Leaders should promote economic growth through good governance
Contrary to the situation in other parts of the world where the number of poor people has declined, Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries currently account for half of the global poor. That is the verdict of the World Bank in a recent report which states that for the last several decades, East Asia and Pacific, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have accounted for some 95 per cent of global poverty. However, according to the bank in its policy research note entitled ‘Ending Extreme Poverty and Sharing Prosperity: Progress and Policies’, the composition of poverty across the three regions has shifted dramatically.
“In 1990, East Asia accounted for half of the global poor, whereas some 15 per cent lived in sub-Saharan Africa; by 2015 forecasts, this is almost exactly reversed: sub-Saharan Africa accounts for half of the global poor, with some 12 per cent living in East Asia. Poverty is declining in all regions but it is becoming deeper and more entrenched in countries that are either conflict-ridden or overly dependent on commodity exports. The growing concentration of global poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is of great concern”, said the World Bank in the report.
That poverty has become an ever-present situation in sub-Saharan Africa should be of great concern to our leaders most of whom are used to mouthing the cliché that we have no business being poor. However, what most of them fail to understand is that poverty goes beyond the shortage of common things such as food, clothing, shelter and safe drinking water, all of which determine the quality of life. It is inclusive of educational attainment and gender inequality, for example. But in the instant case, we are even talking about people for whom food is a challenge.
According to most findings, poverty in sub-Saharan Africa can largely be attributed to the region’s venality and impuissant economic and social policies. Others assert that the region’s economic woes lie in the lack of well-structured institutions. However, poverty in sub-Saharan Africa could be traceable to a number of factors like lack of democracy, poor management of resource and revenues, high level of corruption, weak rule of law, and lack of infrastructure. Other factors which can also be both causes and after-effects of poverty are overpopulation, crime, war, discrimination, poor access to affordable health care, malnutrition, diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS, which overwhelmingly afflict poor sub-Saharan African countries.
The inability of governments to control or effectively manage things like erosion, desertification and overgrazing, geographic factors such as access to fertile land, fresh water, minerals, energy, and other natural resources have continued to contribute to the expanding poverty in the sub-continent. Yet those living in poverty, experts say, suffer lower life expectancy as millions of people die every year due to lower access to quality healthcare induced by poverty.
It is therefore time for leaders in sub-Saharan Africa to muster the political will to deal with poverty which can be eradicated if they promote economic growth, women empowerment, good governance and access to health care rather than depending on development aid from developed countries. Put simply, sub-Saharan Africa policymakers should enact policies and programmes that ensure a fair distribution of economic growth amongst its citizens.
It is also important to tackle high level corruption which has in most of the countries, exacerbated the poverty of majority of the people. By diverting scarce resources to private hands at the expense of much needed projects such as schools, hospitals, roads and reliable institutions, poverty is being reinforced. This challenge must be addressed. And to the extent that literacy rates and tertiary enrollments are significant drivers of economic growth and poverty alleviation, there is need to make education a priority in sub-Saharan Africa.
It is important to tackle high level corruption which has in most of the countries, exacerbated the poverty of majority of the people