WINDHOEK – New data from Afrobarometer, collected across an unprecedented 34 African countries from October 2011 to June 2013 demonstrate that “lived poverty” remains pervasive across the continent.
Just two years before the 2015 Millennium Development Goals benchmark year, roughly one in five Africans still frequently go without food at 17 percent, clean water at 22 percent or medical care at 20 percent. One in two people experience at least occasional shortages. Afrobarometer calculates an average score for each respondent and each country that captures overall levels of “lived poverty” by combining average answers to questions on deprivation. The Lived Poverty Index (LPI) score ranges along a five point scale from 0 (no lived poverty) to 4 (a constant absence of all basic necessities). The mean lived poverty score across all thirty-four countries in 2012 is 1.26 (on the scale of 0 to 4). However, there is significant cross-national variation around that mean. At their worst, average scores in Togo was 1.89, Burundi 1.85, Niger 1.81, Guinea 1.78, and Lesotho 1.77 suggesting that the average person in these countries experiences shortages across all basic necessities ‘several’ times a year. At their best, the LPI scores of 0.20 in Mauritius and 0.32 in Algeria mean that the typical person in those countries ‘never’ goes without any basic necessities. In general, West African countries are clustered at the bottom of the scale, while North African countries dominate at the top. Average lived poverty is highest in both West Africa at 1.47 and East Africa at 1.46, and lowest in North Africa at 0.77 and Southern Africa at 1.17.
The two worst performing North African countries, Sudan and Egypt, have been embroiled in internal political conflicts. Because this is the first Afrobarometer survey in these countries, the data cannot show whether poverty has led to the conflicts, or has gotten worse as a result of discord. The Afrobarometer analysis shows that across 34 countries, lived poverty scores fall sharply as peoples’ educational level increases, from 1.62 among those with no formal schooling, to 0.87 among those with post-secondary education. The relatively low levels of education in West African states such as Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea help account for the high levels of poverty in those countries. Poverty scores also vary sharply according to whether or not key services are present in the respondent’s community. The average LPI is 1.05 in census enumeration areas that have an electricity grid, but 1.64 where there is none. Similarly, where piped water services are available, the LPI is 1.08 compared with 1.53 in areas lacking those services. States have done a far worse job of extending electricity grids in West and East Africa than in other parts of the continent. Afrobarometer (AB) conducts public opinion surveys that measure citizens’ attitudes toward democracy, governance, the economy, leadership, identity, and other related issues.
The AB is an independent, non-partisan, African-based network of researchers. The organization aims to give the public a voice in policy making by providing high-quality public opinion data to policymakers, civil society organizations, academics, media, donors and investors, as well as ordinary Africans. Afrobarometer surveys are based on nationally representative samples. These 34-country results therefore represent the views of approximately three-quarters (76 percent) of the continent’s population. Results from a 35th country, Ethiopia, are expected to be available shortly. The total number of respondents in the 34 countries was 51 605.
By Staff Reporter