Poverty measures show worsening social inequalities in Nigeria

by Steven Langdon

There has been widespread debate and analysis about poverty in Africa, reflecting the fact that most parts of the world saw marked poverty reduction during the 2000-2015 United Nations Millennium Development Goals period but sub-Saharan Africa saw persistence of high poverty rates for large numbers of people in most countries.  Different measures of poverty have been consistent in showing this African poverty persistence,  including the World Bank Poverty Line approach and the broader Human Development Index (HDI) and its associated Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI.)

One of the countries where poverty has continued to be high,  despite its petroleum wealth,  has been Nigeria.  This has been particularly significant given that Nigeria’s population is the highest in Africa and expanding quickly.

This has made the country a particular focus of poverty research,  making use of a wide variety of measures to track social conditions besides the traditional approaches.  A new Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) Index measures three factors crucial to reducing gaps between the rich and poor — social spending, tax policies and labour rights. Nigeria ranks last out of 157 countries analyzed.

The World Bank has also launched a new indicator,  the Human Capital Index (HCI,)  suggesting the future social situations of a country’s population,  based on chances of a child reaching age five, healthy growth, expected years of schooling, quality of learning available and the adult survival rate.  Again,  Nigeria’s ranking is very low — 152nd out of 157 nations.

If Africa is to succeed in marked poverty reduction in the context of the 2015-2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) effort,  it is clear that socio-economic policy and its implementation in Nigeria must improve in a major way.  I have worked with the World Bank in Nigeria and know that the governance challenges in the country are great.  But the critical needs of millions of poorer Nigerians will have to lead to new urgency and commitment to counter poverty in the largest nation on the continent.

For more on poverty measures in Nigeria and their implications, please see the attached.



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