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‘Despite urbanisation, manufacturing remains low in many African countries’

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Eradicating extreme poverty and reducing inequality remain some of Africa’s biggest challenges, which the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), is trying to help member states tackle through various policy recommendations and actions.

According to UNECA, manufacturing and economic diversification remain low despite the rise in urbanisation.

Director of the Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division at the ECA, Ms. Thokozile Ruzvidzo, in remarks to the third session of the committee on gender, poverty and social policy, said: “Despite strides the continent has made in reducing the incidence of poverty, under the current trajectory, it is unlikely that extreme poverty will be eradicated by 2030”.

Global extreme poverty is predominantly concentrated in Africa, and is declining much slower in the region compared to the rest of the world.

Particularly relevant to the new priorities of the Division is urbanisation, the ECA Director said.

“In Africa, this megatrend has largely not been translated into diversification of the economy, structural transformation, and the creation of productive jobs away from substance agriculture, in manufacturing and modern services,” she said.

In numbers, more than 50% of urban residents in Africa live informally, increasing by 4.5 million annually and an estimated 210 million live under conditions of poverty in urban slums, excluding North Africa, a figure which is projected to rise to 256.4 million in 2020.

In half of African countries, less than 35% of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities, less than 76% has access to potable water, and the urban housing deficit stands at $20 billion–$25 billion.

“These figures suggest that extreme poverty in Africa is moving from rural to urban areas,” said Ms. Ruzvidzo, adding the situation was equally challenging in terms of inequality in the region.

“The interaction between poverty and inequality requires urgent attention in order to resolve human well-being, fulfil everyone’s human rights, and achieve collective peace, prosperity, and genuine democracy. Poverty and inequality do not only mean human deprivation, they often lead to social unrest and uprisings, growing radicalization, worsening of polarization within countries and communities, risks, and sometimes actual conflicts and wars,” she added.

Ms. Ruzvidzo said the ECA, amidst an uncertain and volatile global environment, slower growth in the region, and rising inequality, had to embark on reforms to ensure it remained in touch with Africa’s development efforts.

“The principal rationale for its recent reform was to re-affirm that the Commission was re-oriented to effectively implement its mandate, including effectively supporting the implementation of, and follow-up to, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063,” she said.

The ECA’s new strategic direction focuses particularly on 23 African countries to increase its ability to make impactful interventions and remain forward-looking.


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Thokozile RuzvidzoUNECA
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