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East Africa among ‘star performers’ in global war on poverty

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Research by UN and Oxford University shows that East African countries, mainly Tanzania and Rwanda, are among the “star performers” in fighting poverty worldwide.

Research by UN and Oxford University shows that East African countries, mainly Tanzania and Rwanda, are among the “star performers” in fighting poverty worldwide.  Nation Media Group

By JOINT REPORT The EastAfrican

Posted  Saturday, March 23   2013 at  17:03

In Summary

  • The UN said in the Human Development Report (HDR) 2013 that poverty reduction drivers in developing countries exceeded expectations, helping uplift hundreds of millions of the poor into a new “global middle class.”
  • Another report by Oxford University’s Poverty and Human Development Initiative (Ophi) ranked East African countries, mainly Tanzania and Rwanda, among the “star performers” in fighting poverty worldwide.
  • UN says that to improve living standards governments need to focus more on ensuring that girls attain quality education, and improve citizens’ participation in politics and governance.
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A raft of trickle-down economic policies adopted by East African governments to fight poverty seems to be bearing fruit with new global data showing that poverty levels in the region have significantly dropped.

The UN said in the Human Development Report (HDR) 2013 released last week that poverty reduction drivers in developing countries exceeded expectations, helping uplift hundreds of millions of the poor into a new “global middle class.”

Another report by Oxford University’s Poverty and Human Development Initiative (Ophi) ranked East African countries, mainly Tanzania and Rwanda, among the “star performers” in fighting poverty worldwide.

The Oxford University think tank reckons the two East African countries could, if the current trend continues, eradicate absolute poverty within the current generation.

“The world is witnessing a epochal ‘global rebalancing’ with higher growth in at least 40 poor countries helping lift hundreds of millions out of poverty and into a new ‘global middle class.’ Never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast,” said the UN Human Development Report.

The report also cited trade as a key factor in improving conditions in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

The Oxford report, which is based on the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), measures nutrition, education, sanitation and traditional methods such as GDP.

It identifies Rwanda, Nepal and Bangladesh as the most rapidly improving countries of a 22-country study, closely followed by Ghana, Tanzania, Cambodia and Bolivia. It predicts that the “star performers” could eradicate acute poverty in 20 years.

East African economies have had poverty eradication policies but not all have worked.

When he came to power in 2003, Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki promised to roll out free learning both in primary and secondary schools. The introduction of the twin social welfare plans was touted as the most effective social equalisation programme, opening the doors for children from poor backgrounds to attain basic education.

But the Kibaki policies have done little to lift a majority of Kenyans from poverty. A May 2012 report by the World Bank showed that Kenya’s poverty levels have oscillated between 44 and 46 per cent.

Rwanda has achieved remarkable recovery and progress, characterised by reduced poverty numbers, government data shows. In the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, Rwanda was confronted with extreme poverty, with 70 per cent of the population living below the poverty line in 1997.

The government initiated the Girinka (one cow per poor household) programme adapted from the traditional Rwandan solidarity practice of giving each other a cow as a pact of friendship and support in the event of misfortune or dire need. By 2010, 44.9 per cent of Rwandan households were considered poor.

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