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close this bookSustaining the Future: Economic, Social, and Environmental Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNU, 1996, 365 pages)
close this folderPart 1: Economy and society: development issues
close this folderPoverty, vulnerability, and rural development
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentThe nature of poverty
View the documentRural poverty and development in Sub-Saharan Africa
View the documentAspects of economy and society in SS Africa
View the documentVulnerability
View the documentPoverty and economic reform
View the documentConclusion
View the documentReferences

Rural poverty and development in Sub-Saharan Africa

Table 2.1 lists 43 countries of the conventional "Sub-Saharan Africa" (Africa south of the Sahara minus South Africa and some islands) by two wealth indicators, by one integrative "development" indicator, and by the data available for the percentage of rural population below the poverty line. The HDI (Human Development Index) is UNDP's merger of life expectancy and literacy rate with real GDP to give a composite index of "development." High levels of literacy and life expectancy suggest the probability of access to education, medical services, and nutrition by a wide spectrum of the population and possibly a more equitable distribution of wealth. There are problems about the way in which HDI is calculated, but these are less serious in the case of the poorer countries. The date of publication is 1991 and the data are derived from a mixture of years, best described as mid to late 1980s.

On the HDI basis, the six poorest countries are Sierra Leone, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Djibouti. Apart from Djibouti, it looks as though HDI poverty in 1991 was mainly a western West African and Sahelian phenomenon. The effect of major shocks such as war and drought can be obscured by the range of data years and one may suspect that some of the countries so affected must have poorer results in particular years. While the rankings under the different headings in Table 2.1 have serious differences for the poorest countries, there appears to be some partial agreement amongst them with regard to the six richest, which are mainly located in central and southern Africa: Gabon, Botswana, Namibia, Cameroon, Congo, and Swaziland, although Lesotho, Cape Verde, and Zimbabwe have higher HDI values than Cameroon and Congo. Generally, the four variables in the table show some approximate relationship, although there are several striking exceptions.

Table 2.1 Sub-Saharan Africa: 43 countries ranked by per capita GNP in 1989 and listing UNDP's "real GDP" and Human Development Index together with the rural population below the poverty line

Rank Country GNP (US$ per capita) 1989 Real GDP PPPa (US$ per capita) 1985-88 HDIb 1991

Rural population below poverty

          1990 1980-88
          million per cent
1 Mozambique 80 1,070 0.155 - -
2 Ethiopia 120 350 0.166 26.5 65
3 Tanzania 130 570 0.266 - -
4 Somalia 170 1,330 0.118 3.4 70
5 Guinea-Bissau 180 670 0.088 - -
6 Malawi 180 620 0.179 6.3 85
7 Chad 190 510 0.087 2.2 56
8 Burundi 220 550 0.177 4.4 85
9 Sierra Leone 220 1,030 0.048 1.8 65
10 Madagascar 230 670 0.371 4.6 50
11 Gambia 240 650 0.064 0.3 40
12 Nigeria 250 1,030 0.242 - -
13 Uganda 250 410 0.204 - -
14 Zaire 260 430 0.299 17.4 80
15 Mali 270 500 0.072 3.6 48
16 Niger 290 610 0.079 2.0 35
17 Burkina Faso 320 650 0.081 - -
18 Rwanda 320 730 0.213 6.0 90
19 Equatorial Guinea 330 700c 0.186 - -
20 Sao Tome and Principe 340 620c 0.399 - -
21 Kenya 360 1,010 0.399 10.6 55
22 Benin 380 1,050 0.114 1.9 65
23 Central African Rep. 390 780 0.166 1.4 91
24 Ghana 390 970 0.311 3.7 37
25 Togo 390 700 0.225 - -
26 Zambia 390 870 0.351 - -
27 Guinea 430 910 0.066 - -
28 Liberia 450' 890 0.220 0.3 23
29 Lesotho 470 1,390 0.432 0.8 55
30 Djibouti 480' 730c 0.083 0.0 51
31 Sudan 480' 970 0.164 16.7 85
32 Mauritania 500 960 0.140 - -
33 Angola 610 840 0.150 - -
34 Senegal 650 1,250 0.189 - -
35 Zimbabwe 650 1,370 0.413 - -
36 Cape Verde 780 1,410 0.428 - -
37 Cote d'lvoire 790 1,430 0.311 2.0 26
38 Swaziland 900 2,110 0.462 0.3 50
39 Congo, People's Rep. 940 2,120 0.374 - -
40 Cameroon 1,000 1,670 0.328 2.6 40
41 Namibia 1,030 1,500' 0.440 - -
42 Botswana 1,600 2,510 0.524 0 5 55
43 Gabon 2,960 3,960 0.510 - -

Data sources: UNDP (1991): World Bank (1991a).
a. PPP = Purchasing Power Parity, i.e. based on a basket of goods.
b. HDI = Human Development Index (UNDP 1990:9 16; 1991,13-21).
c. Data from 1988 (GNP) or from UNDP estimates.

