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Africa's children to account for almost half of global poverty by 2030 – new report

Written by Kevin Watkins, Maria Quattri

Press Release

Children in Africa will on current trends account for 43% of global poverty by 2030, almost double the current share, due to a combination of demographic change, deep poverty and extreme inequality, warns a new report from the Overseas Development Institute.

Researchers at the UK’s leading think tank on development estimate that one-in-five children in the region – some 147.7 million in total - will be living on less than $1.90 by 2030, the target date set by the international community for eliminating extreme poverty.

The sub-Saharan Africa region will also account for 88 per cent of all children living in extreme poverty - up from around 50 per cent today.

The report, ‘Child poverty, inequality and demography: why sub-Saharan Africa matters for the Sustainable Development Goals’, is the first attempt to chart the evolving age profile of world poverty.

It highlights the critical role of demographic transitions – the shift towards a pattern of increased child survival, declining fertility and longer life expectancy - in shaping global and regional poverty.

While sub-Saharan Africa has registered strong progress on child survival, fertility rates are projected by the UN to remain almost double the level in South Asia through to 2030, with African women averaging over 4 births.

ODI researchers calculate that by 2030 sub-Saharan Africa, already the world's most youthful region, will see:

  • An increase of 43.4 million children – or 26.6 per cent – in the under-five population
  • An increase of 165.3 million of those under the age of 18
  • A marked increase in new entrants to the labour market, with an increase in the 15 to24-year-old population of around 94 million

Kevin Watkins, Executive Director of the ODI and co-author of the report, said: ‘With fertility rates dropping in other regions, Africa’s delayed demographic transition means a growing share of the world’s children is being born into, and growing up, in countries registering the slowest pace of poverty reduction.’

The report attributes the apparent paradox of Africa’s weak record on poverty reduction despite stronger growth, to a mix of extreme inequality, the depth of poverty, population growth and wider human development deficits in education and health.

Report co-author Maria Quattri said: ‘The world has witnessed an unprecedented reduction in poverty in recent decades, but Africa’s children are being left behind.

‘Over the next 15 years the face of world poverty will increasingly be the face an African child. Changing this picture will take more than declarations at UN summits. African governments and the wider international community must act now to tackle the underlying causes of child poverty.’

The report highlights the scale of the potential demographic dividend on offer. Harnessing Africa’s rising generation of children and youth to opportunities for education could accelerate economic growth and transform the region’s development prospects.

However, it warns that a combination of childhood poverty and restricted opportunity in education could trap Africa’s youthful population in a vicious circle of marginalisation, turning an opportunity into a demographic time-bomb.

The authors set out several strategies for combating child poverty and accelerating Africa’s demographic transition, highlighting the critical importance of human capital investments, targeted cash transfers, expanded access to reproductive health care and a concerted drive to end child marriage.


Notes to editors

  • The Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the UN in September 2015, set out 17 goals made up of 161 targets, including to ‘eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere’
  • Demography and child poverty estimates have been calculated by ODI using UNDESA 2015 data, adjusted by World Bank PovcalNet regional country classification
  • Fertility rates in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are from UNDESA’s ‘World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision’
  • UNICEF’s 2014 report ‘Generation 2030 / Africa’ estimates that the region’s share of global births will increase from 29 per cent to 35 per cent

For more information or to arrange an interview with one of the report authors please contact James Rush on 07808 791265 or email [email protected]