Posted on July 21, 2004

Sub-Saharan Africa Poverty Grows

BBC News, Jul. 20

Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where the number of people living in abject poverty has grown over the past 20 years, says a United Nations report.

The UNIDO report says those living in absolute poverty in the region rose by 42% to 47% from 1981 to 2001.

It says absolute poverty dropped from 40% to 21% in the world as a whole.

The report says more foreign aid would help, but insists the best way to lift countries in the region out of poverty is to develop trade and industry.

The UN has set itself eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which it aims to achieve by 2015.

They include:

* halving the number of people in absolute poverty — those earning $1 a day or less — compared with 1990

* halving the proportion of people suffering hunger

* establishing universal primary education

* halting the spread of HIV/Aids.

But only a handful of more than 30 Sub-Saharan African nations were on track to reach the goals, said the report, by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).

The targets will not be reached by “the poorest countries… which are seriously off-track, unless the international community and the countries themselves engage in significant additional efforts”, says the report.

“Such a breakthrough cannot be expected to happen as a by-product of development, since development is what is blocked to start with.”

In addition to good governance and macroeconomic management in those nations, the report recommends that the private sector be developed, economies diversify and agricultural productivity be dramatically improved.

“The required higher growth rates are not unattainable. They have been achieved elsewhere by countries such as China, India, [South Korea] and Thailand, which started at levels of income similar to those of Sub-Saharan African countries today,” the report says.