Poverty in Africa

Authored by: Felicitas Becker , Ewout Frankema

Routledge International Handbook of Poverty

Print publication date:  October  2019
Online publication date:  September  2019

Print ISBN: 9780367178666
eBook ISBN: 9780429058103
Adobe ISBN:


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Africa is the poorest region of the world at present. Even though the share of extremely poor in the total African population has been on the decline since the early 1990s, the decrease has been slower than elsewhere and poverty levels have remained higher than in other developing regions. This chapter introduces some of the comparative dimensions of poverty in Africa in an extended timeframe. It identifies distinctive dynamics that underpin the salience of poverty in Africa. These include the recent and on-going emergence of landlessness as a cause of poverty in the countryside, exacerbated by the fact that the land-poor also tend to be resource-poor. This problem is aggravated by stalling industrialization in urban areas that throws the newly urbanized into survival-level informal-sector work. The chapter also scrutinizes the contemporary discourse on African poverty, to argue that historically informed narratives can do much to bring the changing nature of African poverty to light. Rejecting monocausal explanations, it shows that Africa has not always been the world’s basket case, nor that it is destined to retain its current status as such.

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