This paper reviews recent research on income and non-income inequalities within countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It concentrates on research conducted by national and regional institutions and by international agencies in the region. Research on income inequality in Africa is a recent phenomenon. Most studies began in the early 1990s, with the increased availability of household budget surveys for countries in the region. The advent of PRSPs and MDGs, which moved the debate towards issues of pro-poor growth, also required discussion on the nature and trends of income inequality. Another reason was the lessons coming from a number of countries that although growth may be necessary, it was not sufficient to reduce poverty.
Since the election of the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) government in 1991, the Zambian authorities have implemented sweeping economic reforms. In addition to undertaking a sharp stabilisation programme early in the decade, the government have implemented reforms in agricultural marketing, a large privatisation programme, sweeping trade policy reforms and, more recently, public sector reform. The implementation of stabilisation and structural reforms in any country can have a major impact upon poverty and inequality. In order to obtain an accurate view of these effects, it is necessary to have nationally representative household survey data from both before and after the reform episode. Fortunately, there were four such surveys in Zambia during the 1990s ñ the first in 1991 coincided with the election of the new government, and further surveys were conducted in 1993, 1996 and 1998. This paper reanalyses the household survey data from three of these surveys in order to chart the evolution of poverty and inequality during the 1990s. In addition, the economic policies pursued during the 1990s are described in detail, enabling linkages to be drawn between the policies implemented and the observed changes in poverty and inequality.
Rural poverty rates in Zambia have remained very high, at 80%, over the past decade and a half, whilst urban poverty rates have declined, from 49% in 1991 to 34% in 2006. Redressing this high rural poverty rate remains a government priority in the National Development Programs. However, solutions have proven elusive. Solid empirically based information on dynamics that have improved the welfare of small-scale farm households in Zambia, combined with an agenda for disseminating this information in public discourse, offer prospects for generating a more transparent and pro-poor policy orientation.
This brief examines the problem of income inequality in Africa. Specifically, it addresses its trend and variations as well as the role of the African Development Bank in tackling it. Africa accounts for a large share of the world’s people living in absolute poverty.
Its share of the world’s poor rose from just below 20% to close to 25% (Kayizzi-Mugerwa, 2001). Nearly 50% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa lives on less than US$ 1 a day today: the world’s highest rate of extreme poverty in the world.
Poverty is the most profound challenge that Zambia faces today. It is a social crisis with the majority of people denied a minimum decent living standard. The latest JCTR (2001) Monthly Food Basket Survey shows that it is becoming more and more difficult for the majority to meet basic needs, because food costs have been rising while wages remain static and too far below the food cost. The gravity of the situation is such that more and more lives are being lost due to hunger, sickness and disease including HIV/AIDS. But what is the definition of poverty?
After decades of conflict between the northern and southern regions of Sudan – which engulfed the country in two phases of civil war from 1955 to 1972 and 1982 to 2005 and resulted in the loss of 2.5 million lives1 – a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005 between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). One of the key clauses of the Peace Agreement was the recognition of South Sudan’s right to hold a referendum on whether to remain part of Sudan or secede to form a new nation. A referendum was held in January 2011 and resulted in a 98.8% approval of the option to secede . The Republic of South Sudan (population 8.26 million3 ) was established on July 9th 2011.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has commissioned independent annual Human Development Reports (HDRs) since 1990 with the goal of putting people at the centre of development, going beyond income as a measure of assessing people’s longterm well-being. The HDRs messages and the tools to implement them have been embraced by governments and people around the developing world, as shown by the publication of many Regional and National Human Development Reports by more than 140 countries over the past two decades. This report is the first National HDR for Sudan and is the result of extensive consultations with leading scholars, government officials and development practitioners. The report examines the relationship between human development and conflict in Sudan. It shows that where conflict surges and thrives, among and within communities, human development suffers the most. And, where conflict is not the case, opportunities to expand human freedoms, obtain better educational opportunities, greater and equitable gender participation, improved infrastructure and better health services were realized. However, in Sudan, human development and conflict remain tied together. The Sudan Human Development Report takes aim at disentangling this complex relationship.
During the first decade of democracy in South Africa, the economy has recorded one of its longest periods of positive economic growth in the country’s history. One of the more vexing issues within the economic policy terrain in post-apartheid South Africa though, has been the impact of this consistently positive growth performance on social welfare, specifically income poverty and inequality. Many observers have highlighted the potential harmful consequences of persistently high levels of poverty and, particularly economic inequality, on the quality and sustainability of democracy (See for example Bermeo, 2009; Kapstein & Converse, 2008 and Wells & Krieckhaus, 2006). High levels of inequality have been linked to behaviours such as decreased voter turnout, depressed political engagement and high crime rates – all of which can have a negative impact on the quality of democracy. Increasing levels of income inequality also have the potential to divide citizens and contribute to social conflict. In such a situation, the diverse pressures on a government can lead to politicians resorting to surreptitious tactics such as “playing some voters off against each other” (Bermeo, 2009).
The Southern African region is characterised by unacceptable high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality. In many cases, poverty and inequality are on the increase, particularly in countries in crisis such as Zimbabwe and Swaziland. Neither agricultural economies such as Malawi nor resource-rich countries such as Namibia, South Africa and Angola have been able to significantly reduce wealth gaps and the rates of poverty and unemployment.
In South Africa with its high levels of racial inequality, inequality in income distribution is especially large and persistent. For an upper-middle income country (in terms of GDP per capita and economic structure), South African social indicators (e.g. life expectancy, infant mortality or quality of education) are closer to those of lower-middle income or even low income countries. This reflects the unequal distribution of resources and opportunities. A small group of highincome earners sharply increases average incomes, but has little impact on average social indicators, which are low because of this very same inequality. Even in 1995, before the full advent of AIDS, South African life expectancy at birth was only 63 – ten years less than that of Panama, a country of comparable income, and four years less than that of the Philippines, a country with one-third of South Africa‟s per capita income (World Bank 1997).