Poverty is the summary measure of the state of well-being of a people, and hence the effectiveness of governance. Embedded in the measurement of poverty are such variables as income, education, employment, and access to basic necessities of life such as housing, clothing, food, water, etc. Breaking the vicious circle of poverty and inequality vis-a-vis insecurity, low savings - low investment and low and fragile growth traps constitute a central concern of public policy. In Nigeria, most people can FEEL the poverty burden - on the streets and the high level of dependency. A deepening crisis which receives little attention is the breakdown of the social ladder, values, and networks traditionally used in our society to climb out of poverty. Poverty is consequently becoming an inheritance - a dynasty - whereby the children of the poor will, in all likelihood, end up poor. Increasingly, the rich won’t be able to sleep because the hungry and angry poor are awake!
If the statistics released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on the state of poverty in Nigeria in 2010 and 2011 at 69% and 72% respectively are correct, then there is a state of emergency. The previous poverty survey in 2004 put the index at 54% and by 2011 it has jumped to 72% despite an average 7% annual growth of income, said to be led by non-oil sector (largely agriculture where the majority of the poor are). No other comparable oil exporting country has a similar record. If the numbers are correct, Nigeria would not only miss the MDG goal in 2015 but would probably hold the world record as the country which rather than reduce poverty by half, actually almost doubled it. All these despite the plethora of public interventions to reduce poverty, including NAPEP and MDG funds!
From the NBS result, much of the Northern Nigeria is still in a poverty trap, although the rate of worsening poverty has slowed down. An interesting puzzle is the South, (especially the South-east which previously had the lowest poverty rate) but now shown to be on a high speed lane in the race to the bottom to catch up with the North. While poverty is declining elsewhere in the world, the states in Nigeria are reported to be competing to see which one wins the trophy as the poorest state.
I have decomposed the relative contributions of each state and geo-political zone to the worsening poverty, using the NBS figures, and the results for the zones are: North-central (4.7%); North-east (10.2%); North-west (15.6%); South-east (37%); South-south (14.3%); and South-west (18%). In total, the 19 Northern states contributed about 30%, while the 17 states in the South contributed 70% of the deterioration in the national poverty index. At the state level, the five states with the worst deterioration (in percentages of deterioration compared to 2004) are: Anambra (238%); Bayelsa (189%); Abia (185%); Oyo (152%); and Enugu (132%). The states with the most improvement in reducing poverty (percentages of improvement) are: Niger (32%), Kogi and Jigawa (17%); Kwara (13%), Kebbi (10%), and Lagos (7%). The full results show that compared to 2004, poverty worsened dramatically in all Southern states except Lagos in 2010, whereas in the North, it worsened in 11 out of the 19 states. A very interesting symmetry is the fact that except for Adamawa and Zamfara States, every state where poverty declined in the 2004 survey, it increased in 2010 and vice versa. Can this be true or a typo? The statistics are quite intriguing. To be honest, I have serious reservations about the NBS figures. As I argued in an earlier article, the flaws are so much that neither the arithmetic nor the economics makes sense. The NBS needs help to give Nigeria credible national income and social statistics.
If the figures are correct, they raise a very important issue pertaining to the size of government spending and poverty. Interestingly, some of the states that spent the most money also had very high deterioration in poverty between 2004 and 2010: Ogun (117%), Edo (119%), Imo (109%), Rivers (101%) and Akwa Ibom (80%). The results challenge the thinking in some quarters that the more money states have, the more likely they are to reduce poverty. They also raise issues about value for money spending in the states as well as the composition of the expenditure. These and the issue of how we measure performance are issues for another day.
