OPHI and UNDP Regional MPI Brief: Sub-Saharan Africa: An age group analysis of the 2021 global MPI

Children tend to bear the brunt of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Children (defined as persons below the age of 18) show higher rates of multidimensional poverty with well over half of multidimensionally poor people in SSA being children under the age of 18 (321 million children out of 556 million people). Almost 6 out of every 10 (59 percent) children are poor compared with 47 percent of adults in SSA. Based on the global MPI data for 42 countries and trend data for 36 countries, the brief focuses on the poverty levels of different age cohorts and presents the evolution of multidimensional poverty in SSA between the 2000–2019/2020 period. Emphasis is placed on whether the reductions in multidimensional poverty are pro-poor or not, with pro-poor reflecting that the fastest reduction in poverty in a country is occurring in the poorest areas or amongst the poorest groups.

Key findings:

• Only 9 out of 31 countries that had children as the poorest age cohort in the initial year of study reduced child poverty the fastest between 2010 and 2019.

• The countries with the fastest absolute pro-poor child poverty reduction were Togo (2013/2014–2017) and Rwanda (2010–2014/2015).

• SSA has a non–pro-poor trend in the reduction of poverty (in relation to age cohorts).

• Though the intensity of poverty decreased in most countries for all age cohorts, there were significant increases in the intensity of poverty for children in Central African Republic (2010–2018/2019) and Guinea (2016–2018) while there were increases for the elderly in Guinea (2016–2018) and Benin (2014–2017/2018).

• Except for Seychelles, children bear the greatest burden of multidimensional poverty in all SSA countries based on the 2021 global MPI data.

• Children are over-represented among the poor in SSA as they constitute 52 percent of the total population and 58 percent of those who are multidimensionally poor.

• Given the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is of concern that more than half of the population in Chad (55.5 percent) are multidimensionally poor and live in a household where at least one school-aged child is not attending school.

• Across age cohorts, poor children are the most deprived in 8 out of the 10 indicators, while the censored headcount ratio for the elderly is highest in years of schooling and assets.

State of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa

Almost half of multidimensionally poor people globally (43 percent) live in SSA (556 million). Out of 1 billion people in SSA (using 2019 population data for countries in the global MPI database), 53 percent are identified as MPI poor. In SSA, 70 percent of people in rural areas (457 million people) are multidimensionally poor compared with 26 percent (99 million people) in urban areas.

Across the different countries, there is a large variation in the incidence of poverty (see Figure 1). At the tail end of the poverty spectrum, Seychelles and South Africa have less than 1 in 10 people being multidimensionally poor. South Sudan and Niger, on the other hand, have more than 9 out of every 10 people living in poverty in the year of the survey. This is the same for more than 8 out of every 10 people in Burkina Faso, Chad and Central African Republic. Comoros, Togo and Kenya have around a third of people being multidimensionally poor. This huge variation is also observed at the subnational level with 30 subnational regions having an incidence of less than 10 percent and 33 regions having an incidence of over 90 percent (Alkire, Kanagaratnam and Suppa, 2021).

Source: UN Development Programme