Tackling poverty, inequality for social development
Without appropriate economic and social policies, economic gains tend to benefit a certain segment of the population, further exacerbating existing inequalities.
When a large segment of the population remains excluded from development processes or trapped in low-productivity jobs, economic growth slows down. Increasing concentration of wealth can also increase social tensions and undermine stability.
Addressing inequalities is therefore imperative to ending poverty and building a more inclusive, just, prosperous, and peaceful society, especially in Africa.
Although gender inequalities exist in all countries and are particularly severe in Africa, they are generally underestimated in most standard measures, which rely on household income or consumption data. Such estimates tend to assume equal spending powers among all family members.
While some countries have seen efforts to reduce economic disparities, oppositions to such efforts have marked others by forces within and without.
In Nigeria, “the scale of inequality has reached extreme levels,” reports Oxfam, a UK-based charity, in a study published in May 2017 indicated. Five of Nigeria’s wealthiest people, including Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, have a combined wealth of $29.9 billion – more than the country’s entire 2017 budget. About 60 per cent of Nigerians lives on less than $1.25 a day, the threshold for absolute poverty.
According to a Professor of Economics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, Haroon Bhorat, everything (in South Africa) is skewed racially – education, access to finance, and access to land.
Indeed, many factors drive inequality in Africa; the chief of which have remained corruption. Others include lack of infrastructure, income disparities, policy inconsistencies, unresponsive wage structures and inadequate investments in education, health and social protection for vulnerable and marginalised groups, among others.
The hydra-headed challenges of inequality, poverty, among others formed the fulcrum of the 2019 GoalKeepers Conference, the fourth edition, organised by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in New York, USA.
Already, reducing inequality, poverty, among others in all dimensions is captured in the 2030 Agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the GoalKeepers Summit has consistently aligned its vision towards helping the globe achieve these goals.
The Gates in the 2019 Gatekeepers’ Report entitled: Examining inequality 2019 says: “Gaps between countries, districts, and boys and girls prove that the world’s investments in development aren’t reaching everyone.
“Using new sub-national data, the report uncovered the vast inequalities within countries that are masked by averages. Where you’re born is still the biggest predictor of your future and no matter where you’re born, life is harder if you’re a girl.
“Despite gains in female educational attainment, opportunities for girls are limited by social norms, discriminatory laws and policies, and gender-based violence.
“As we write, billions of people are projected to miss the targets that we all agreed to represent a decent life.”
The Foundation called for a new approach to development, targeting the poorest people in the countries and districts that need to make up the most ground to address persistent inequality.
“Governments should prioritise primary healthcare to deliver a health system that works for the poorest.
“Government should also deliver digital governance to ensure that governments are responsive to their least-empowered citizens, and more support for farmers to help them adapt to climate change’s worst effects. The report is designed to track progress in achieving the global goals, highlight examples of success, and inspire leaders around the world to accelerate their efforts.
“The goal is to identify both what’s working and where we’re falling short,” it said.
The report also showed that one in three Nigerians live in poverty, representing 32 per cent of Nigerians. The number of people living in poverty increased from 66.83 million in 2017 to 67.48 million in 2018. 37 per cent of children suffers from malnutrition. This is 37 per cent of the kids’ population. About half of Nigerians still use unsafe or unimproved sanitation.
Significantly, Nigeria still ranks 43rd out of 52 African countries on a recently compiled sustainable development goal index. The implication is that the country has only gone 47 per cent towards achieving SDGs.
Sadly, the Gatekeepers’ report showed that Nigeria still has the second-highest number of deaths of children aged five and under. It tags behind India. The report recommended “human capital investments should be designed to reach girls and prioritise those countries and districts that have to make up the most ground.”
The two-day summit had in attendance, global leaders including the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Mrs Amina Mohammed; Chairman, Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote; Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi; Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez; and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Gates said his new task is to close the gaps between nations towards achieving the SDGs by ensuring that all had access to quality health, education to ensure that poverty and inequality are bridged adequately.
Gates specifically charged world leaders to take a cue from the Indian government and prioritise the SDGs. According to him, efforts must be channelled and centred on tackling challenges creating developmental gaps in the world.
Gates noted that with 11 years left to attain these goals, “though there have been appreciable drive and development with inequality between countries narrowed, remains large. Even though life is better, it is still bad. The gap between Chad and Finland is closing, but it remains enormous. More children die every single day in Chad than die in Finland in an entire year.
“Inequalities between districts in countries are massive. In Nigeria, the data says the same thing: world-class achievement juxtaposed to serious deprivation. For example, the average person in Ado-Ekiti in Ekiti State, has more than 12 years of education, whereas the average person in Garki, in Jigawa State, has five, This shows that going into the future some regions of the world are not catching up fast enough.”
Gates said very few developing countries are projected to meet the health and education SDGs, adding: “Nearly two-thirds of the children in low- and low-middle income countries live in districts that, at their current rate of progress, won’t reach the SDG target for child mortality by 2030. One-third live in districts that won’t even reach it by 2050.
“If we are serious about the SDGs, then we have to accelerate the fight against geographical inequality and make sure that more di
strict are excelling like Kollam in India, and Ado-Ekiti in Nigeria.”
To Mohammed, courage is what it would take leaders to address global inequality and achieve the SDGs by Year 2030.
“It will take courage to achieve the SDGs. I mean tons and tons of it. Courage to stand up for human rights, and to stand against those who oppose gender equality.
“Courage to push for financial inclusion and say that universal access to basic services is not charity but a right. Courage to engage the sceptic and challenge the political interests that are hindering inclusive and sustainable development,” she said.
Modi, taking a cue from Mohammed, said leaders need the courage to push some developments through. The Indian Prime Minister also stressed the importance of collaborations among institutions in the match towards SDGs attainment.
On his part, Prime Minister Sanchez said global response to SDGs must be one that respects people’s background, stressing that there are huge challenges confronting the globe.
Sanchez said leaders must be patriotic in the march towards meeting the 2030 agenda.
According to him, Spain will focus more on SDGs three and four, which are education and health, as these two are key to reducing inequality and poverty.
From her perspective, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, charged people not to be left behind, as inequality globally has progressed more than ever.
Ardern urged that there must be a value driven approach to economic policies, adding: “trade must be liberalised with focus on human right development, woman empowerment, political stability and efficiency.”
To Dangote, malnutrition remains a big problem in Nigeria, “but we are working to bridge the challenge.”
While appreciating Gates for his humanitarian efforts, especially in Africa and particularly Nigeria, Dangote said he looks forward to giving large chunk of his wealth to charity sometime in the future.
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