While we can dispute the exact figures or their distribution, what is not disputable is that there is pervasive poverty in the land. Many factors determine poverty but we focus on three: size of the household, educational level, and occupation of the head of household. The least educated are likely to be in the informal sector or peasant agriculture with low income, and probably with a large family size. It is shown in Nigeria that 90% of households whose family size exceeds 10 are in poverty. It is not difficult to see why some parts of the country are trapped in poverty. To escape the trap, our political and religious leaders must have the courage to educate the people that the number of wives and children anyone decides to have is a choice, and not destiny. If you have children that you cannot train in school, you have condemned them and perhaps their own children to a life of poverty. In one of the organisations I worked, I was told of a driver who had 32 children. Clear and sensible population policy as well as a credible programme for demographic transition can no longer be ignored.
For the large army of people eking a living in the informal sector and peasant agriculture with very low productivity and incomes, public policy must explicitly target them. Productivity per hectare of land is very low in Nigeria. While aiming to raise the productivity of the existing peasant farmers, Nigeria needs a long-term strategy of transition from peasant agriculture to commercial farming. Most of the existing, ad hoc skill acquisition centres do not work well, and cannot reach many in need.
The key to sustained poverty reduction is access to opportunities by all. Access to qualitative education is the foundation and provides the social ladder that enables the children of the poor to break out of the cyst. In my primary school at Nigercem Nkalagu, I was in the same class with the children of the General Manager of Nigercem. For the secondary school and university education, we were in class with children of the super rich and taught by the same teachers. Most successful people I know today had humble beginnings and the only magic that happened in their lives was access to qualitative education as well as opportunities to demonstrate their talent. In that world, if the children of the poor were more brilliant and hard working, they had a chance of doing better in life than children of the rich. Not anymore! Today, the children of the rich would be in elite private schools or abroad, while the others are condemned to a bleak future in the collapsed public schools.
My estimate is that the poorest 40 per cent of our population (which NBS says are also food poor), with their children in the poorest of schools, if any, are getting a raw deal, and their children will likely end up in poverty. A vicious circle ensures, thereby creating dynasties of poverty. The middle group which manages to enter the largely public higher institutions end up with estimated 60% being unemployable because of the poor quality of education. With no structural diversification of the economy, the labour market is tightening relative to the supply of labour force from our youthful population, and hence very high unemployment. A tiny one or two per cent are able to offer their children world class education abroad. We are creating multiple enclaves of Nigerians, with the hungry, angry but rugged bottom 40% on the one hand, and the ‘managing to get by’ middle as well as the upper, elitist but fragile top likely on a collision course.
One of the consequences of the oil resource curse in Nigeria is the creation of a culture of easy money, with no correlation between effort and reward. Everyone sees hundreds with no daytime jobs ‘making it’, and no one cares to ask what you do for a living. The millions excluded must survive one way or another. A sizeable number are now engaged in the underground speculative and criminal economy including prostitution, kidnapping, armed robbery, 419 scams, oil bunkering, drug trafficking, smuggling; dealership in fake and substandard products; etc. As the informal sector, especially trading shrinks, millions (largely uneducated) are migrating to all parts of the world and Africa in search of ‘opportunities’. Social networks based on kinship and trust, especially in business, are also breaking down. Without trust, most of the interventions to help the poor, including non-collaterised loans, break down.
Perhaps a more dangerous development is the poverty of the mind especially among the bottom 40%, and the impact of religion in keeping them down. I was brought up to ‘work and pray’. In my secondary school, some of us had on the cover of our notebooks the quote by Albert Einstein that “genius (success) is 1% inspiration (luck) and 99% perspiration (hard work)”. Another popular quote we had was: “success is when preparation meets with opportunity”. When I mentor young ones, I emphasise three keywords: focus, hard work, and prayer. Especially among the trapped 40%, and increasingly also among the ‘educated’, people now want opportunity without preparation.
