Using Knowledge to Fight Poverty in Africa


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Photo Credit: @Gates Foundation. A girl plays with a bicycle tire in the slum of Korogocho, one of the largest slum neighborhoods of Nairobi, Kenya
Although sub-Saharan Africa has had sustained economic growth for almost two decades, the incidence of extreme poverty in the region remains staggeringly high. Our best estimate is that in 2010 almost one in every two (49%) Africans lived on less than U$1.25 per day (at 2005 prices).

This is an impressive decrease from 58% in 1999, but at the same time there is a general sense that progress has been too slow. Africa is rising, with GDP growth rates upwards of 6% between 2003 and 2013 (if one excludes richer and less dynamic South Africa) but the poor’s living standards are not rising as fast as GDP.
Projections suggest that by 2030, one quarter to one third of the population will be poor (at $1.25/day), with more than two-thirds of the world’s poor living in the region. The World Bank is committed to accelerating the pace of this process of poverty reduction, but we know that this will only be possible if we gain a deeper understanding of the barriers and traps that prevent people from escaping poverty in Africa, and of which policies are most effective in helping them do so.
To that end, some 120 researchers, students, and policy-makers are gathering at the Maison de la Recherche in Paris, France, this Monday and Tuesday, for a conference on Harnessing Africa’s Growth for Faster Poverty Reduction. Co-organized by the Paris School of Economics and the World Bank’s Office of the Chief Economist for the Africa Region, the first Annual Bank Conference on Africa (ABCA) brings together the latest research on the measurement and understanding of poverty in Africa. The event features a number of eminent invited speakers, as well as 47 research papers in parallel sessions, selected from among over 300 submissions. Presenters come from a number of African institutions and from a range of leading European and North American universities, as well as the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
Topics range from the nuts and bolts of improving the data used for poverty measurement (as well as macroeconomic time series!) to the use of technology for improving accountability in service delivery. There is much emphasis on understanding productivity in African agriculture – a sector that remains the largest employer of poor Africans. Other sessions focus on the poverty consequence of conflicts; on inequality and polarization; and, of course, on the importance of managing risk and dealing with various kinds of shocks. The full program is here.
The World Bank’s Africa Vice President, Makhtar Diop, and DFID’s Chief Economist, Stefan Dercon, open the conference on Monday morning, followed by another invited panel with leading academics. A World Bank team working on a two-volume flagship report on poverty is also on hand, both to gather feedback on its own proposed outline and early findings, as well as to feast and reflect on the wide-ranging presentations and discussions.  Some of our keynote and invited speakers have also agreed to contribute posts to this blog, so watch this space. And finally, mark your calendars for 2015: the ABCA will be an annual event, always in partnership with a leading research institution. The rumor is that the 2015 installment will be held at the University of California at Berkeley, with a focus on the economics of conflict in Africa.


Kathleen Beegle

Research Manager and Lead Economist, Human Development, Development Economics

Francisco Ferreira

Former Acting Director for Development Policy in the World Bank’s Development Research Group

Kathleen Beegle

Research Manager and Lead Economist, Human Development, Development Economics

Ndofor Gabriel
June 23, 2014

To solve the problem of poverty in Africa;
1) Such conferences on poverty should be held in Africa. Those living in extreme poverty will never have the opportunity to be heard if such conferences are help in a developed world. Researchers are not poor.
2) Western Governments; USA, France, Switzerland, Britain must commit to refund to the poor Africans, all the funds stolen by rich African and lodged with them.

Ajenifuja Kazeem
June 23, 2014

To end poverty in Africa, I would suggest first we show wat truly love is among ourselves after which we try to collect from those that r wealthy( rich) an d give to those that are poor by properly utilizing the tax collected by government. Let the government show true leadership and not dictatorship which they are now. A public servant of what salaries having the wealth and properties next to what God knows.
Moreso, let all of us have the fear of Almighty Allah and the fear of the unknown cos we are there today but who knows what will happen the next seconds? We also need to be pro-active and look at what and how we can add up to the improvement of our environment and country at large while those in power makes it condusive for citizens to wanting to do more for their fatherland( humanity).
All man would account for his/ her deed.
God bless our country, continent n world at large. Ameen

Lily Nyariki
June 24, 2014

knowledge acquisition needs to enabled from an early age when children are in school. Dealing with adults to appreciate data as a means to reducing poverty may not make any impact.

kent daniel kodzo vorsah
June 24, 2014

african's mostly sees knowlegde not a powerful tool

Adriaan Cilliers
October 13, 2014

Poverty is a huge problem accross the globe, but in Africa a whole continent is poor. There have been many plans to try and reduce the poverty but nothing was sustainable. The plans often focused on reducing the poverty for a short time by giving money to the poor and giving them food. This is a must but the poor people need to be taught to produce money for themselves and not to be dependant on transfers. They need to be taught how to make money and how to make a business work.

Babubhai Vaghela
June 28, 2014

Aim needs to be reduce rich. Only then extreme poverty can reduce and poor get basic necessities of life to live as human being.

December 09, 2014

One way to reduce poverty is to look at areas where the poor are hardest hit in their "wallets" and progress from there. Evidently the basic areas are food, shelter, transportation, etc. Of course this will then take us on a hop through education, governance, socio-political institutions, "mindless" population growth etc.