Africa experienced a dramatic decline in poverty between 2001 and 2011.
The number of people in poverty – living on two US dollars or less a day – plunged 41 per cent to 949 million in 2011 from 1.6 billion in 2001, according to a Pew Research Center report. The share of the world’s population living in poverty dropped from 29 per cent to 15 per cent over the same period.
The report, however, highlights that like India, Southeast Asia and Central America, Africa’s middle class barely rose.
Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria saw its share of poor people fall 18 percentage points from 2001 to 2011. This resulted in a 17 percentage point increase in low-income earners and just a 1-point boost in the share of the population that could be considered middle income.
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According to Pew, most of the movement was from poverty to low-income status. The FT, says this finding gives “pause to companies that have bet heavily on a rapidly growing middle class in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa”.
“The share of people classified as low income ($2-10 per day) increased from 50 per cent of the world’s population in 2001 to 56 per cent in 2011, and the low-income population increased from 2.7 billion to 3.4 billion. Overall, the vast majority of the world’s population (71%) was still either poor or low income in 2011,” the study revealed.
“Ethiopia, for example, experienced a decline of 27 percentage points in the share of people who could be considered poor. This translated into an increase of 26 percentage points in the country’s share of low-income earners and only a 1-point increase in middle-income earners.”
By contrast, the FT points out, “only 1 per cent of high-income populations live in Africa, 4 per cent in South America and 8 per cent in Asia and the South Pacific”.