21 September 2017: Launch of UNDP Study on Income Inequality Trends in sub-Saharan Africa

undp-rba-IIT in SSA_cover-sept 2017

 The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) underscore the need to address broad inequalities in their quest to ‘leave no-one behind.’ Income Inequality Trends in sub-Saharan Africa: Divergence, Determinants, and Consequences is a groundbreaking United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) study that provides policy guidance to reduce income inequality in sub-Saharan Africa – a study that has been conducted for every continent, except Africa, until now.

To achieve the goal of ‘leaving no one behind’ by 2030, the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa asserts that inequality levels, trends, determinants and consequences must be analyzed closely – producing a holistic policy approach which matches the integrated and indivisible nature of the 2030 agenda. It is only through addressing the challenge of inequality that progress towards achieving the SDGs can be accelerated.

Income Inequality Trends in sub-Saharan Africa

Drawing on specific dataset, the study asserts that seven outlier countries — South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Central African Republic, Comoros and Lesotho — which are marked by concentration of land in the hands of a few, and weak access to agricultural assets, are leading the continent in income inequality. On the other hand, countries like Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Burundi, and Guinea, which are characterized by egalitarian access to land for productive engagement, especially in agriculture, appear to be performing better and rank among the most equal in the world.

To address income disparities in the region, the authors of the book suggest that African policymakers “plant and nurture the seeds of equity” and urge governments to adopt a far-reaching development strategy focusing on population, macro-economic fundamentals, human development, and growth.

Drawing on specific dataset, the study asserts that seven outlier countries — South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Central African Republic, Comoros and Lesotho — which are marked by concentration of land in the hands of a few, and weak access to agricultural assets, are leading the continent in income inequality. On the other hand, countries like Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Burundi, and Guinea, which are characterized by egalitarian access to land for productive engagement, especially in agriculture, appear to be performing better and rank among the most equal in the world.

To address income disparities in the region, the authors of the book suggest that African policymakers “plant and nurture the seeds of equity” and urge governments to adopt a far-reaching development strategy focusing on population, macro-economic fundamentals, human development, and growth. 

It is only by addressing the challenge of income inequality that progress towards achieving poverty reduction and the Sustainable Development Goals, can be accelerated in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Such is the key finding of Income Inequality Trends in sub-Saharan Africa: Divergence, Determinants, and Consequences, a groundbreaking study by United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Africa.

The study indicates that in spite of solid economic progress over the last 25 years, illustrated by GDP growth of about 5.0 percent, and an average reduction in its unweighted Gini coefficient—from about 0.47 to 0.43 between 1991 and 2011— SSA remains one of the most unequal in the world. The study points to lack of economic diversification, high concentration of means of production, and limited distributive capacity of the State as the key drivers of inequality in the region.

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