Inequality in Asia and policy gaps in Africa impede rise out of poverty, UN says

18 February 2005

Increasing social inequality in parts of Asia and the lack of beneficial policies and institutions in West and Central Africa are creating unique challenges to poverty eradication, senior officials from the United Nations agricultural fund said today in Rome.

Increasing social inequality in parts of Asia and the lack of beneficial policies and institutions in West and Central Africa are creating unique challenges to poverty eradication, senior officials from the United Nations agricultural fund said today in Rome.

At a regional roundtable during the meeting of the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Ganesh Thapa said some countries in East and Southeast Asia – notably China, Indonesia and Viet Nam – have already reached the first MDG of halving poverty by 2015, but more growth was needed in South Asia.

On the other hand, as growth based on rural and agricultural development shifted to growth in urban areas, income inequality was rising, resulting in “a far weaker impact on poverty reduction,” he told participants at the event entitled “Achieving the Millennium Development Goal of Halving Poverty by 2015: Sharing Experiences between Asia and the Pacific and Western and Central Africa.”

In West and Central Africa, IFAD’s Mohamed Béavogui said, “policies and institutions are needed that truly address growth and poverty reduction. And unless massive investment is made in infrastructure, including better roads, electricity and water, African nations will not have the tools they need to reach the MDGs.”

As an illustration, he said transportation costs accounted for some 60 per cent of the total price of cassava in Central African countries.

In addition, without peace it would be hard for African countries to mobilize the kind of effort that could translate into strong, substantial growth, Mr. Béavogui said.

One way of mobilizing society was to develop poverty reduction strategies based on wide popular participation, experts said at a roundtable yesterday on “National Strategies for Rural Poverty Reduction.”

“Country ownership is one of the most important aspects of poverty reduction strategies,” said Roberto Longo from IFAD’s Eastern and Southern Africa Division.

Such ownership tended to be stronger in strategies outside the framework of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), he said.

PRSPs are directed towards getting the backing of the international financial institutions and are used mainly in Eastern and Central Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.

Many countries in Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East are developing national poverty eradication strategies outside the PRSP framework, Mr. Longo said.

 

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