Eradicating extreme poverty by 2030: Implications for Nigeria

By Olisaeloka Okocha   |   02 September 2015   |   2:59 am  

Rural-Nigeria“Some people are so poor that the only way God can appear to them is in the form of bread”. 

Abstract THERE is an ongoing onslaught, led by the World Bank Group (WBG), to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. From today, it implies our world must begin to witness a steady and continuous decline in the global poverty ratio; consistently over the next fifteen (15) years at least.

Corroborated by the United Nationsí General Assembly, as stated, this year ñ 2015, offers unique opportunity for global leaders and people to end poverty.

Considering the statistics obtained from the website of the World Bank, current world population approximately stands at seven billion, two hundred and seven million (~ 7.2077 billion) people.

With about three billion, two hundred and fifty million (~ 3.25 billion) people of the aforementioned population living under $2.50 per day, this call to completely transform our world by 2030 is obviously Herculean! However, when compared with the amount of measured wealth that abound in our world, about seventy seven trillion US dollars ($77 .87 trillion) in global gross domestic product (GDP), it is conspicuous that this objective is nothing but achievable.

It is achievable only on the terms that we define poverty in its natures and forms, expose its causes, and thereafter, sincerely, collaboratively and ceaselessly tackle them at their roots until the last extremely poor person is alleviated. Using the Divide-And-Conquer methodology, world leaders would be encouraged and supported, acting as the initial torchbearers, to enact policies that would engender this global transformation; continuously and sustainably so, over passing generations.

With focus on Nigeria, what are the implications for one of the most populous countries in the world? A country ranked third in the global poverty index for 2014 and home to seven percent (7%) of globally extreme poor.

And how can Information technology assist the World Bank initiative in fighting and ultimately stamping out poverty by 2030? Who is a poor person? There are many definitions, propounded by different schools of thoughts, describing poverty or poor persons. Limited to the confines of different countries and their respective economic conditions, it would be easily agreeable to define a poor person in each country.


On a global scale however, what constitute poverty or being poor in one country under certain economic conditions might constitute considerable amount of wealth in another country with different socioeconomic conditions. Stating the Merriam-Webster dictionary, poverty or being poor is: ìÖhaving little money or possessions: not having enough money for the basic things that people need to live properly.

This definition, although general and contextually applicable, leaves so much to questions in empirical terms. In any case, it is extracted from an English language lexical reference. In economic terms however, rather than this summary, peopleís needs to live properly differ from place to place, time to time and across different demography.

Therefore, it is crucial to define poverty within the ambit of prevailing economic, social and political conditions within which residents of a country live.

Let us take an example of 2 different hypothetic countries: one that supports its unemployed and ìpoorî citizens for shelter, education and health, and another that runs a ìto-spend-it-earn-itî system.

In former, there is the possibility that such State will actively participate in the Ordinance of its mortgage, education and health sectors; thereby redefining its poor people and the notion of poverty.

Compared relatively to a country, where everyone is expected to acquire a quantum of considerable wealth in order to enjoy the ìbenefitsî of inferior social amenities, poverty or being poor will begin to take different shapes, effects and understanding.

In the case of the latter, it would begin to look like Africa and a significant part of Asia. For the purpose of this article and drawing from the illustration above, I will define poverty or being poor simply as the social condition of any individual that denies his or her rights to basic things, which human need to live properly, given the prevailing socioeconomic and political situations of his or her immediate environment at a particular point in time

This definition, which I do not claim to be the ìGAGUTî on poverty or being poor, I believe, expresses conditions such as malnutrition, diseases, lack of education & useful information for human development, unemployment, alienation, political unrest, natural disasters, inflation, bad governance, insecurity, corruption, discrimination including, but not limited to, racial, gender, ethnical, and religious as constituting impedance to equitable wealth creation and distribution on the one hand. Amongst other things, it also emphasizes a decent grade of social amenities as human rights on the other hand.

If this is admissible, then with assiduous and collaborative efforts of all, including the extremely poor themselves, our path to realizing a world without abject poverty is laid, clear and straight.

In addition to the foregoing, this definition also quietly states that an inauspicious tinkering with sensitive fiscal and economic parameters could move more citizens within poverty band.

Although it has been argued that poverty cannot be completely eradicated, I believe strongly that with the elimination of all social impedance against equitable wealth generation and subsequent distribution, it can; but not without everyone putting a hand in the works.

Motivated by the accelerated achievement of halving extreme poverty in our world, five years ahead of schedule, the World Bank Group (WBG) is bolstered to an even higher, or rather ambitious objective: the total eradication of extreme poverty in our world by 2030. While this might be rather ambitious, in any case, that is what it is meant to be ñ ambitious.

We are supposed to set our sky a little bit higher than our reach; and then, reach for it. In the end, if we are unable to push extreme poverty lines below the stipulated 3 percent of global population by 2030, we would have depressed it beneath its 2011 record of 14.5 percent.

Continuously, slowly and steadily in this manner, one day, extreme poverty would become history. Maybe poverty too; in all its manifestations and ramifications! While this might, again, sound like another impossible task; let us note that whatever we measure is what we get. And since building the future we desire requires that we measure what we want, we must keep in mind that in our ìguestimationî for better standards of living for all of us, it is better to be approximately right than to be precisely wrong.

So, who are the extremely poor? The World Bank Group (WBG) states on its website that: ìThe extreme poor live on less than US$1.25 a day. Many lack basic sanitation and clean water. They are malnourished and suffer from lack of education.î With this definition, let us take a cursory look at what this probably means for Nigeria and her citizens vis-‡-vis the noble cause to eradicate poverty by 2030.

Before then however, let us dwell a little bit on some of the submissions in the WBG/IMFís Global Monitoring Report for the years 2014 and 2015. ìIn 1990 the magnitude of extreme poverty was greatest in East Asia.

Today, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia account for about 80 percent of the global poor. According to the 2011 estimates, extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa was around 47 percent.

Almost three-fifths of the worldís extreme poor are concentrated in just five countries: Bangladesh, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, and Nigeria. Adding another five countries (Ethiopia, Indonesia, Madagascar, Pakistan, and Tanzania) would comprise just over 70 percent of the extreme poor.î ìIn 26 countries the number of people living in extreme poverty is equal to or more than 40 percent of the population in 2011. These countries account for about a quarter of the worldís extremely poor people.

All these countries except Haiti and Bangladesh are in Sub-Saharan Africa, and all except for Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, and Tanzania have a population of less than 30 million people.î ìÖin middle-income countries, where access to basic goods and services is nearly universal, inequality of opportunity is widely prevalent in access to primary education.

This is particularly true in countries such as Albania, Lesotho, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and Zambia, among others, where children in the bottom 40 percent of the wealth distribution have a primary completion rate of around 50 percent, compared with a 90 percent rate or higher for children in the highest 20 percent.

Let us ruminate this for a while! Some Implications: Breaking down the above statements would imply significant implications for Nigeria, Africa and the World as a whole; some of which are: That, at approximately 40% poverty level in 2011, 71.4 million Nigerians were extremely poor. This is assuming that our population, according to the WBG, was 178.5 million.

Kept constant, about 59.083 million Nigerians would constitute the ìextreme poorî today at 33.1% poverty level. This is considering the revelation by Mr John Litwack of WBG at the media launch of the Nigeria Economic Report in July 2014; That, the population of extreme poor in Nigeria is larger than the entire population of South Africa.

Combined, it is larger than the populations of Ghana, Cote díivoire and Cuba; That, each of these extremely poor individuals live, at the prevailing exchange rate of N197 per US dollar, on less than N246.25 (two hundred and forty-six naira, twenty five kobo) a day.

At this rate, it is not impossible that some of them, in fact, have nothing in days. On a monthly basis however, they would have each spent a meagre sum of N7, 395 (seven thousand, three hundred and ninety-five naira only); That, to depress the global threshold of extreme poor population below 3% by 2030, Nigeria must ensure that the headcount of its extreme poor population dips to being between 1.78 million and 2.14 million people from its current 59.083 million; with respect to the 33.1% to 40% statistical poverty band; With a projected headcount population increase to approximately 239.9 million by 2025 for Nigeria, not more than 7.197 million people must remain extremely poor in spite of onerous efforts to safe more or all.

This population would still be higher than the project population of Bulgaria. However daunting these implications might sound, they are not insurmountable; especially with the unwavering commitments and persistent dedication of all of us.

So, what must we do, as a country, to abate our frightening poverty level? I will touch three things I believe are of high importance in our battle against extreme poverty.

In any case, if we can map every street on earth, then there is no hiding place for poverty; except in the hearts that believe it cannot be eradicated! Review the faux pas in GDP computation: With still focus on the goal, a first step in the right direction would be to redefine our measuring scale for equitable economic and financial growth. What this means is that we must devise new methods for measuring our economic productivity and profitability different from the traditional metrics; such as the Gross Domestic Products (GDP).

Drawing from my earlier definition of poverty or being poor, we must debase the monetary foundation for measuring the prosperity of countries. Since the advent of the GDP in the post-war reconstruction of world economy in 1944, in Bretton Wood, New Hampshire, our world has continued to race into social nothingness .

While we seem to ascend the ladder of prosperity, social grounds beneath us continues to sink; faster than we climb. Consequently, in spite of the abundance of wealth, ills like rising rate of criminal activities continue to elude us.

And this is one important area GDP has failed the world. It emphasizes our economic and financial throughput, but not the alarming heights of social decadence such as child abuse, and environmental degradation.

It is phony how persistent increase in crime rate can fuel GDP rise as a result of unabated government expenditure on security. While GDP already seem like a ìperfectî approach of measuring national economic activities, we must devise another method that considers the economic impairment of poverty.

The result of this method, measured negatively, should be netted with GDP to produce the final economic performance of nations. As an example, consider the 2014 GDP of Nigeria in answering questions on our collective standards of living.

At US$568.51 billion, Nigeria account for 7% of worldís poorest population. How incongruent? Greater investment in the poor: The easiest way to drag a people or countries out of poverty is to let them, the victims, do it.

This is not to undermine the importance of supports and aids. Rather, it emphasizes the need to continually make the operational environments and the living conditions of poor people better at every leg.

This effort must include investments in qualitative education and enlightenment programs. The bedrock of poverty alleviation is always education; particularly when it is entrenched in the early lives of poor children. Free and educated children hardly ever grow to become poor. In the absence of good jobs, they usually grow to create their own opportunities.

Early adoption of information technology is an effective and sure way of trapping the attention of extremely poor children; after nutrition, shelter, good health care and security.

All of these must also be provided in the early stages of their development. By education, I do not simply mean going to school to acquire reading and writing abilities.

A mix of entrepreneurial acumen with conventional education is the standard that can accelerate poverty reduction. As seen in Nigeria today, many of our educated youths are said to be unemployable or misemployed; thereby adding to the already cataclysmic poverty scale.

Considerable investments must also be ploughed into economically viable skillsí acquisitions for the active youth demography of the poor. This singular action has the propensity to create more jobs, improve the relative income and consumption of the bottom 40% of our wealth distribution. And as a result, it is capable of reducing extreme poverty on the long term.

This is actually my own understanding of equitable wealth generation ñ a situation where everyone contributes gainfully to the national economic and financial output.

Deployment of Social safety nets: Ordinarily, this is not a desirable solution in the final lap. Supposing there are no poor people in Nigeria, social safety nets would be totally out of question.

However, since we have argued that it is practically impossible to completely eradicate poverty, especially in its extreme manifestation, social safety nets are as important as other conditions for eradicating extreme poverty in the next 15 years.

As in the words of Ronald Reagan however, we should measure ìsocial safety netî success by how many people leave; not by how many people are added. This will reflect the true measure of its impact as poverty reduces.

This corroborates the earlier suggestion to devise a new method that nets negative social metrics with GDP to gauge the true economic and financial health of countries.

Safety nets assist the poor and vulnerable, redistribute the gains from growth, and contribute to growth by enhancing the ability of the poor and ultimately their children to benefit from economic development.

Safety nets are not just about transferring resources in cash or kind from one segment of the society to another at a point in time, but more about investing in improving the capabilities of people over time and across generations.

(GMR 2014/2015) Programs such as helping poor children to acquire early education, and outright access to free health care would amount to safety nets; among others.

The older population must not be neglected in all arrangements. This is an iota of my understanding of the WBGís drive for equitable wealth distribution and shared prosperity.

Major threats in this area would include discrimination of any form, political unrest, corruption, and dubieties of leaders in sensitive positions that this objective cannot be accomplished.

A few dosages of Information technology Having elicited a few economic and social responses to combating extreme poverty, let us quickly examine a few IT initiatives that could catalyze this drive.

Possibly, we could accomplish our goals faster than 2030. . Market-Creating Innovation When we talk about innovation, many conveniently think about the development of products that are metaphorically out of this world.

Others focus on creating more with less, which on the long run, enforces or increases cost effectiveness and reduces the time to market. On stricter terms, these kind of innovations are either about sustenance or efficiency.

While ìSustenance Innovationî focuses on replacing an old product with a newer/better one, ìEfficiency Innovationî focuses on producing more with less.

Neither of these kinds of innovation conventionally creates new jobs or markets. Market-Creating innovation, on the other hand, is the kind of innovation that creates more jobs at the lower end of the economic ladder; thereby, deepening wealth creation and eventual distribution of same.

This is the kind of innovation that are truly disruptive in nature; especially with their ability to alter market structures or even entirely rebirth them. A very common example in this category is the Mobile Money Innovation of Safari origin.

Do I need to say any more? This innovation eliminated the bureaucratic nature of the financial system by delivering services straight to commoners.

Without the lumbering procedures of the banking industry, people with minimal income could participant in the financial system. The final gain is not just being financially included, the turnover of the entire banking industry for a population of 40 million people has continued to soar.

The last time I checked, MPesa, the flagship product powered by Safaricom, does approximately fifteen million dollars in daily transactions. Converted to Naira, at the prevailing exchange rate of N197 per USD, that amounts to 2.955 billion naira daily. Records also show that over 70% of the users of this platform in Kenya are common people.

Wealth generation and distribution in Kenya, more than any developing country, is more equitable; as more purchasing power parity (PPP) of people within the lower 40% of the national wealth distribution continue to rise. This is a typical example of how market-creating innovation attacks poverty.

All stakeholders and champions of the campaign against poverty through technology must pay attention to this. . Non-Consumption Targeting In fighting poverty, it is obvious that there are goods/services in every economy that are considered ostentatious, which must be reviewed, recreated, or revalued for the consumption of the 40% in the lower echelon of the wealth distribution.

In this category, we must orchestrate technology to distribute social benefits amongst the poor using the purchasing power parity (PPP). Since we have stated that social advantages such as health, insurance and education elude the extreme poor demography, it is of essence, therefore, that we must adopt technology to redistribute these benefits amongst them.

Some examples in this category would include the health and insurance policies doled out at stipends to the poor through some specific subscriptions.

Without trying to promote any product in this space, it is important to state that the benefit of this service is that more poor people can access health and insurance policies. In past times, this is not something prevalent among the poor. As we open up more channels to such social services, poverty will reduce.

We must consciously create and promote more of such services in other spheres such as education, commerce, vocations, security and so on. Talking about educations, it is possible to have more people educated without attending the classrooms through this means.

While I do not suggest that this should replace formal education, I believe that the scores of individuals that might be educated through this channel would reduce our burden on the schools and deepens our efforts to liberate more people from poverty.

FinallyÖ I am convinced that the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, had these things in mind when he stated that: ìSocial protection system is absolutely essential to assist the highly vulnerable in our society but I hear some critics say that people should work to earn money; but the only way out for now is to ensure that people who earn nothing can eat to avoid preventable deaths

From his exposition, I interpret as follows in the light of the definition of extreme poor: Social Protection System: A holistic support system for the poor to cover all social advantages ranging from nutrition to education; and so on; Money: The currency for living properly; and this include nutrition, food, health, security etc.

Preventable Death: Not only being dying, includes illiteracy, poor health, insecurity, starvation, war etc.; It is my opinion that to beat poverty down to below 3% of worldís population by 2030, it must not be by the provision of bread alone (except where bread is metaphorically used to consist of all basic needs).

While we physically revitalize the weak through nutrition, water, quality health care and clean environment, we must simultaneously strengthen them mentally through education and protect them by all-inclusive social integration. We must do all of these with utter consciousness that mother earth requires from us the exact degree of kindness for eventual and long-lasting sustainability. P

  • Tosin Otitoju

    Repeat the message, slice it and dice it, shorten it and sweeten it, …
    Good Luck to us.

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