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AfricaMoney | September 22, 2017

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Mauritius is the least poverty-stricken country in Africa.

Mauritius is the least poverty-stricken country in Africa.

Poverty in Africa has declined significantly in recent years, showing evidence that the past decade of economic growth has improved the lives of ordinary people, with Mauritius, the least poverty-stricken country. More people are living better lives as increasing levels of wealth have translated into relatively low levels of lived poverty in Egypt, Cape Verde, Algeria, and Mauritius.

Poverty in Africa has declined significantly in recent years, showing evidence that the past decade of economic growth has improved the lives of ordinary people.

The findings come from a new report by Afrobarometer, a pan-African, non-partisan research network, which conducted face to face interviews with about 50,000 citizens across 35 African countries.

The trend is very recent: in roughly four years between consecutive surveys, from 2011 to 2015, “lived poverty” fell in 22 of 33 countries surveyed in both rounds.

Mauritius, the least poverty-stricken country, scores 0.10 on the Lived Poverty Index — which measures how frequently people go without basic necessities such as medical care, clean water and food during the course of a year.

Yet Africa can no longer be characterized as uniformly poor, as levels of lived poverty vary widely across the continent. Lived poverty is highest in Gabon, Togo, and Liberia and lowest in Mauritius, Cape Verde, and Algeria. Indeed, people in Gabon and Togo experienced shortages at approximately 18 times the rate of those in Mauritius, and four times as frequently as residents of Cape Verde and Algeria.

This means that in Mauritius 4% of people went without food in the past year, compared to 74% in Gabon.

The survey highlights differences in access to basic services: while in Liberia 78% of people went without medical care at least once in the past year, in Cape Verde it was just 19%.

“More people are living better lives — that’s good news for Africa,” says Robert Mattes, lead author of the report, and University of Cape Town professor.

Despite low poverty levels in countries such as Mauritius, Cape Verde, Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia, lived poverty is still widespread on the continent.

The report shows that lived poverty actually increased in five countries – most steeply in Mozambique, Benin, and Liberia – and remained stagnant in five others.

On average, in 2014/15 over 40% of people said they went without clean water or food at least once or twice in the past year. 49% went without medical care, 38% without cooking fuel and 74% without cash income.

Across the continent people’s experiences differed greatly. Those living in Central and West Africa said they often went without basic necessities such as clean water and medical care, whereas North Africa experienced much fewer shortages.

On a person to person level, Africans who were employed full-time, had a high level of education, and lived in an urban area where basic infrastructure was in place, said they were rarely short of basic necessities.

Finally, while lived poverty appears to decline rapidly as GDP approaches $5,000 per person, it does not necessarily decline thereafter. While increasing levels of wealth have translated into relatively low levels of lived poverty in Egypt, Cape Verde, Algeria, and Mauritius, poverty remains higher than national wealth would predict in Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia.

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