West Africa can’t achieve poverty reduction due to low economic diversification – ECA

Dr Amaduo Diouf – ECA

Despite its potential, the West African sub-region may not be able to achieve the SDG-1, that is to reduce poverty among its populations, because it’s unable to achieve economic transformation due to the fact that the region has low economic diversification and low structural transformation, Dr Amaduo Diouf of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), West Africa office has said.

He urged the region to consider adding value to its raw materials before exporting them.

For instance, it is a well known fact that while Africa exports $6 billion worth of raw coffee every year, after value addition, the coffee sold around the world generates some $100 billion in revenue.

West Africa has a poverty average of 50.8 per cent in 2003, and that went down to 32.8 per cent in 2018.

However, if the trend remains unchanged only six countries will achieve the poverty reduction target in 2030.

According to the UN, the number of people living in extreme poverty declined from 36 per cent in 1990 to 10 per cent in 2015. But the pace of change is decelerating and the COVID-19 crisis risks reversing decades of progress in the fight against poverty.

The UN cited New research published by the UNU World Institute for Development Economics Research, which warns that the economic fallout from the global pandemic could increase global poverty by as much as half a billion people, or 8 per cent of the total human population. This would be the first time that poverty has increased globally in thirty years, since 1990, it added.

It notes further that more than 700 million people, or 10 per cent of the world population, still live in extreme poverty today, struggling to fulfil the most basic needs like health, education, and access to water and sanitation, to name a few.

“The majority of people living on less than $1.90 a day live in sub-Saharan Africa. Worldwide, the poverty rate in rural areas is 17.2 per cent—more than three times higher than in urban areas,” the UN said.

Speaking to members of the West African Economic Journalists Network in Lome, Togo, Dr. Amadou Diouf, Chief, Sub-regional Initiatives Section of the West Africa office of the ECA, noted that the region needs to make efforts at reducing poverty, indicating that with a poverty rate of 60 per cent, Nigeria has the highest rate of poverty in the region.

He said countries in the region ought to work on malnutrition for five-year-old children and improve conditions to reduce infant mortality. The mortality rate for children aged five years old, was 153.7 to 1000 births in 2000, then it dipped to 76. 3 per 1000 live births in 2019. However, West African countries should aim at 32.8 per 1000 births by 2030, but only seven countries are likely to attain 25.0 per 1000 live births.

Speaking to the data on education, he said 31.4 per cent of children in the region completed primary school in 2000, and it went up to 56.1 per cent in 2019, but should be 70.7 per cent average in 2030, however, only three countries appear to be in a position to achieve 100 per cent by 2030.

Dr Diouf made the following recommendations; he urged countries in the region to formulate policies to address the low economic diversification and structural transformation, and they should take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area and digitalization.

“West African countries should look at policies to address the peace and security challenges: address several governance deficits that have contributed to instability and conflict in the region, ranging from issues of state authority and capabilities, the consolidation of democracy, transparency and accountability, social exclusion and human rights violations. Solutions to address the peace and security challenges should be built collectively through inclusive dialogue,” he said.

He also asked the countries to enhance domestic resource mobilization and reinforce the call for more debt relief and initiatives to facilitate access to more liquidity for Africa, and consider policies to address population dynamics, as well as accelerate investment in health and education to unleash the potential of its human capital.

In her opening remarks, Ms Ngone Diop, the Director of the ECA Sub-regional Office in West Africa, said the work of the ECA’s West Africa Sub-Regional Office took place in 2021 against the backdrop of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fight against youth unemployment, insecurity, and the most urgent need to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Despite this gloomy context, 2021 has been a successful year for the ECA Sub-Regional Office for West Africa,” she said.

Commending the journalists, Ms Diop said, “I am already pleased to note that this responsible and dynamic partnership between the ECA Sub-Regional Office for West Africa and the West African Economic Journalists Network contributes greatly to a better visibility and dissemination of our interventions as well as development issues of interest to the sub-region in the service of the economic and social development of Member States.”

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi, in Lome, Togo

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