Success is seen to be all about ‘luck’ and no personal responsibility in terms of effort. No wonder there is a boom of all kinds of spiritual and religious groups promising ‘miracles’, and there is a booming clientele. If the promises of instant miracles don’t materialise, the clergy will see visions for their ‘captives’ about some relatives or friends who have ‘taken their luck’. A friend of mine in the oil and gas sector told me an interesting story. For several years during Christmas, he would buy rice and kill cows to share to the destitute in his village, as well as give scholarships and credit for micro entrepreneurs. After some time, he noticed that the number that came dwindled dramatically. He was happy and thought that it was an indication that less number of people needed help. It took a courageous close relative of his to tell him that the reason was that people said that he was ‘collecting their luck’ through his philanthropy, and that was why he was a successful oil magnate. I have heard several such stories. The import of this is that private charity will decline. How do you get millions with this kind of mindset to work their way out of poverty? Our imams and pastors have to help us with this!
Nigeria suffers from an illusion of affluence. We are a poor nation. The proposed Federal Government budget for 2013 comes to about $180 per Nigerian. There is a whole lot that government can and should do to break the poverty traps. But there is a lot more that the society must do. Perhaps a national summit to focus on this emergency is the starting point!
Dr. Chukwuma Charles Soludo, is the former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)
Poverty is black. Under apartheid, to be born black meant to be born into poverty, injustice and inequality. Poverty was black under a white government and it remains black under a black government.
According to the most recent Economist, South Africa is the most unequal society in the world. In fact, South Africa is even more unequal now than it was in 1980. What makes it even more disturbing is its division by race even 18 years after democracy.
It is shameless and in your face. It is so blatantly clear by the juxtapositioning of Sandton and Alexandra township. The one rich and white and the other poor and black. A few rich black people do not make South Africans any more equal, nor blacks any more equal to whites. We may be equal on the paper upon which the Constitution is written but not where it matters – wealth ownership. There is no dignity or romance in poverty. Yet the poor can be dignified and are not precluded from romanticism. Those who say the poor are happy have never experienced poverty.
We are told of course not to talk about poverty and inequality in terms of black and white. When we do, some ask why everything must be about race. The ones who say that are of course not affected by poverty and inequality. We would love to not talk about poverty by race if it were not so blatant and in your face. To deny what we see is to deny ourselves progress.
Thabo Mbeki angered many when he was state president with his Two Nations speech, where he said: "We therefore make bold to say that South Africa is a country of two nations. One of these nations is white, relatively prosperous, regardless of gender or geographic dispersal. It has ready access to a developed economic, physical, educational, communication and other infrastructure.
"The second and larger nation of South Africa is black and poor, with the worst affected being women in the rural areas, the black rural population in general and the disabled.
"This nation lives under conditions of a grossly underdeveloped economic, physical, educational, communication and other infrastructure."
But it is true, and the two nations continued to be so even under his presidency. The rich stayed white and the poor stayed black. The country got richer but the haves got more and the have nots' continued to own less in comparison to the rich.
Nowhere is the gap between the haves and have nots more obvious than the mining sector, where the extremely rich bosses are white and the extremely poor are black. Naturally some will say Patrice Motsepe is black and extremely rich and he owns mines. Rich blacks are like the chocolate sprinkle on top of white cream, to paraphrase Gwede Mantashe. It should be no wonder then that we see those who are striking in the mines poor, uneducated, and black. The rich miners appear to be entitled the their wealth and give no pause to think of the poor beneath them.
The face of poverty was black because of the historical injustices of the past, and it remains black because the current government has not done enough to ensure that the gap between the rich and the poor decreases. And asking executives to curb their pay is not a way to ensure income equality – well-executed implementation of well-thought out policies will get people out of poverty and on to the road towards equality.
According to Bill Freundman in his book, Developmental Dilemmas in Post-Apartheid South Africa, "government grants are the main source of income amongst the poorest 50% of the population, not salaries, not the informal sector and certainly not peasant livelihood activities". We should aim to be a society where we will no longer have to have people living mont to month from one government grant to another. We need to create opportunities for them.
Inequality breeds inequality. The poor get fewer opportunities and barely get a chance to make it out of their situation. One of the ways we keep excelling at inequality is the quality of education – or lack thereof – we keep providing the poor with. We all know of the textbook saga as case in point. When we give our children an education (not just any education, but a great quality one) we also give them opportunity. Denying them an opportunity is a crime – it is stealing a whole future from them.
