UN agency says extreme poverty, inequality remain Africa's top challenges

UN agency says extreme poverty, inequality remain Africa's top challenges

Eradicating extreme poverty and reducing existing inequality have remained the African continent's biggest challenges, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said on Friday, Trend reports citing Xinhua.

The statement was made by Thokozile Ruzvidzo, Director of Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division at the ECA, while addressing a high-level continental meeting of the committee on gender, poverty and social policy, which is underway at the ECA headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa from November 14 to 15.

"Eradicating extreme poverty and reducing inequality remain some of Africa's biggest challenges, is which the ECA is trying to help member States tackle through various policy recommendations and actions," Ruzvidzo told the meeting, which aimed at looking into the core role of the ECA's newly-formed Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division that was reformulated to address gender, poverty and social policy as key African priorities.

"Despite strides the continent has made in reducing the incidence of poverty, under the current trajectory, it is unlikely that extreme poverty will be eradicated by 2030," the ECA director said.

"Global extreme poverty is predominantly concentrated in Africa, and is declining much slower in the region compared to the rest of the world," she added.

"In Africa, this megatrend has largely not been translated into diversification of the economy, structural transformation, and the creation of productive jobs away from substance agriculture, in manufacturing and modern services," she said.

Figures from the ECA show that more than 50 percent of urban residents in Africa live informally, increasing by 4.5 million annually and an estimated 210 million live under conditions of poverty in urban slums, excluding North Africa, a figure which is projected to rise to 256.4 million in 2020.

In half of African countries, less than 35 percent of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities, less than 76 percent has access to potable water, and the urban housing deficit stands at 20 billion U.S. dollars to 25 billion U.S. dollars, according to the ECA.

"These figures suggest that extreme poverty in Africa is moving from rural to urban areas," the ECA said in a statement issued on the margins of the meeting, adding the situation is equally challenging in terms of inequality in the region.

"The interaction between poverty and inequality requires urgent attention in order to resolve human ill-being, fulfill everyone's human rights, and achieve collective peace, prosperity, and genuine democracy," Ruzvidzo said.

"Poverty and inequality do not only mean human deprivation, they often lead to social unrest and uprisings, growing radicalization, worsening of polarization within countries and communities, risks, and sometimes actual conflicts and wars," she added.

According to the ECA, particularly relevant to the new priorities of the newly-formed Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division is urbanization.

The reformulated division is said to be home to sub-programs that seek to address emerging issues impacting the lives of African women and girls, promote and support African countries in their work to achieve gender equality and women's empowerment.

It also envisaged contributing to Africa achieving inclusive and equitable sustainable human and social development, it was noted.

"The principal rationale for its recent reform was to re-affirm that the Commission was re-oriented to effectively implement its mandate, including effectively supporting the implementation of, and follow-up to, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union's Agenda 2063," Ruzvidzo said.

The ECA noting existing "uncertain and volatile global environment, slower growth in the region, and rising inequality, had to embark on reforms to ensure it remained in touch with Africa's development efforts," Ruzvidzo said.

The ECA's new strategic direction, which focuses particularly on 23 African countries, aspires to increase its ability to make impactful interventions and remain forward-looking, it was noted.

Experts in the fields of urbanization, planning, social policy and gender, research institutes, UN specialized agencies and civil society are attending the two-day meeting to evaluate the core role of the ECA's newly-formed division, which envisaged addressing gender, poverty and social policy as key African priorities.

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