Poverty in Africa

Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS, volume 71)


Poverty continues to conspicuously define the socioeconomic landscape of developing countries, especially Africa. National and international poverty reduction drives, such as Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the recent Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), have had no significant effect on poverty reduction in Africa. Using the $1.90 a day international extreme poverty line at 2011 PPP, the percentage of African population living in poverty reduced from 56.8% to 42.7% between 1990 and 2012 (World Bank, World development, indicators 2016, Washington, DC, 2016), a mere 14.1% in over two decades. Poverty discourse must distinguish between concepts, definitions and measurements of poverty (Lister R, Povery. Polity, Cambridge, MA, 2004), which are contested. They often reflect global dominant socioeconomic knowledge power relations. Locating poverty within the discourse of political economy allows its connection to consumption, social reproduction and social policy, all important for social well-being. While households’ income and expenditure are useful, social institutions that might promote or reduce poverty and the conversion of money to functioning are important considerations. The challenges of satisfying individual consumption needs, in the absence of well-structured collective consumption, could account for the condition defined as poverty. Conceiving poverty as a level of well-being, which I refer to as the quality of social reproduction, broadens its scope to include those living in ‘precarious prosperity’, often overlooked in poverty discourse. Looking at the institutional practices of micro-credit in South Africa, I conclude that comprehensive restructuring of social policy could complement an economic growth approach to sustainable poverty reduction in Africa.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Archie Mafeje Research Institute, College of Graduate Studies, University of South AfricaPretoriaSouth Africa

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