Our politicians, who are something of celebrities to many of our people, have to be careful how they spend their own money in the face of poverty. When they splurge, it is as if they are out of touch with the realities many South Africans live in. Nkandla is a case in point. The cost is difficult to fathom, and even harder to justify. Whether or not the building of Nkandla is justifiable, one still has to question the wisdom of it.
We need to invest in the poor and provide them with the skills and ability so that they can help others out of poverty. This alone won't be enough without rooting the evil of corruption and maladministration. Corruption is shamelessly taking from the poor. The poor are rarely corrupt, it is those who have opportunity who often deal in corruption, and continue to take from the poor the little they have – f we can call what they already have "having". If we do these two simple things: give more opportunities to the poor by equipping them with education; and rooting out corruption and maladministration, we will be well on our way to a more equal and just society.
Khaya Dlanga writes for Mail and Guardian, South Africa
Some background: for the six years that I humbly served as the special assistant to the president on the Millennium Development Goals, I worked hand in hand with local government leaders to develop a project known as the Conditional Grant Scheme for Local Government Areas (CGS-LGA). After 2005, when Professor Jeffrey Sachs first alerted me to the important project he was launching in order to help Africa meet the Millennium Development Goals, our nation was delighted to take the concept into practice and launch two Millennium Village sites, then reaching about 45,000 people.
The government of Nigeria was inspired to go beyond just those sites and to scale up the MVP model to tens of millions more, by working through a local government context. In partnership with Jeff and his team, we not only achieved the robust design of an ambitious program in 113 local governments covering 20 million Nigerian poor but have also inspired our parliament to invest more resources to reach all 774 local governments in our country by 2015. The project is Nigeria's, and, of course, builds on Nigeria's own organization, needs and strategies; the concepts and approaches of the Millennium Village project are key inspirations and techniques.
The funding for this scale up is our own. The government of Nigeria is using the billion dollars per annum that it receives in debt relief to take this project to scale. We believe it is the right model to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals for our poorest people. Despite Nigeria's incredible economic growth, too many mothers still die during childbirth, too few children make it to their fifth birthday, not enough girls are reaching secondary school and the real chance to break out of the poverty trap. We've seen the Millennium Village model work first hand. The people of Nigeria deserve a real shot at ending poverty and the MV model helps to design effective ways to do just this.
It's hard for those of us who work day in and day out, on the ground to fight poverty to see such flippancy and carelessness in the media. This is especially true in this case, where the facts are so easy to ascertain.
The truth is simple. Just as Nigeria is scaling up the Millennium Villages Project's ideas and tools to millions throughout the nation, more and more parts of Africa are working with the Millennium Village teams to adopt the concepts of integrated rural development and the specific tools and approaches of the project for application and adaptation in their own countries. The Government of Mali is working with the MVP team to scale up the concepts to 144 communes. Rwanda too recently signed an MOU with the MVP to work on national-scale integrated rural development throughout the country.
Let's hope The Economist gets this story right and commits itself to doing a better job of telling the story about how Africans themselves are leading the fight against poverty -- taking the best practices from the best projects and using their own funds to meet the Millennium Goals. It's a story worth telling, after all.
2. It is with great pleasure that I present to you today, highlights of the “Nigeria Poverty Profile Report 2010”, a report which emerged from the recently concluded Harmonised
Nigeria Living Standard Survey (HNLSS) conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) with support from the World Bank, DFID (UK) and UNICEF.
