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The two faces of Africa

The two faces of Africa

Two sides of the coin
Some might say that by drawing attention to poverty in Africa, the report is being unnecessarily pessimistic at a time when we should be celebrating Africa’s growth trajectory over the past decade.

This would be an unfair criticism – the report highlights the good news coming out of Africa but it does not try to hide the inescapable fact that poverty is still very much with us under the carpet. But this is not a hand-wringing whine. The report analyses the causes of poverty and how these can be overcome. After all, you cannot solve a problem until you first acknowledge that you have a problem and, second, work out what is causing it.

I believe that teachers in our schools, especially secondary and upwards, should download a copy and discuss the issues raised with their students. 

We have also to remember that Africa is no stranger to poverty. In fact, poverty has been the norm since the start of the colonial period; what has changed, is that before, we had both poverty and little economic growth.

Now, in large parts of Africa, we have growth even if poverty persists. Indeed, although the absolute numbers of poor people in Africa today are greater than in 1990 (because of the increase in population), the percentage of poor people is reducing, the percentage of children going to school is increasing, the average income is on the rise, governance is improving beyond all recognition, political instability is reducing and ingredients for accelerating growth are accumulating.

In short, we are winning the battles even if the war is still being waged. Indeed, given Africa’s growth and the favourable external conditions now prevailing, Africa is in the best position it can be to finally begin the assault on poverty and banish if from our continent. Once you can identify your enemy, you can lay your battle plans; the APP report does just that – it identifies the ‘enemy’ and how to go about defeating it.

Perhaps the greatest strength of this year’s report is that although it is very comprehensive and looks at a large volume of data, it is very readable and mercifully free of the jargon that often obscures meaning. The graphics are excellent and tell the story on one sheet of paper. This is a report that one can dip in and out of and pluck out relevant bits of information.

I believe that teachers in our schools, especially secondary and upwards, should download a copy and discuss the issues raised with their students. After all, this generation of students will form part of Africa’s well-publicised ‘demographic dividend’ i.e. the biggest labour force in the world in 20 years’ time and the right education to prepare them for this role cannot begin soon enough.

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Written by Anver Versi

Anver Versi, is the award - winning editor of the London - based pan-African business monthlies, African Business and African Banker, was born in Kenya but has been based in London for the last two decades.

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