New OPHI research shows overall poverty reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa, but reveals significant country differences

Multidimensional poverty has decreased in many Sub-Saharan African countries over recent years, with most progress seen in East Africa, a new OPHI working paper has shown.

However, the analysis by OPHI researchers has shattered any depiction of African poverty as uniform and revealed a broad range of levels and trends of deprivation within countries, providing information that highlights policy priorities for national governments.

The working paper gives an overview of multidimensional poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) using the results from the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) 2014. The global MPI 2014 covers 37 SSA countries, which are home to 91 per cent of the population of the region.

Results show that of the 19 SSA countries for which OPHI has data across different years, 17 had statistically significant reductions in multidimensional poverty. Rwanda led the way with the fastest absolute decrease in MPI. 82.9 per cent of its population were multidimensionally poor in 2005 but this fell to 66.1 per cent in 2010. Ghana and Tanzania were close behind, with Uganda, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Niger also seeing significant reductions in MPI. The countries that reduced MPI most in absolute terms were predominantly Eastern Africa countries, Low Income Countries (LICs) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

A range of countries, including Nigeria, Lesotho, Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Gabon and Cameroon, had slower but still significant reductions in poverty. Senegal had no statistically significant reduction in poverty, and Madagascar had a statistically significant increase.

The country with the highest percentage of MPI poor people is Niger. Niger has the highest level of destitution in Africa, with 68.8 per cent of the population living in destitution. Ethiopia and Burkino Faso also have very high levels – 58.1 per cent and 57.5 per cent, respectively. In stark contrast, the proportion of the population who are destitute is 5.5 per cent in Swaziland, 3.2 per cent in Gabon and merely 1 per cent in South Africa.

The highest levels of inequality are also found in SSA countries. Out of the 90 countries analyzed, the greatest inequality among the poor was in Burkina Faso. Of the 462 million people identified as MPI poor in SSA, 85.8 per cent live in rural areas.

The global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) was developed by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI). It was launched in 2010 and has been reported in UNDP’s Human Development Reports.

Read the full paper

‘Multidimensional Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa: Levels and Trends’, by Sabina Alkire and Bouba Housseini, was published in the OPHI working paper series in December 2014.

Find out more about OPHI’s findings for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa

Download individual country briefings for Sub-Saharan countries to see national and sub-national poverty profiles.

View graphs and maps for different poverty indicators at OPHI’s interactive databank.