John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Afrobarometer Poll Questions the “Africa Rising” Narrative

by John Campbell
October 31, 2013

A woman, displaced by recent fighting between Congolese army and the M23 rebels, carries firewood in the rain in Munigi village near Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo September 1, 2013. (Thomas Mukoya/Courtesy Reuters) A woman, displaced by recent fighting between Congolese army and the M23 rebels, carries firewood in the rain in Munigi village near Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo September 1, 2013. (Thomas Mukoya/Courtesy Reuters)

Afrobarometer is a research project coordinated by institutions in African countries and with partners in thirty-one countries. It recently conducted a survey of public opinion across thirty-four African countries that showed popular skepticism about the “Africa Rising” narrative. This, despite relatively high growth rates.

In a report released on October 1, Afrobarometer data indicates that 20 percent of Africa’s population often goes without food, clean water, or medical care. More than half of those surveyed think that economic conditions in their country are bad or “very bad.” Some three quarters thought their government was doing a bad job in closing the gap between rich and poor.

John Allen, writing on AllAfrica.com, suggests that the results indicate that higher benefits of growth are going to a wealthy elite or that official statistics are overstating growth, or possibly both.

Morten Jerven, in his recently book Poor Number, has shown the shortcomings of African statistics. In its report on the Nigerian economy, the World Bank observed that Nigeria’s high growth statistics could not be squared by increasing rates of poverty. These, and other inconsistencies, make Allen’s hypothesis on where the majority of Africa’s wealth is directed, look credible.

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  • Posted by Walter Pflaumer

    There are houses in the “Ministers’ Hill” section which would be considered ostentatious in Beverley Hills, There are people living under grass huts less than five miles away.

  • Posted by Jim Sanders

    Sober reassessment is under way. In addition to Afrobarometer’s doubts about Africa’s rise, there is the IMF’s warning that monetary tightening in the US could be dangerous to sub-Saharan African countries. Reportedly, Nigeria’s central bank governor doubts that “tapering” will occur quickly, but experience with Quantitative Easing (QE) is limited. Surprises may loom. And, Ghana, long lionized as an African success story, ‘looks better from the outside than the inside’, the FT notes. Ghana’s credit rating has been downgraded and prices of essentials are rising.

    To ordinary Africans, it may be gratifying that elite observers are finally realizing that a lot of Africa is not rising. National Geographic magazine, which boldly writes about the poor, included in its November 2013 issue an article by James Verini entitled, “The War for Nigeria.” Despite booming enclaves of middle-class wealth, many Nigerians still live in poverty, while insurgency in the country’s north continues. “War” is not too strong a word to use to describe what is happening there.

    “Africa rising” is a term that seems to imply a degree of uniformity in economic improvement that never existed. Pockets rose, but not the broader landscape. Foreign investors will be disheartened to hear this. But they don’t matter as much as people at the grassroots, where so much of the dynamism that drives today’s world is incubated.

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