2010 is over and for the 289 States that adopted the Millennium Development Goals set by the UN in 2000, only four years remain to achieve them. Among these goals, reducing extreme poverty and hunger is still the most urgent priority for the entire international community.
The opportunity for Yusuf Bangura, a researcher from Sierra Leone and a specialist on Africa working for the UN, to publish an article on the subject in the Algerian newspaper La Tribune1 ,which we have published below and recommend reading. He reminds us in particular that if we want to effectively combat poverty and famine in Africa, the coordination of all economic sectors and institutions is paramount.
Also, should agriculture be an integral part of a vast development program? This is an aspect we think is important to remember during the second international “Dakar Agricole” forum in Senegal, devoted to the global regulation of agricultural markets and its related issues.
Momagri Editorial Board
“Africa’s poverty rate is the highest in the world. Despite the success some countries have seen in their effort to reduce these rates by half before 2015 - the first of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - most of the continent will fall well short. Income inequality is higher than elsewhere and various disparities (gender, ethnic and regional) persist.
These injustices endure for several reasons: poor economic growth which fails to create jobs, the fragmentation and underfunding of social policies and the States’ ineffectiveness to meet the needs of their citizens. Following the contraction of African economies in the 1980s and 1990s, growth resumed from 2000 to 2007 thanks to a rise in commodity prices and improvement in the global economy. This helped countries such as Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali and Senegal to reduce poverty, which however, remains high. Elsewhere in the world, an increase in revenue has accompanied strong growth, creating a shift from agriculture to industry and from industry to services. In Africa, the evolution was different: industrialization is underdeveloped, the productivity of agriculture and its services remain low. Result: the labour market is segmented and unequal.
Underemployment is widespread, incomes from the informal economy and agriculture remain low. Even relatively diversified economies like South Africa are experiencing persistent mass unemployment. Working conditions are particularly poor for women.
Growth that creates jobs remains elusive for two reasons.
First, globalization has weakened the links between agriculture and industry. Urban populations are mainly fed by food imports, which undermines domestic agriculture. Agriculture and industry have consequently stagnated. Second, free-market ideas continue to dominate macroeconomic policies promoting spending restrictions, privatization and market liberalization. From this perspective, employment is considered a by-product of growth with no need for specific policy.
But achieving equitable growth and generating employment requires specific policies and African states, among other things, could productively link agriculture to industry and other sectors, boost domestic production and stimulate the demand for products and services offered locally, invest in infrastructure and education to improve the skills of the workforce and the quality of jobs open to women, avoid austerity policies during periods of slow growth and demand reforms at a global level to reduce fluctuations in commodity prices and interest rates.
Social investments can also dramatically reduce the level of poverty. During the 1960s and 70s, public spending on education and health increased rapidly in most African countries. But in the 1980s, economic crises and extreme pro-market policies led to cuts in social spending in most countries. The burden of funding was transferred to consumers in the form of user fees.
In Kenya, spending by the government for basic services decreased from 20% of total budget commitments in 1980 to 12% in 1997. The result was that low income groups only had access to poor services. The countries where poverty declined rapidly had policy systems that promoted economic growth and reinforced social programs. Most have also established and maintained competent administrations, institutionalized rights and have democratic regimes. In Mauritius, one of the oldest democracies in Africa, small farmers have teamed up with agricultural workers and urban trade unionists to force the state to institutionalize social rights.
To date, Africa’s experience shows that anti-poverty measures that are not linked to production systems, social policies and the political context have had mixed results. For maximum impact, it is essential to effectively coordinate economic, social and political policies and institutions”.
Yusuf Bangura, La Tribune, 22nd December 2010