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Sub-Saharan Africa Home To Most Of The World's "Ultra Poor"

A new report says most of the world’s “ultra poor,” those who live on less than one dollar a day, live in sub-Saharan Africa. The University of Cape Town issued the study, called “Poverty, Inequality And Labor Markets in Africa.”

Dr. Haroon Bhorat is director of the university’s Development Policy Research Unit and author of the report. From Cape Town, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua.

He says, “The focus of the paper was sort of fairly confined, if you like, which is try and describe poverty and inequality trends in sub-Saharan Africa, comparing it to other regions of the world. One of the key results that comes out of the study is that the notion of a dollar a day and looking at the proportions of individuals or households living below that in the sub-Saharan context doesn’t quite get to, if you like, appreciating the magnitude of the problem. The study I do, just using the numbers that come directly from the World Bank, shows for example that about 46% of all the continent’s inhabitants survive on less than a dollar a day. And if you use a poverty line of half that, 50 cents, 21% of the continent’s inhabitants live below the poverty line…So in a sense, the proportion of the “ultra poor” is much, much higher in sub-Saharan Africa than elsewhere in the developing world.”

Dr. Bhorat says he was surprised by the findings. “I guess I was,” he says, “in the sense one has gotten so used to and I completely understand and appreciate why one uses the dollar a day line, because it’s an easy sort of hook, if you like. But the difference between other developing countries and sub-Saharan Africa in terms of a much lower poverty line was quite a surprise. The fact that the proportion of the “ultra poor” is just so much higher in Africa than elsewhere is certainly something to sit up and take notice of.”

The University of Cape Town report does not delve into the reasons why sub-Saharan Africa is worse off. But Dr. Bhorat says it does “offer clues” for experts to follow and then make recommendations.