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Submitted by Alphonsus C. Nwoye on
African Poverty Reduction Road map Introduction Poverty classification depends on the poverty line and the level of per capital income in a country. Using the $1 per day and $2 per day international poverty lines to identify the proportion of the population which are poor, it is clear that the key feature of poverty in Africa is that there is a generalized or mass poverty. The majority of African population lives at or below income levels which are not sufficient to meet their basic needs (UNCTAD, Report, 2004: The Least Developed Countries). Some 300 million Africans – almost half the population – live on barely $0.65 a day (in purchasing power parity terms), (The World Bank, 2000: Can Africa Claim the 21st Century) and in fact, this number is growing unabated. However, poverty in Africa could be attributed to internal factors such as bad governance, lack of capabilities/public services, unbridled corruption and external variables like debt burden, unfair trade and unfavourable climate change. This write-up preferred solutions on how to alleviate poverty in Africa. Poverty Issues and Solutions A Internal Factors: i. Bad governance – For governments to work for the poor – the people should have a say in the things that affect their lives. Governance should focus on demand delivery, not supply delivery. Solution: - Choose their leaders – and change them if necessary. - To be governed well and treated fairly. - Create opportunities for self-reliance – sustainable livelihood, entrepreneurship/vocational training openings and shared prosperity. There is need for good governance – the deal between government and citizens (The practice of social contract theory). For the deal to work, governments must get things done. They must listen, and respond to what people need. And people must be able to make sure their politicians and public servants answer for their actions. This is about politics. It is about how elected representatives, ordinary people, local communities, trade unionists, farmers, journalists, business people, and people in many other walks of life work together. It is about how decisions get made. Good politics makes for good governance. Without it fight against poverty can not be won (DFID, 2006: Eliminating World Poverty). ii. Lack of capabilities/public services: The “dynasty of poverty: could be traced to this factor because the descendants of the poor also remain poor. In Africa, the rural poor account for 80 percent, urban poverty is substantial and appears to be growing. Vast inequality in incomes, in assets (including education and health status), in control over public resources, and in access to essential services, as well as pervasive insecurity widen the poverty gap. Primary school enrollment is declining. General health of the population is deteriorating, particularly among the poor and children occasioned mainly by HIV/AIDS and child-related diseases which are rising at geometrical progression in Africa. Solution: - building of stronger economics that would create more jobs and more income for governments to spend on public services including businesses, and investment in infrastructure, agriculture and trade. - helping poor countries get children into school, improve healthcare, provide clean water, and offer social benefits like pensions for the poorest people. - avoid conflicts and violence that keep people poor. The UN and the International community should promote peace and security more through peace building, conflict prevention and management in Africa than peacekeeping forces. - Investing in technology that would better drugs and cleaner energy, help farmers with new techniques and manage the dangers of climate damage. Also, revolutionizing ICT in Africa would foster poverty alleviation through world sourcing, back office, online service trade and job opportunities etc. iii. Unbridled Corruption: Corruption is a world-wide social phenomenon which hits the poorest Africa hardest because public corruption in Africa is a systemic problem as a result of government control of Africa’s rich natural resources. Corruption prevails when people: - steal public and natural resources (like mineral or oil); - demand bribes for public services; and - abuse power, for example by interfering with the election’s, neglecting due process, accountability and transparency in government transactions. Solutions: - no form of corruption should be accepted. Poor people should not suffer because of the actions of their corrupt leader. - The UN and international community should help to reduce international corruption by cracking down on international bribery, money laundering, and setting standards for international business and public contracts; - help countries fight corruption, through the courts, in parliaments, with campaigners and in the media; - Channeling aids to achieve results by working with governments where the conditions are right and working with charities and communities where they are not. B. External Factors: i. Debt burden: The debt burden for Africa which borrowed heavily form the 1970s and 1980s is now unmanageable. The situation is worsened by natural disasters, civil wars, and corruption. Solution: - Debt cancellation will benefit Africa. It will help get millions of children into school and anti-retroviral drugs to people with AIDS, including free basic health care. ii. Unfair Trade: The Doha Trade Development agenda is aimed at balancing the multilateral trading system in favour of the poor countries in Africa. Major contending issues in the agenda are farm subsides – government subsides to cotton farmers in US make cotton so cheap that most African farmers cannot compete; and trade restrictions – especially in EU, where Ghana can export cocoa beans but not chocolate. Since 1985, trade has lifted China’s 200 million people out of poverty (DFID, 2006). In the global trading system, Africa has import dependent economy; buy at the sellers’ price and sell at the buyers’ price, hence unequal trade relationship with other regions of the world. Solution: For effective participation in the global trade; African countries need to develop their infrastructure – roads, electricity and water supply and where necessary, adopt public-private partnership as well as enhance investment, and reduce excessive trade regulation. Pro-poor fiscal reform that would give financial access at a very low interest rate to the poor should be adopted and cooperative society development should be revolutionalized. World Trade Organization (WTO) should ensure that trade talks give African countries a chance to trade their way out of poverty. The emerging trade democracy is a pointer in this direction. Economic justice/fair trade practices should be adopted. iii. Unfvaourbale climate change: Excessive industrialization by industrialized countries occasioned ozone dilapidation, atmospheric pollution causing flood and droughts that affect water supplies and hitting farmer in Africa adversely. Solution: - There is need for an international agreement to stabilize green house gases in the atmosphere, but should leave room for Africa to grow and be part of the negotiation. - Promote cleaner energy in Africa. - Help Africa to adopt with the effects of climate change. Conclusion: While addressing the culture of poverty variables, there is need for a bottom-top approach to revolutionalize agriculture to absorb the poor and unemployed, promote the culture of entrepreneurship, vocational and technical training, cooperative enterprises to enhance self-reliance and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to promote private-sector involvement in Africa. This vision is imperative because over the years African countries have been fighting poverty without eradicating the environment (culture) of poverty. Alphonsus C. Nwoye e-mail: [email protected] Cell No: 234-8037904529 G.P.O Box 6655, Onitsha – Nigeria