3. As part of its functions to produce statistics for evidence-based policy-making and as the authoritative source and custodian of all official statistics, NBS periodically conducts the Harmonized Nigeria Living Standard Survey which is used, amongst other things, to determine poverty and inequality trends in Nigeria. The data collected by NBS through our regular surveys and via our system of administrative statistics around the country present a vital source of evidence, as they provide us with clear, objective, numerical data on all aspects of our lives and the state of our country. NBS has presence in every state of the federation with staff who collect data on various socioeconomic indicators on a regular basis to fulfill our mandate. This way we are able to monitor various trends across the country at a disaggregated level. To demonstrate that NBS remains committed to improving statistical development in Nigeria, the institutional capacity to deliver on its mandate is being strengthened regularly with increased levels of collaboration between NBS and our partners in the public and private sectors, including the press.
4. In recognition of the fact that it is impossible, given limited financial resources, to collect data on every area of life, we are ensuring that the data collected by NBS is demand-driven and user-specific. Concomitantly, we are expanding our scope to include more aspects of socio-economic life, deepening our analytical competence and enhancing the professionalism of staff. A recent innovation is to announce, in advance, the expected dates of publication of survey results and data releases, which can be found on the official website. For example, a visit to our website at www.nigerianstat.gov.ng would reveal that we plan to publish inflation data for January 2012, the first since the partial removal of fuel subsidy, next Monday. The planned dates of release for other types of data can be found on the website.
5. As you may have observed our data releases have been mixed: some positive and others negative. We would therefore continue to publish accurate and timely data
regardless of whether it is positive or negative because the information we provide is useful as a guide for government policy, business investors, as well as a veritable tool for the public to evaluate the performance of government and the progress of our society in the interest of growth and development in Nigeria.
Raising Malawi- was initiated by Madonna with a partner that is dedicated in contributing to the well being of less privileged women and children of Malawi. Madonna who was known as a material girl was projected as being mundane by the media. But with this African venture she has defined herself and show to the whole world what is important to her. Family, children and philanthropy are the core and at center of Madonna’s life.
She is now building a modern Academy school for girls in Malawi while caring for AIDS orphans. According to her the Academy school can become a model for girl schools in Africa. Madonna’s love for Malawi started when she adopted a boy from Malawi, since then she has adopted a girl from the country. Madonna was known for being compassionate but this strategic move on her part was unexpected. Thinking in the line of uplifting the poor by laying a strong foundation for scholarship and education is a strategic move. By providing education to the less privileged girls of Malawi she had opened a door of opportunity and empowerment that cannot be taken away from them.
No type of philanthropic effort that can be undermined nor underrated but some are more durable and everlasting than others. When you feed a hungry person, it is a noble gesture. But when you give a poor person a skill, you have changed the life. When the poor can feed herself especially in developing world the significance is enormous. Instead of the continuous lecture about caring for the poor, Madonna is doing something about it. African leaders will receive thousand of recommendations on how to eradicate poverty but a Madonna is taking the step to change the lives of young girls. By empowering these young girls the entire village has been empowered. Education is the greatest tool to eradicate poverty for it will enable the recipient to think wisely and venture into the world without ignorance and illiteracy.
The greatest strike against young girls of Africa is lack of opportunity, in some instances they are compelled to start working at every tender age. As a result of poverty and lack of opportunity, girls and boys could not even attend primary school in some parts of Africa. When young minds are condemned to life of ignorance, they dwell in darkness and abject poverty.
Madonna deserves a lot of credit for helping the poor of Malawi and it shows the content of her character. Madonna, one of the greatest musicians of our time and Hollywood actress do not have to put her money, time and prestige to help a nation that is very far away. But she has compassion and love on the suffering children and blighted youths. Instead of calling meetings and conferences she set a project in motion to solve the problem the best way she can. She put her money where her compassion was and by so doing pushed our collective humanity to a brighter corner.
Poverty and lack of opportunity have destroyed lives of children in Malawi and Africa. Madonna project in Malawi involved helping thousands of children that were orphaned by AIDS. These children need somebody to help and guide them. Nobody is saying that Madonna is an angel but she done something that only a person with the fear of God will do.
Education and healthcare will bring a great beginning for the children of Malawi and Africa. Madonna has become part of the solution and this is a victory for the children of the world.