Poverty in Africa is a complex and wide-ranging issue that impacts millions of lives every day. Political instability, uneven distribution of natural and government resources, and climate change all contribute to this multi-dimensional problem. And the people who are most affected are often those in rural and remote areas.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the underlying causes of poverty in Africa and their profound effects on families. We’ll note some research findings to shed light on why this issue is so persistent in this part of the world. And we’ll share the good news of the community-led programs facilitated by Outreach International and the sustainable solutions they can lead to.
A Closer Look at the Causes and Effects of Poverty in Africa
Economic Challenges and Unemployment
In 2015 the United Nations committed itself to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in its efforts to end global poverty. Its goals include improvements in health, education, equality, economic development, and environmental improvement by 2030.
However, at this point in time, Africa is not on track to meet these goals. Africa has the highest extreme poverty rates globally, with 23 of the world’s 28 poorest countries, which have extreme poverty rates above 30%. Using the poverty line of $1.90 per day, Africa’s extreme poverty rate was recently estimated to be about 35.5%. This rate is 6.8 times higher than the average for the rest of the world.
One of the key factors contributing to poverty in Africa is economic instability. High rates of unemployment, income inequality, and economic policies that sometimes fail to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable citizens of an African nation all play a role. For instance, in sub-Saharan Africa, youth unemployment rates are staggeringly high. This makes it difficult for young people to secure a stable livelihood. Income inequality adds to the issue, with an extremely uneven distribution of wealth leaving many struggling to meet even their most basic household needs. This issue of economic disparity not only affects individual families but spreads through entire communities, preventing progress and development.
Health Issues and Access to Medical Care
A person’s physical health is central to their overall well-being. But many communities within several African nations lack access to adequate healthcare. This puts them at unusually high risk of preventable illness and a lack of injury treatment. These issues not only result in a lower day-to-day quality of life but also have wider-ranging implications for stifling economic growth and development. This is especially true for communities in rural and remote areas.
And the COVID-19 pandemic only made matters more difficult for many of these communities. The Institute for Security Studies states that about 30 million more Africans fell into extreme poverty (living on less than US $1.90 a day) when COVID-19 broke out in 2020. Health problems can lead to reduced productivity and increased healthcare expenses. These factors perpetuate an unending cycle of chronic poverty. When people are too ill or injured to work or attend school, they cannot make strides toward prosperity. Addressing these health challenges is essential to breaking this cycle.
The community of Boyole, Malawi, was dealing with the most serious issue of a high mortality rate for children under five. The community-led organization in Boyole, the Tithandizane Organization, realized that children and young mothers lacked adequate access to the healthcare necessary to solve this problem. The organization submitted a proposal to Outreach International, which approved the project. Now, families in Boyole have a permanent clinic with a dedicated healthcare professional that is managed by the government health department. This successful project has led to adequate healthcare for 1,800 young children and their mothers, and is a shining example of the effectiveness of the community-led development process. (Read more about the Boyole children’s clinic.)
Impact on Education
Education is the surest way to escape poverty. But in Africa, it’s not uncommon for children to face barriers to accessing quality education. Geographic distance from adequate schools and inadequate resources in existing schools create significant hurdles for students. Also, children in impoverished families must often contribute to the necessary work of subsistence living, such as fetching water from a distant source and irrigating crops by hand. These time-consuming tasks can prevent a child from finding the time to attend school. This perpetuates the cycle of poverty into the next generation.
Also, the role of education in empowering adults cannot be overstated. Job skills training, literacy, and community development project competency all equip people with the skills and knowledge they need to improve their lives. But the lack of educational opportunities in impoverished areas hinders progress even for adults.
But Outreach-affiliated communities always seem to find a way to overcome their poverty-related issues, even under the most difficult of circumstances. During the COVID-19 pandemic, while poverty rates were spiking throughout Africa, our community groups got to work. They set up training sessions where community members learned how to make masks. They sourced their own supplies, created a source of income, and protected their communities in the process.
Environmental Factors and Resource Scarcity
Africa’s current environmental challenges also create poverty-related issues. Drought, deforestation, and resource scarcity are all contributing factors. And there’s abundant evidence that climate change is exacerbating these problems. These environmental factors often lead to serious poverty-related issues, including food insecurity, the hardship of displacement, and increased competition for limited resources.
Access to clean water, arable land, and other natural resources is essential for sustainable development. When these resources are scarce or mismanaged, it perpetuates extreme poverty in vulnerable communities. Addressing these environmental issues is not only a matter of ecological stability but also a pathway to economic growth and sustainable development.
Unequal Distribution of Wealth and Resources
Wealth and resources in Africa are often not evenly distributed in a way that includes remote areas. Some regions and communities have abundant access to natural and government resources and the opportunities they provide, while others do not. This unequal distribution perpetuates disparities in living standards and equal access to essential services.
For instance, in some African countries, like many places in the world, a small percentage of the population controls a significant portion of the nation’s wealth. This leaves the majority of people struggling to meet their needs. According to the United Nations, the poverty rate in rural areas in Africa is 17.2%, which is more than three times higher than in urban areas, at 5.3%. This unequal distribution of wealth in Africa can lead to social unrest and instability, making poverty alleviation even more challenging.
Outreach International’s Impact: Community-Led Solutions to Build a Better Future
Outreach International is making a tangible difference in the lives of communities in several African countries. We’re dedicated to empowering local communities through innovative solutions and sustainable development projects. Our goal is to demonstrate to people who live in even the most extreme poverty that they have the power within themselves to improve their own lives.
Innovative Approaches and Sustainable Development
Outreach International is working with communities in the African countries of DR Congo, Zambia, and Malawi. We help communities solve their poverty-related issues with the methodology of community-led development. This work is based on the idea that improvements are most likely to be sustained if the people who benefit from the solution are involved in the process. Every community has a unique set of issues that keep it in a state of chronic poverty. This is why the people who live with these issues are the ones who are most qualified to identify and solve them. By involving community members in development projects, we empower them to learn, lead, and begin to solve issues on their own.
Poverty in Africa is a complex issue with deep-seated causes, but it’s not insurmountable. Outreach International is creating positive change, and community-led organizations are making strides every day to lift themselves out of poverty and into a life filled with prosperity and hope that can last for generations.
How to Help
The fight against poverty in Africa is not one that can be waged by organizations alone; it requires the collective efforts of individuals like you. You can contribute to alleviating poverty in Africa through Outreach International with your donations.