Data for the rural population below the poverty line (UNDP 1991: 152-153) give some indication of the numbers of the rural poor. Perhaps we may regard them as an educated guess. Such data are available for only 24 countries and exclude some of the larger, including Nigeria. Probably the rural population of Sub-Saharan Africa in 1989 was 72 per cent of the total of 480 million, or 346 million. The rural population below the poverty line may be guessed at 60 per cent, or 208 million. Nigeria's rural poverty total must be the largest, possibly 44 million or more based on UNDP and World Bank data, and probably six countries have 60 per cent of the total of SS African rural poverty: (as percentages of SS African rural poverty;? = personal estimate) Nigeria 21?, Ethiopia 13, Zaire 8, Sudan 8, Tanzania 5?, Kenya 5. (If the 1991 Nigerian census figure of 88.5 million is used instead of a guessed forecast of 120 million, then the Nigerian rural poor may total 38 million and the other figures be modified accordingly. In doing this Nigeria's population growth rate since the 1963 census is then reduced to the improbably low level of 1.67 per cent per annum!)

Table 2.2 offers some idea of relative poverty by household income distribution in 9 of the 36 larger countries (population of 1 million or more), but the data are spread over 20 years. In five of these countries the share of the lowest quintile is less than 5 per cent. In four Kenya, Zambia, Cote d'Ivoire (1985-86), and Botswana - the difference in average household income level for the top and bottom quintiles is of the order of 20 times or more. The household income distribution in some at least of the SS African countries is more inequitable than in, for example, India (lowest quintile 8.1 per cent, highest 41.4 per cent) or in any Western country and is similar to the more extreme Latin American examples such as Brazil (lowest quintile 2.4 per cent, highest 62.6 per cent).

Table 2.2 Household income distribution for nine Sub-Saharan Afncan countries, 1967-1989 (percentage share of household income by percentile groups of house holds)

Country Period

Quintile

Highest10%
    Lowest 2nd 3rd 4th Highest  
Malawi 1967 68 10.4 11.1 13.1 14.8 50.6 40.1
Sudan 1967-68 4.0 8.9 16.6 2U.7 49.8 34.6
Sierra Leone 1967-69 7.5 11.7 15.7 21.7 43.4 28.2
Tanzania 1969 5.8 10.2 13.9 19.7 50.4 35.6
Kenya 1974-76 2.6 6.3 11.5 19.2 60.4 45.8
Zambia 1976 3.4 7.4 11.2 16.9 61.1 46.4
Botswana 1985-86 2.5 6.5 11.8 20.2 59.0 42.8
Cote d'lvoire 1985 86 2.4 6.2 10.9 19.1 61.4 43.7
  1986-87a 5.0 8.0 13.1 21.3 52.7 36.3
Ghana 1987-88 6.5 10.9 15.7 22.3 44.6 29.1
  1988 89a 7.1 11.5 15.9 21.8 43.7 28.5

Sources: Worid Bank, World Development Report, 1984: 272; 1987: 252 1988: 272; 1990: 236; 1991: 262; 1992:276.
a. Per capita expenditure.

National data may be explored further by examining: (1) the relationships between a number of social and economic variables; (2) the ways in which some of these variables are grouped by components of economic and social behaviour.

Thirty-four variables were identified, mainly for 1989 (in a few cases 1988 or 1987 or averages over those years and including some growth variables over the previous decade), apart from illiteracy (1985) and the agricultural labour force (1985-1988). It might have been possible to take data averaged over three-year periods, but that would have involved further limitations on the data range and a considerable increase in labour in the time available. These variables, which were available for only 19 of the 43 countries of SS Africa, were derived from World Bank (1989b, 1990, and 1991a), UNDP (1991), and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO 1991a,b,c, and 1992) (table 2.3). The examination of the results is confined to the elements relevant to the themes of this paper. Eight of the variables measure various aspects of agriculture, five measure wealth/poverty, six measure urban/industry/commerce, four measure rural economy, four measure food, three measure energy use, three measure population, and one measures illiteracy. The countries concerned were Benin, Burundi, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, and Zaire.

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