Two important reports were released recently that shed light on global poverty and inequality, and food security in Africa. Save the Children published Born Equal: How Reducing Inequality Could Give Our Children a Better Future and the World Bank released Africa Can Help Feed Africa: Removing Barriers to Regional Trade in Food Staples.
Born Equal highlights the strides the international community has made toward global poverty eradication, but makes it clear that many of those who are escaping the perpetual cycle of poverty are those who have greater wealth. Save the Children highlights the example of Madagascar where child mortality rates for children under five saw a massive decrease, but the decrease was experienced largely by those in the top wealth quintile. While the overall numbers about improving global poverty look promising, it is important to analyze the communities that are experiencing the most movement away from poverty and those who remain locked in it.
One of the most startling statistics in Born Equal is the growing amount of poor people in middle-income countries. According to Save the Children, poverty in middle-income countries now accounts for 70% of the world’s poor as opposed to 93% of the world’s poor being concentrated in the most income-poor countries in the 1990s. In middle-income countries the chasm between wealth and poverty is growing as those with greater wealth accumulate assets and driving up lifestyle costs leaving behind those in extreme poverty. Born Equal reiterates the importance of poverty eradication and fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals while emphasizing a closer look at inequality, poverty, and the various factors such as gender and religion that can keep people trapped in poverty. Without this closer look Save the Children believes children will have a decreased chance of thriving and will remain poor.
The World Bank released an equally compelling report about Africa and food security. According to Africans Can Help Feed Africans, African farmers provide only 5 percent of Africa’s cereal imports. The rest is imported from other continents. The report presents a strong case that Africans can, at least in the short term, help feed themselves. The demand for food is high, but there are strict rules and regulations that prevent farmers from selling food across borders. For example, some countries may experience a surplus of food staples whereas its neighbors may experience staple deficiencies. Because of regulations, it is difficult to move food across borders. Opening borders, the World Bank argues, gives African farmers greater access to markets and provides an increased opportunity to stave off food insecurity both regionally, nationally and continent-wide.
Surprisingly, only 10 percent of Africa’s agricultural land is currently being cultivated. And the food staples that are cultivated as cash crops are largely exported. While the trading within Africa is largely unexploited, small cross-border trade does occur. Most of this small food trading is done by smallholder women farmers who increasingly experience requests for bribes to sell food and even violence and sexual assault. This is why it is necessary to establish security at the borders and trade standards.
Both reports present excellent cases to improve the livelihoods of the poor as well as those who experience food insecurity. You can read the reports in depth at Born Equal: How Reducing Inequality Could Give Our Children a Better FutureandAfrica Can Help Feed Africa: Removing Barriers to Regional Trade in Food Staples.