Africa can free itself from poverty

Africa needs to adopt a rapid and more inclusive response to poverty eradication.

Wednesday March 2 2016

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The first of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals agreed by countries at the UN General Assembly in New York last year is remarkable - to eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere.

Poverty is currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 (the equivalent of Sh126) a day.

The SDGs are a continuation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), whose tenure expired in 2015.

The Global Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index painted a grim picture of the 15-year MDGs, whose chief aim was to reduce poverty.

The survey revealed that of the 1.6 billion people living in multi-dimensional poverty, 31 per cent live in sub-Saharan Africa (496 million) and that 70 per cent of them reside in middle-income countries, where most of Africa’s states are categorised.

This sad state of Africa’s poor may be a reflection of the continent’s potential to exploit its readily available natural resources. It is not a permanent state.

Development theorists have explained how poverty eradication and economic growth objectives can be promoted and realised.


Africa can also draw lessons from countries that have extricated themselves from the shame of dependency, misgovernance, ingenuine democracy, negative ethnicity, conflict, and vulnerability.

The theme can be also examined from many angles - the relevance of indigenous African traditions, the challenges of contemporary life, and the resource impediments to the projects of development and modernisation in Africa.

The panacea for this “backwardness” may also be attributed to the continent’s economic evolution process (terminating in poverty), which involves phased, lineal, somewhat irreversible, progressive, and lengthy models on the development path of the developed world.

This was partly a contribution of colonialism and largely the actions of post-independent African regimes.

There have been inspired claims that are the root of this challenge.

The famous one is that Africa is bequeathed the title of the Third World, a position of subordinate incorporation in the global economy that is polarised into a core and periphery, where the core is the developed world and the periphery the developing countries.

This notion should be dismissed. Correcting these imbalances is our responsibility and must begin with poverty eradication.

Taking stock of who we are and what we have is paramount.


Africa is well-endowed to meet its development requirements as it is home to some of the most valuable and strategic resources - oil, minerals, rivers, tropical forests, wildlife.

Despite the aggressive, attracted, and induced “brain” emigration to the developed world, our human capital is unrivalled.

The import of this is that we can be an enviable wealth powerhouse on the global stage.

What is clear from the historical experiences of other countries and regions of the world is that real development is waged within the social, cultural, economic, and political well-being of local people.

We have the opportunity to gradually extend our capital gains and increase production.

It will require investment in skilled labour and modern technical innovations to aid in exploitation of our resources to lead to increased production, flow of capital, and expanded markets.

This will in turn offer a way out of the vicious cycle that Africa often finds itself.


Success will mean increase of per capita income, which will lead to reduced poverty levels and more equality.

We must remember that if we want to free Africa from its vicious cycle of poverty and underdevelopment, then we must free our minds from the latent state of accepting poverty as the desirable and natural status quo.

We must remove the yoke of poverty and its symptoms of dependency and borrowed garments in our development plans.

Benefiting from the hindsight of the challenges that the realisation of the MDGs faced, we need to adopt a rapid and more inclusive response to poverty eradication.

Mr Otachi is a leadership and governance PhD student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

[email protected] Twitter @OtachiOrina