the pandemic as they cannot access some markets due to trade restrictions, confinement measures, and border closures. However, border restrictions have been put in place to minimize the rate of spread of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic also slowed down the manufacturing of essential goods. Companies suffer from factors such as lack of labor, insufficient capital, among other factors (Gulseven et al., 2020). In addition, there lacks of financial support from banks or other investors due to fear of uncertainty. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many investors have frozen their funds or withdrawn completely so that they may be able to fund their way out of emergencies.

Policy Implication of UN SDG 1 in Africa

There has been an ongoing debate about the importance of financial aid to economic development in Africa. Some critics suggest that financial aid will result in African countries’ dependency on sponsorship. However, there has been a positive correlation between the amounts of financial aid to the GDP in African countries (Pedersen, 2018). African countries started receiving financial aids in 1960 and continue receiving it up to date. The following Figure 1 the amounts received by Sub-Saharan Africa from 2005 to 2020. Foreign aid helps African countries in fostering economic development in the sector. Figure 2 shows the Sub- Saharan GDP from 2005 to 2019 upon receiving financial aid.

Adapted from Knoema's
Figure 1. Adapted from Knoema’s (2020) website determined by the world determinant indicator (WDI). It shows the amount of aid received by Sub-Saharan Africa from UN agencies from 2005 to 2019.
represents Sub-Saharan GDP from 2005 to 2019
Figure 2. represents Sub-Saharan GDP from 2005 to 2019

To address the issue of poverty in Africa and other developing countries, economic stimulus is needed. African countries suffer from a lack of international markets for their goods, thus, a financial stimulus such as foreign aid would benefit the continent. For instance, Ghana, a western African country, has a fiscal deficit of 14% of its total GDP (Hörisch, 2021). The country depends on foreign assistance to bring down the deficit for the smooth operation of the economy. International banks should also waiver interest fees for African countries to encourage more investments. Also, governments should provide their citizens with grants and subsidies to sponsor their small businesses (Hörisch, 2021). African countries should address the short-run problems to establish long-term reforms.

The poor population in Africa lacks basic commodities such as education, health, proper nutrition, and reproductive resources. According to the recent research by the UN (2015), the poor population totals to up to 735 million people. Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia constitute the highest increase in the percentage of the poor populations with 32 million and 26 million respectively. The emergence of COVID-19 has reduced the impacts of strategies set to eradicate poverty levels (Gulseven et al., 2020). However, the projected poverty levels by 2030 before the emergence of COVID-19 were at 6%, missing the total eradication target.


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