Growth and Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa

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  • Includes 16 country case studies which collectively represent nearly three-quarters of the sub-Saharan African population
  • Analyses welfare, living conditions, and poverty reduction
  • Contributions from local and international experts who identify and explain trends in monetary and non-monetary poverty and their links to growth

While the economic growth renaissance in sub-Saharan Africa is widely recognized, much less is known about progress in living conditions. This book comprehensively evaluates trends in living conditions in 16 major sub-Saharan African countries, corresponding to nearly 75% of the total population. A striking diversity of experience emerges. While monetary indicators improved in many countries, others are yet to succeed in channeling the benefits of economic growth into the pockets of the poor. Some countries experienced little economic growth, and saw little material progress for the poor. At the same time, the large majority of countries have made impressive progress in key non-monetary indicators of wellbeing.

Overall, the African growth renaissance earns two cheers, but not three. While gains in macroeconomic and political stability are real, they are also fragile. Growth on a per capita basis is much better than in the 1980s and 1990s, yet not rapid compared with other developing regions. Importantly from a pan-African perspective, key economies-particularly Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa-are not among the better performers.

Looking forward, realistic expectations are required. The development process is, almost always, a long hard slog. Nevertheless, real and durable factors appear to be at play on the sub-continent with positive implications for growth and poverty reduction in future.

Table of contents
  1. 1. Growth and Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa
    Channing Arndt, Andy McKay, Finn Tarp
  2. 2. Synthesis: Two Cheers for the African Growth Renaissance (but not three)
    Channing Arndt, Andy McKay, Finn Tarp
  3. 3. Poverty in Ethiopia, 2000-11: Welfare Improvements in a Changing Economic Landscape
    David Stifel, Tassew Woldehanna
    More Working Paper | Utility-Consistent Poverty in Ethiopia, 2000–11
  4. 4. Ghana: Poverty Reduction over Thirty Years
    Andy McKay, Jukka Pirttilä, Finn Tarp
    More Working Paper | Ghana
  5. 5. Did Rapid Smallholder-led Agricultural Growth Fail to Reduce Rural Poverty?: Making Sense of Malawi's Poverty Puzzle
    Karl Pauw, Ulrik Beck, Richard Mussa
    More Working Paper | Did Rapid Smallholder-Led Agricultural Growth Fail to Reduce Rural Poverty?
  6. 6. Growth, Poverty Reduction, and Inequality in Rwanda
    Andy McKay, Marijke Verpoorten
    More Working Paper | Growth, Poverty and Inequality in Rwanda
  7. 7. Poverty and its Dynamics in Uganda: Explorations using a New Set of Poverty Lines
    Bjorn van Campenhout, Haruna Ssekabira, Dede H. Aduayom
    More Working Paper | Consumption Bundle Aggregation in Poverty Measurement
  8. 8. Burkina Faso: Shipping Around the Malthusian Trap
    Michael Grimm, Claude Wetta, Aude Nikiema
    More Working Paper | Burkina Faso
    More Research Brief | Burkina Faso – growth without poverty reduction
  9. 9. Mozambique: Off-track or Temporarily Sidelined?
    Channing Arndt, Sam Jones, Finn Tarp
    More Working Paper | Mozambique
  10. 10. Spatial and Temporal Multidimensional Poverty in Nigeria
    Olu Alakaiye, Afeikhena T. Jerome, Olanrewaju Olaniyan, Kristi Mahrt, Olufunke A. Alaba
    More Working Paper | Multidimensional Poverty in Nigeria
  11. 11. Growth and Poverty Reduction in Tanzania
    Channing Arndt, Lionel Demery, Andy McKay, Finn Tarp
    More Working Paper | Growth and Poverty Reduction in Tanzania
  12. 12. Assessing Progress in Welfare Improvements in Zambia: A Multidimensional Approach
    Gibson Masumbu, Kristi Mahrt
    More Working Paper | Multidimensional Welfare in Districts of Zambia
  13. 13. Slow Progress in Growth and Poverty Reduction in Cameroon
    Samuel Fambon, Andy McKay, Joseph-Pierre Timnou, Olive Stéphanie Kouakep, Anaclet Dzossa, Romain Tchakoute
    More Working Paper | Growth, Poverty, and Inequality
  14. 14. The Fall of the Elephant: Two Decades of Poverty Increase in Côte d'Ivoire, 1988-2008
    Denis Cogneau, Kenneth Houngbedji, Sandrine Mesplé-Somps
    More Working Paper | The Fall of the Elephant
  15. 15. Incomes, Inequality, and Poverty in Kenya: A Long-Term Perspective
    Arne Bigsten, Damiano Kulundu Manda, Germano Mwabu, Anthony Wambugu
    More Working Paper | Incomes, Inequality, and Poverty in Kenya
  16. 16. Utility-Consistent Poverty in Madagascar, 2001-10: Snapshots in the Presence of Multiple Economy-Wide Shocks
    David Stifel, Tiaray Razafimanantena, Faly Rakotomanana
    More Working Paper | Utility-Consistent Poverty in Madagascar, 2001-10
  17. 17. Poverty, Inequality, and Prices in Post-Apartheid South Africa
    Murray Leibbrandt, Arden Finn, Morné Oosthuizen
    More Working Paper | Poverty, Inequality, and Prices in Post-Apartheid South Africa
  18. 18. Growth and Poverty in the Democratic Republic of Congo: 2001-13
    Kristi Mahrt, Malokele Nanivazo
    More Working Paper | Estimating multidimensional childhood poverty in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 2007 through 2013
Show all

‘Africa has been a puzzle for development specialists for well over half a century. From the post-Independence euphoria, when sub-Saharan Africa outperformed Southeast Asia, to the grim reality of failed industrialization strategies and the pain of structural adjustment during the commodity bust of the 1980s and 1990s, to the resurgence of growth after the turn of the Millennium, the Continent has resisted easy answers to even simple questions: are living standards rising or falling? Is economic growth finally having an impact on rural poverty?

This volume provides the best possible answers to these questions, under the circumstances of seriously inadequate macroeconomic data and incredible country and regional heterogeneity. But the methodological innovations provided by this distinguished UNU-WIDER team of researchers, and their painstaking work with colleagues at the country level, has most assuredly provided the development profession with the benchmark for measuring progress going forward. The authors are cautiously optimistic that most of the Continent is now on a sustainable development path that will see higher living standards in both rural and urban areas.’

C. Peter Timmer, Professor Emeritus, Harvard University


‘This book provides the appropriate balance in the analysis of the links between two decades of growth and poverty-reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa. Relying on very comprehensive and excellent country studies, it is able to show a lot more clearly than others, the mainly positive effects of the recent African growth experience. The book brings together good country data, excellent analyses and solid understanding of local contexts.’

Ernest Aryeetey, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana


‘This book masterfully combines macroeconomic, microeconomic, and case study approaches in analyzing the complex relationship between growth and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. It avoids the all-too-common simplistic characterizations of the continent, and instead weaves a balanced, nuanced, and informative narrative of where things have gone relatively well, where they have not, and the multiple forces behind these trends. This book is a must read for all serious scholars and analysts of economic development in Africa.’

Steven Radelet, Donald F. McHenry Chair in Global Human Development and Director of the Global Human Development Program, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University