November 7, 2013 | By Dina Smeltz

Africa May Be Rising, but Not Lifting All Equally

There has been a lot of hopeful talk about Africa in the past year.

For instance, the World Bank has noted that several African countries, including Ethiopia, Mozambique, Niger, Sierra Leone and Rwanda are among the fastest growing countries worldwide.   The authors of The Fastest Billion: The Story Behind Africa's Economic Revolution  also report that Africa now has more of the fastest-growing economies globally than any other continent. In its 2013 Annual Development Effectiveness Reviewthe African Development Bank echoes the same themethat Africa has become the world's fastest growing region. And the Economist reports that over the past ten years real income per person on the continent has increased by more than 30 percent.

Amidst these optimistic assessments, the Afrobarometer released new survey findings from 34 African countries (with fieldwork spanning October 2011 through June 2013), which prompted some caveats to the emerging Africa thesis. Some of the results that comprise the Afrobarometer's Lived Poverty Index findings across all 34 countries indicated that:

  • About two in ten overall report experiencing frequent shortages (going "many times" or "always" in the past year) in water (22%), medicines and medical care (20%), and food (17%).
  • One in ten say they have experienced a frequent shortage in cooking oil (13%).
  • Four in ten have experienced frequent shortages of cash income (44%).
  • Shortages were more often experienced in rural than urban areas.  Those in Burundi, Guinea, niger, Senegal and Togo experienced the highest average levels of lived poverty.

These results motivated some writers to highlight the disconnect between these findings and the Africa Rising narrative (for example, in the Christian Science Monitor and on the Afrobarometer's website). If nothing else, the results seem to show that advances in Africa's GDP growth are uneven and are not trickling down to the substantial impoverished segments of these populations.  The authors of Afrobarometer Policy Brief 1 that also compared trends across the decade and found that while lived poverty was decreased in some countries, "there are as many where lived poverty has increased."

This is especially apparent within the context of other demographic trends. An African Development Bank brief shows that 44 percent of Africans fall below the poverty line of $1.25 a day, though this percentage has fallen about 4 percentage points since 2000. Sixty percent live below another often-used international poverty line of $2 dollars a day.  The McKinsey Global Institute's Lions on the Move report found in their 27-country sample that 63 percent of Africans work in subsistence farming and informal employment, are therefore vulnerable to tremors  in the global economic system.

As others  (Javier Blas, Jan Hofmeyr, etc.) have pointed out, poverty reduction has not moved as quickly as GDP growth rates. As Africa's economy expands, it appears its inequality gap may as well.

About

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.

Archive


| By Jack Benjamin

6 Ways in Which Liberal and Moderate Democrats Diverge on Key Issues

Democratic primary season is well under way, highlighted by recent debates and battleground fundraising by the large field of presidential hopefuls. As candidates deliver their pitch to voters, party supporters are not in lockstep on every issue.


| By Ruby Scanlon

The Generational Divide Over Climate Change

America’s young and old are split on what to do about climate change, presenting a major hurdle for the country’s youth to attain serious and immediate action.









| By Bettina Hammer

Americans Aren't Fans of Arms Sales

The United States has long been the tops arms supplier in the world. Yet public opinion data shows that Americans aren’t fans of U.S. arms sales.


| By Bettina Hammer

Little Admiration for the United States among MENA Publics

Most Americans believe that respect and admiration for the United States are instrumental in achieving US foreign policy goals. But a new poll finds publics in the Middle East and North Africa continue to view the United States unfavorably. 


| By Bettina Hammer

Peace to Prosperity Misses the Mark with Palestinians

At the June 25-26 Bahrain Peace to Prosperity Workshop, Jared Kushner presented the first component of a U.S. peace plan for the Middle East. But how does this plan sit with the Palestinian public?



| By Dina Smeltz, Brendan Helm

Scholars vs the Public: Collapse of the INF Treaty

In early February 2019, the United States withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty following President Trump’s October 2018 (and the Obama administration’s July 2014) accusations that Russia was failing to comply with the treaty. Russia withdrew from the treaty the next day.

Findings from a February 2019 Chicago Council on Global Affairs general public survey and a December 2018 Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) survey of International Relations (IR) scholars around the world illustrate how these different populations perceive the collapse of the INF Treaty.