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Poverty and poverty reduction in sub-Saharan Africa: An overview of key issues

Working papers

Written by Kate Bird

The problem of poverty and how to reduce it remains the most pressing dilemma in the international development debate. More specifically, two questions are at the heart of much of academic research and public policy for development, namely: what is it that makes Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) the poorest region in the world and what can be done to deliver the sustainable and broad-based economic growth required to address this? This paper seeks to provide an introduction to current debates on these two
interrelated questions. We do not pretend to provide a comprehensive overview of a vast and ever changing body of academic literature and government policy. Rather, the paper has two main objectives. Firstly, we highlight the principal drivers and maintainers of poverty in SSA as we see them (building on a holistic approach to defining poverty) and, secondly, we critically discuss selected policies for economic development and poverty reduction. In addition, while there are many commonalities between countries in the region, there is also a great deal of diversity that a regional focus overlooks. Thus, in order to trace the drivers and maintainers of poverty and associated poverty reduction policy options from a country perspective, two country case studies (of Nigeria and Tanzania) are also discussed (see Appendix A).

Geoff Handley, Kate Higgins and Bhavna Sharma with Kate Bird and Diana Cammack