World Bank Economist: "There Is an African Face to Poverty in 2030"

Francisco Ferreira explains why the 2000s have boosted millions of the world's poorest.

by Sam Blum
Getty Images 

Poverty is going broke. The World Bank released findings Sunday, contending that this year, global poverty levels are projected to fall under 10 precent of the human population for the first time in history. Chief among the fortuitous news is the idea that ongoing development in regions historically marred by extreme scarcity could spur enough growth to end world poverty by 2030.

“What we mean by ending poverty by 2030, is getting it down to a frictional element where maybe less people fall into poverty because they’re unemployed or there’s a health shock,” says Francisco Ferreira, a Senior Adviser for the World Bank’s Development Research Group. “It’s not really about absolute zero.”

The World Bank estimates that in 2012, individuals living in extreme poverty, or those subsisting on $1.90 a day, hung around 902 million people. In 2015, however, the organization hopes to see that number drop by 200 million, to 702 million people.

Ferreira says this dramatic lessening of world poverty started in the early 2000s, when a supercycle of higher commodity prices — for food, fuel, chemicals, and metals — brought a cash influx to countries that produce those goods. Driven largely by rapid growth in China and India, Ferreira says, “the 2000s were a remarkable period of economic growth in developing countries.”

The World Bank’s findings deliver an optimistic forecast for the overall state of world poverty — especially for ascendant East Asia, where half the population used to be stuck in deep poverty. In 2012, that figure was down to 8.5 percent.

Between 2002 and 2014, population booms in India and China pushed a lot of those huge markets’ growth. Less noted, Ferreira says, was African development. In that span, Ferreira says, six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies were in Africa.

Yet sub-Saharan Africa remains the ultimate outlier. A region wracked with scarcity of resources, its economies traditionally depend on exports. The World Bank issued another report earlier this year stating that region is destined for its slowest growth year in two decades.

“The big challenge for 2030 is that remaining poverty will really be concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, where the incidents of poverty are still expected to be around 20 percent … in fragile states that are still relying on commodity exports,” says Ferreira. “There is some evidence that that commodity super cycle has come to an end.”

Today, half of the world’s extremely impoverished people are in sub-Saharan Africa, not unlike East Asia of 30 years ago. “There’s this kind of concentration, these pockets of hard-to-reach poverty that will be left in certain places,” Ferreira says. “There is an African face to poverty in 2030.”

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