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Poverty — A time to act

Aloysius Ordu2
Poverty is Africa’s biggest problem, the magnitude of which is not fully appreciated by the international community. There is an urgent need for action and for financing. Many numbers will be thrown around during these meetings. One number to take away is 500 million. That is the number of Africans who will be in absolute poverty by 2030 if African countries continue at current rates of economic growth. Let’s face it: the “Africa Rising” narrative is in need of rejuvenation. Even if economic growth reaches 7 percent per year throughout the 2020s, there will still be over 400 million Africans in poverty in 2030.

Such an outcome ought to be of great concern to policymakers and friends of Africa everywhere. For starters, it means that the international community’s desire to eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere by 2030—the first of the SDGs will not happen. Remember, we are talking about 13 years from today! And, with 60 percent of Africa’s population under the age of 24 years and, with labor force growth of about 3 percent per year, the consequences would be dire, hence the urgency to act now.

Accelerating economic growth and reducing absolute poverty will require substantial increases in levels of development spending and investment. African countries have huge financing needs for investments in human capital (education, health and social protection) and infrastructure, particularly regional infrastructure (electric power, roads, railways, bridges, ICT, etc.). Accelerating growth also requires Africa’s leaders to improve institutions and economic governance. The AfDB must play a central role, using its franchise value to conduct an Enhanced Policy Dialogue. This means recognizing hard realities and addressing them in regional member countries.

To do so effectively, the Bank needs to transition expeditiously to a knowledge Bank, build on its decentralization strategy, and engage with African leaders and other development partners to deliver a brighter future for the children, the women and the men of Africa.

Aloysius Uche ORDU was formerly Vice President, African Development Bank and formerly Director, World Bank Group. He is currently lead advisor, ADF Policy Innovation Lab, and CEO, Omapu Associates—a firm of Africa’s Whisperers.

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