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Ghana’s challenges: Widening regional inequality and natural resource depreciation

Tomomi Tanaka's picture

The impact of growth on poverty in Ghana has slowed substantially over the years. Ghana’s largest fall in poverty, 2% a year, was experienced during 1991–1998. Between 2012 and 2016, the poverty rate declined by only 0.2% per year. The growth elasticity of poverty (percentage reduction in poverty for each percentage point in economic growth) has decreased, from −1.18 between 1992 and 1998 to −0.07 between 2012 and 2016. This may reflect the declining contribution of agriculture, in which the majority of poor households are engaged, the limited job opportunities for higher productivity in the services sector, and a largely capital-intensive industrial development.

Ghana’s growth history: New growth momentum since the 1990s helped put Ghana at the front of poverty reduction in Africa

Michael Geiger's picture

Ghana is a politically, economically, ethnically and demographically diverse country. The origins of economic and social inequality between the north and south of Ghana are largely due to geography and historical legacies of inequality established in colonial times. Still, the country had and has been successful in preventing tensions and conflicts, in part because Ghanaian government has maintained ethno-regional balances in representation.

Leveling the playing field in Mozambique – Making growth benefit all

Javier E. Baez's picture

Much has changed in Mozambique since the turn of the century. Today, the typical Mozambican lives 10 years longer than in 2001, largely due to a significant decline in infant and maternal mortality, reduced levels of morbidity across the population and improved access to health care services. Children are now more likely to participate in school than ever before, and the average household has a better chance of consuming safe water and being connected to the electricity grid. More Mozambicans live in better quality dwellings, scroll drown through messages received on their cellphones, and watch football games on flat screen TVs.

This progress has taken place in the backdrop of remarkable growth. Mozambique witnessed one of the fastest growth rates across Sub-Saharan Africa with its gross domestic product (GDP) expanding at an annual average rate of 7.2% between 2000 and 2016. As a result, average incomes have doubled even though fertility rates have remained relatively high.

How can African governments pay to expand their safety nets?

Lucilla Maria Bruni's picture

Expanding the coverage of safety net programs in Africa represents a serious fiscal challenge. While there is substantial variation across countries, on average governments in Africa spend about 1.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) on social safety nets (see figure). This is lower than the spending on other sectors such as energy, health care, education, and, in some cases, the military. Crucially, this level of spending is inadequate to face the high chronic poverty rates and vulnerability to shocks households face in Africa.

But the cash transfer program was designed by experts, why doesn’t it work?

Sarah Coll-Black's picture

The design of the safety net program is perfect; it is based on the latest data and evidence; it enjoys political support at the highest levels, and it has sufficient financing.

So why can this safety net program not even get started after a year?

Maybe the answer has something to do with institutions. Accounting for the formal and informal “rules of the game” for social safety nets is key to the success of any program or system. In our chapter “Anchoring in Strong Institutions to Expand and Sustain Social Safety Nets” in the recently-released regional study on safety nets, we discuss some critical aspects of institutions that can make (or break) a social safety net program and how these evolve as programs grow in Africa.

Empirical evidence shows migrants in South Africa create jobs

Shoghik Hovhannisyan's picture
Photo: Steven doRemedios


The Triple Threat, as it is referred to in South African policy circles, remains a key policy priority for the government; namely, inequality, poverty and unemployment. The latter – unemployment – was 27.2% in the second quarter of 2018 and at such high rates, it is a critical development issue in contemporary South Africa.

The politics of safety nets: Don’t shy away

Thomas Bossuroy's picture
If you have ever brought up politics in a technical meeting on safety nets, or on social policy in general, you might have observed one or all of the following reactions: sighs, eye rolls, forced laughs, desperate looks to the door. A few awkward minutes may ensue, filled with polished remarks only accessible to experts in double-entendre. Then you might have had follow-up backroom discussions in hushed tones. Then maybe heard a few loud rants on how politics will never change and the world would be better off if it was left to technical experts.

Safety nets boost consumption levels of the poorest across Africa

Colin Andrews's picture

Social safety nets are among the most frequently evaluated social policy interventions in Africa. The surge of information has left practitioners and policymakers alike a little puzzled. What can we say about the average impacts of social safety nets across the continent? Our Chapter 2 in the report on Realizing the Full Potential of Social Safety Nets in Africa tackles these questions by aggregating findings across numerous studies to provide a more systematic assessment. The full methodological details (that would have overwhelmed the chapter for a World Bank report!) are detailed in the companion Policy Research Working Paper.

We identified 55 impact evaluations to study, spanning 27 programs in 14 African countries. (These 55 studies were culled from a longer list of 250 evaluations identified on the basis of study quality and comparable outcomes.) Table 1 summarizes the findings of the analysis. The results are strongest on equity - that is ensuring the poorest households can afford their basic needs. These findings are certainly not entirely new: they complement (and are consistent with) existing literature. For example, the recently published global meta-analysis on food security and assets, as well as another systematic review for Africa and the world.   

How skilled are refugees in Ethiopia?

Utz Pape's picture

Ethiopia has been suffering from multiple refugee crises – some more protracted, some more recent – that put a strain on coping capacity of national and local authorities. A new World Bank survey and report inform policies on durable solutions for the displaced populations through an evidence-based approach.

Displacement situations in Ethiopia resulted from a combination of protracted conflicts in neighboring countries (Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan), more recent crises (South Sudan, Yemen), and endemic internal ethnic unrest in some peripheral regions (Oromia, Somali/Ogaden, Afar). As a result of these regional and domestic conflicts, Ethiopia has been one of the most important refugee hosting countries for decades.

There are four main Ethiopian regions that host refugees, each of whom hosts a specific group and has a unique ethnic composition: Tigray and Afar (hosting Eritreans), Gambella (hosting South Sudanese), Benishangul Gumuz (hosting mostly Sudanese, but also South Sudanese), and Somali (Somalis). Thus, the displacement contexts are remarkably diverse: the regions hosting refugees are all peripheral and relatively underserved. Eritreans, Somalis, South Sudanese and Sudanese were displaced due to different drivers related to conflict and fragility, and each group is integrated to different degrees within Ethiopian economy and host communities.

Social safety nets in Africa: Everywhere and growing, but going where?

Kathleen Beegle's picture

Despite a fall in the rate of poverty rate in Africa (down from 54% in 1990 to 41% in 2015), there are more poor people than in 1990 because of rapid population growth. By 2015, half of the world’s extreme poor were in Africa—up from 25% in 2002. Statistics in the non-monetary poverty space echo these patterns. While education, health, and other critical services (water, sanitation, and others) have expanded for people living in the region, levels are still extremely low. Many people lack adequate water and sanitation, and many children are in poor health and lack quality education opportunities.

There are many avenues for working to alleviate poverty in Africa. Among the newest approaches has been the rapid expansion of social safety nets.  Every African country has now established at least one social safety net program, and many have several. Back in 2000, few people were talking of social safety nets in the region. Now there is lots of talk! The average number of new social safety net programs launched each year in African countries since 2010 exceeded 10 (see figure).

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