Is Africa’s poor the only set of people living below financial standards in the world? It appears that many researchers are making it look so. However, that depends on the reports you read and the intention of their numbers.
It is understandable that Africa could do better for inclusive growth, but the continent’s less-privileged people have been repeatedly used to show just how much dollars some of the wealthiest people have in their bank accounts.
The first set of numbers considered come from Oxfam’s report A Tale of Two Continents published in September 2019. The punchline of the survey was: Africa’s three richest men have more wealth than the poorest 650 million people across the continent. The 650 million Africans used to compare actually account for 50 percent of the region’s population.
Among other eye-openers like the continent’s debt pile, Oxfam’s research shows that while the financially high and mighty increase their fortunes continuously, poverty in the continent keeps growing—and maturing—like the grandiose African Killifish.
Under this is another tagline which revealed that the combined wealth of the 5 richest Nigerians is more than enough to end poverty in the West African country.
Well, this comparison does not convey a disturbing amount of mixed signals since the basis for comparison comes from the continent. Using rich Africans to show how just how much others in the region live below the poverty line makes sense. But it also logically makes people ask if the continent’s wealth is being pocketed by a handful of entrepreneurial tycoons.
More Of The Same?
A Tale of Two Continents does not hold the amount of weight as the Time To Care report. Still from the stables of Oxfam, this January 2020 release had some quite alarming numbers—enough for the report to actually go viral. The climactic statement in another edition of “Not Funny” read thus: the 22 richest men in the world have more wealth than all the women in Africa.
The aim of the report was to show the uneven distribution of privileges and wealth that come together to make Africa a place echoing with gender inequality. Women around the world undertake more than three-quarters of all unpaid care work, adding up to 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work every single day, the report stated.
According to the survey, the monetary value of these billions of hours of unpaid care work done by women and girls is estimated conservatively of at least USD 10.8 Tn annually, which is over three times the size of the world’s tech industry. Admittedly, those numbers are not only unexpected but form a real problem governments need to look into.
Debunking The Myth
The important question is: Do we have to use African women as a benchmark to show just how much gender inequality drives it humongous wedge across the world? Fact is, Africa is not the only place with less-privileged women that are knocked off the spotlight by the adverse effects of gender inequality.
According to the World Economic Forum, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, and Iran are among the top worst places to live for females. The list goes on from Saudi Arabia to Turkey and Iran through Qatar to Oman before mentioning an African country—Morocco.
These findings are close to what’s shared by the National Geographic’s version of women prosperity. But these recent reports make it seem as though the bulk of the most impoverished and mistreated people in the world are only in Africa.
Max Lawson, Head of Advocacy and Public Policy at Oxfam explained that the Time To Care report—which is actually meant to address gender inequality globally—looked out for something which shows the rate of women poverty, and found compelling facts on the wealth of females in Africa. In this case, the availability of data is a big factor.
“We looked at the many hours women spend doing care work, which is undeniably a big issue for African women. But in poor, conservative countries like Pakistan, India, the numbers do come close. Africa, for us, was just the worst case because there are so many people without access to water and electricity,” Lawson told WeeTracker.
The Poverty Conundrum
It would not be far fetched to say that most people from around the world mostly associate Africa with poverty—no thanks to wealth reports. This is similar to the common impressions that Africa is all savannah and wild animals and that everyone here lives in an ugly-looking mud house in the middle of nowhere.
New World Wealth’s Africa Wealth Report 2019 brings out another set of facts for Africa’s poor, showing that Africa accounts only for 1 percent of the world’s wealth. This is despite the fact that the continent accounts for 16 percent of the world’s entire population.
Although this is an Africa-focused report, the findings beg the question of: why do we have to compare the numbers with the rest of the world when Africa does not lack rich people? We do not know if there are endless internal debates regarding the numbers to use for research, but we do hope things change.
For his part, Andrew Amoils, a lead analyst at New World Wealth said that comparing these numbers is as a result of the research firm’s methodology policy.
He is not quite sure why—or whether—reports are increasingly using Africa’s poor as a benchmark when other places have perhaps poorer people. But he did iterate that the average wealth an African is around USD 2 K per person, which is well below the worldwide average of around USD 27 K.
“We always compare countries/regions to the world in our ‘Benchmarking wealth in context’ section in all our wealth reports. That’s also why we compile all our wealth stats in USD terms in order for us to compare from country to country and from region to region,” Amoils told WeeTracker.
The Brighter Side
No arguments, some 47 percent of people in Sub-Saharan Africa live on less than USD 1.25 a day, and this is scandalous. However, Africa’s poor numbers are falling, and things are getting better—mostly in the unlikeliest places. One in three Africans are defined as ‘middle class’, and whilst many Western economies are in crisis, Africa’s economy continues to grow. In fact, 6 of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world are African?
In as much as Africa hosts a good number of the world’s poorest countries, one needs recall that poverty does not only exist in the region. Countries like Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Haiti among others are also culprits. Also, it was just in 2018 that Nigeria overtook India as the country with the most extremely poor people in the world.
Oxfam’s Max Lawson shares the belief that there is a significant number of Africans. “There are more extremely poor people in Africa but that does not mean there are not rich people. It is good for reports to try and have a mixture.
People from rich countries just believe that Africa’s poor is generalistic, but that is not something Oxfam does regularly. Every country in the world has rich and poor people. So they should not be simplistic that Africa is generally poor,” he opined.
For instance, as of January 2020, Dangote—Africa’s richest man—who has an estimated net worth of USD 10 Bn, was ranked by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index as the 88th-richest person in the world. While another source may say he is the 96th-richest man in the world, he is richer than way more than 400 people on a variety of billionaire rankings.
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