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Poverty, Income Distribution and Labour Market Issues

This project was carried out through two phases over more than ten years. Responding to the “rising tide lifts all boats” notion and predating the Millennium Development Goals by a number of years, this project elaborated the idea that economic growth is essential but not sufficient for poverty reduction:

While faster and more stable economic growth will eventually help to reduce poverty, immediate adjustment and complementary measures were necessary to ensure poverty reduction as well as long-term growth.

To design and implement such measures, policy makers need information about key aspects of poverty. They need to know which subgroups of the population are most affected by poverty, the determinants of poverty and how poverty has changed over time. They also need help with determining costs and feasibility of implementing antipoverty measures.

The first phase of this project produced 12 framework papers and 12 country case studies.  The framework papers have been published recently in a book [Augustine Fosu, Germano Mwabu and Erik Thorbecke (2009). Poverty in Africa: Analytical and Policy Perspectives: University of Nairobi Press and Africa Economic Research Consortium (AERC))].

The project then moved into its second phase (poverty II), focusing on analysis of income distribution and explanation of poverty indicators. The specific objectives of Phase II were:

  • To enhance the understanding of poverty trends and poverty dynamics in specific countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • To diversify poverty measurement to include non-money metric measures such as nutrition- and asset-based measures.
  • To study the relationships among poverty, malnutrition, disease epidemics (especially HIV/AIDS and malaria) and human capital in general.
  • To assess the responsiveness of poverty to economic growth and income distribution.
  • To examine various dimensions of poverty in the context of economic policy reforms, including labour market reforms.
  • To study linkages among poverty, social capital, agricultural development, rural institutions and globalization.
  • To inform policy makers, donors, the corporate private sector and the civil society of the status of poverty in Africa.

The project was coordinated by Profs. Germano Mwabu and Erik Thorbecke. This phase of the project (Poverty II) involved 14 country teams in 12 countries.

A sub-project under the Poverty Project is the Malaria and Poverty in Africa which was undertaken in collaboration with the World Bank from 2000.  Malaria is second only to HIV/AIDS as a killer of Africans, and may be number one in terms of direct morbidity, especially among children.  The purpose of this subproject was to examine the implications of malaria for poverty, and the converse, given the very high prevalence of the disease in sub-Saharan Africa. Four country case studies from Eastern Africa (Kenya), Central Africa (Cameroon), Southern Africa (Zambia) and West Africa (Nigeria) have been completed.  The studies for this sub-project were published in a book entitled: Malaria and Poverty in Africa, Ed. Augustine Fosu and Germano Mwabu, University of Nairobi Press and African Economic Research Consortium, 2007.



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