Africa’s challenge: The ‘jobless growth’

Edited by Zeinab Sabet and Shahira Emara

For over 40 years, Africa has not witnessed such a rapid growth as recently. Out of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies, 6 are African! However, such growth is not always coupled with a decrease in inequality or a remarkable reduction in poverty. While some African countries have experienced growth with significant reduction in poverty, poverty rate remains high in most countries regardless of their economic performance. In the latter cases, growth has been even named by some studies ‘jobless growth’. This is where the African challenge remains.

Witness Simbanegavi, Director of Research at the African Economic Research Consortium, argues that growth is not being channelled in the right way to benefit the vulnerable people. On the other hand, and unlike the Latin American region, Africa lacks strong social protection policies. According to Simbanegavi, what Africa needs now is a pro-poor growth coupled with improved social protection policies; only this paradigm can lead to an enhancement of the welfare of the poorest.

Has growth in Kenya been pro-poor?
The paper ‘Poverty and Economic Growth: Understanding the linkages in Kenya’ authored by Jane Kabubo Mariara (School of Economics, University of Nairobi) looks at the links between poverty, inequality and growth in Kenya. She shared her presentation during the GDN 14th annual Conference, during the session organized in partnership with (AERC). She also examines the role institutions play in promoting growth.  

Mariara claims that growth in Kenya has not been always pro-poor and to a large extent it was derived by institutional factors, such as the availability of work markets and education.  She also argues that growth in Kenya is mostly determined by income and not by redistribution of income. In the video below, Mariara recommends some of the policies that can re-target growth towards the poor.  She proposes the implementation of subsidies for fuel, and better policies to enhance education. Most importantly she looks at the opportunity cost of making water available and the fact that the poor spend a lot of time finding water, while she argues that this time can be better utilised  as explained in her paper.

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