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Is Nigeria really home of extreme poverty?

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[file] Empty wallet. Photo/Getty

Recently the World Poverty Clock published its projections about extreme poverty https://brook.gs/2K3huvn. 

The projections suggest that Nigeria has surpassed India in terms of the total number of people living in extreme poverty.

This single statement or conclusion is powerful not only politically but also in terms of trade and the perception of the public about the state of economy.

Such insightful projections are necessary to channel new policies and bring about innovations.

Thus, the recent World Poverty Clock’s projections should serve as a clarion call to all Nigerians.

There is no doubt that Nigeria has struggled and is still struggling in recent years in reviving its economy due to low oil prices.

But does Nigeria have reliable data to show that the country is the new home of extreme poverty?

In the first place, Nigerians themselves doubt the accuracy of the country’s population figures regardless of the accuracy of the poverty headcount.

Citizens have multiple opinions about the population data accuracy as you can see several examples online and even among state governments such as Lagos running its own parallel census and declaring different results than those declared by the National Population Census. https://guardian.ng/opinion/on-nigerias-population-estimate/

When analyses like this come out, the media and the public respond in several ways.

Both local and international news agencies such as CNN have spread the word about Nigeria being the new home of extreme poverty.

While the projections are in fact a great source of information to stimulate government policies and bring about innovations, many times we fail to ask basic and fundamental questions about two components important to make accurate projections.

That is, the data and the model. Are the data available and are they accurate enough to make conclusions like these ones?

What were the techniques used to fill in the missing data?

“According to our projections, Nigeria has already overtaken India as the country with the largest number of extreme poor in early 2018, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo could soon take over the number 2 spot (Figure 1 below).

At the end of May 2018, our trajectories suggest that Nigeria had about 87 million people in extreme poverty, compared with India’s 73 million.

What is more, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, while poverty in India continues to fall,” the World Poverty Clock said. https://brook.gs/2K3huvn.

“In Nigeria, as with other countries on the continent, that figure is projected to rise.”

By the end of 2018 in Africa as a whole, there will probably be about 3.2 million more people living in extreme poverty than there are today,” the researchers write.

CNN https://cnn.it/2KBdNgH. “The report says extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, the highest number in the world,” Daily Post reported https://bit.ly/2MNHgAG.

Since the report entitled “The start of a new poverty narrative” was published on June 19, 2018, there have been hundreds of news headlines and thousands of posts on social media referencing Nigeria as the new home of extreme poverty. https://brook.gs/2K3huvn.

Are the model assumptions accurate and reasonable enough to make strong conclusions like those above?

Have they incorporated local context and sub-regional variations to improve accuracy? Are there aggregational biases?

These are some of the questions that one would expect the media to also shed light on about the projections.

Hardly has there been headlines or social media posts asking the questions about the accuracy of data used for the projection and the list of assumptions used in constructing the models.

By the time one digs deeper into the model and data behind the projections, you may be surprised as to the length of the list of reasonable and somewhat reasonable assumptions that are involved in macroeconomic modeling and data projections.

Sometimes, the analyst declares some but there is usually not enough space to publish everything in a paper, blog post or in a media story.

The point here is to draw the attention of the media and the public to the remaining part of the story yet untold.

It is not enough to assume everything is perfect once it is published by a renowned research institute or once it is published in nature. Reality questions should be asked to guide the result interpretations.

It would surprise you to know that even the World Poverty Clock put some caveat on the source data for the report. https://bit.ly/2uDREU5.

The main purpose of writing this article is not to tell Nigerians that there is no extreme poverty in the country or that the projection or media is wrong but to point the attention of everyone to the importance of data, model assumptions and the need for a strong response from the private and public sectors through well thought out policies.

The fact that the World Poverty Clock suggests that extreme poverty is on the rise in Nigeria should motivate the citizens and the government to work together in addressing this menace.

Since 60% of unemployed population in Africa are youth and also about 60% of the world’s total uncultivated arable land is located in Africa, there is a great potential to address this challenge through agriculture.

If we can reduce youth unemployment through value creation in agriculture, we can create growth in the rural economy, which has a potential impact on extreme poverty – majority of which is located in urban slums and rural areas.

When we empower the youth to farm with ease by connecting them to resources and markets that they need to succeed in commercial agriculture, there is a great potential for the society to change the poverty narratives.

One way of working to change the poverty narrative is when every citizen in the country or continent gets involved in agriculture.

This means there is a need to provide platforms and opportunities for individuals to get involved.

There are now new age agricultural investment opportunities, digital investing platforms and technology startups such as EZFarming (www.ez-farming.com [1]) that makes it easy for everyone to get involved in African agriculture and support the effort to address youth unemployment, Mamamoni (www.mamamoni.org [2]) that is empowering women to break the vicious cycle of poverty or Riby (www.riby.me [3]) that aims to transform the way Nigerians use co-operatives to access loans.

Hence, as we rummage on the implications of the data by the World Poverty Clock, we will do ourselves a great deal of good if we get actively involved in these initiatives that can help a considerable number of poor crawl out of poverty and contribute to Nigeria’s growth.

Dr. Oparinde, a serial entrepreneur and agricultural economics researcher, wrote from United States of America.


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