Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Greater political freedom means less poverty according to Afrobarometer

A research project called Afrobarometer has found that the African countries with the greatest political freedom have less poverty.

Afrobarometer uses a set of questions to gauge social, political and economic trends throughout the continent. The research project will go to 12 to 15 different countries every few years to take their samples.

From Joy Online, Afrobarometer releases what their latest round of samples discovered.

In the latest findings from the surveys, conducted in 18 African countries between 2001 and 2008, the Afrobarometer Network found that those countries in Africa with more political freedom displayed lower levels of poverty.

The survey clearly showed that the more a country expanded political liberties and political rights over a given period, the more it reduced poverty during the same period. Countries like Zambia and Ghana, that have undergone a process of democratisation, have experienced steady poverty reduction, while in Zimbabwe, Senegal and Madagascar, as political freedom has decreased, poverty has steadily increased.

The survey set out to measure what it called "lived poverty", a tool developed by the Afrobarometer Network, an international consortium of researchers who between them interviewed more than 105,000 Africans in four rounds of surveys between 1999 and 2008.

The Lived Poverty Index (LPI) is determined according to how frequently people go without five basic necessities (enough food to eat, clean water, medicines or medical treatment, cooking fuel and a cash income).

From public attitude surveys conducted last year, Afrobarometer found that on the whole lived poverty has declined between 2000 and 2008 in Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Cape Verde, Kenya, Mozambique and Zambia. It has remained essentially unchanged in Mali, Benin, Madagascar, Senegal and Tanzania, and has shown sharp increases in Botswana, Nigeria and (up to 2005 when the last survey could be conducted) in Zimbabwe.

In every country, the most commonly reported shortage was a cash income, followed by shortages of medical care, food, clean water and cooking fuel, in that order. The typical African citizen went without a cash income "several times" a year and experienced "just one or two" shortages in food and medical care. The average African "never" went without clean water or home cooking fuel (though just barely).

However the experience of a typical African citizen masks substantial variation across countries. For example, while just over half of all South Africans experienced at least one shortage of cash in the previous 12 months, the figure is as high as nine of every ten Malians, Zimbabweans, Basotho, Burkinabe, Beninois and Senegalese.

No comments: