A tale of two continents: fighting inequality in Africa

Publication date: 2 September 2019
Author: Emma Seery, Joab Okanda, Max Lawson

Despite the recent spate of economic growth, Africa remains afflicted by entrenched poverty and alarmingly high and rising inequality. The gap between rich and poor is greater than in any other region of the world apart from Latin America, and in many African countries this gap continues to grow. In this context, the prospects of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063 are severely diminished.

This paper uses the Reducing Inequality Index (CRI) developed by Oxfam and Development Finance to produce a ranking of African countries on their policies to reduce the gap between rich and poor, looking at taxation, social spending and labour rights.

It paints an interesting picture. All countries in Africa are dealing with the same poisonous legacy: very high levels of inequality, a history of colonial expropriation and failed economic policies often imposed on them by the IMF and the World Bank. Yet the steps being taken to overcome this legacy and tackle the gap between rich and poor differ hugely from country to country. The CRI shows that it is possible for African governments to choose a path of more equitable growth.