The numbers we’re hearing recently are that China has lifted 680 million people out of extreme poverty in the last 30 years. 680 million! This accounts for the vast majority of the decline in global poverty over that time period. Laudable certainly, and many facets of their transition are perhaps worthy of being emulated.
However, lest we go overboard and allow China’s size and success to become all we see in the global war on poverty, let’s discuss some of the other countries who are making giant strides, for there are others. According to a ONE campaign report, 63 countries are on pace to have halved the number of their citizens living in extreme poverty by 2015, as compared to rates in 1990. These 63 countries extend around the globe, even including 16 in sub-Saharan Africa, a region that typically seems to be lagging behind the rest of the world.
There are promising examples in the region though. Ethiopia for one reduced the number of its citizens living in extreme poverty by 10 million, in the first decade of this century, by focusing half of the government budget on measures designed to directly fight poverty. Their success at buoying healthcare, agricultural development, and education in the country could mean that poverty will be eliminated in Ethiopia by 2030. Similarly, Uganda lifted 3 million people out of poverty between 2006 and 2009 alone, and since the early 90’s the number of Ugandans living below the extreme poverty line has fallen by nearly half.
Sure these numbers aren’t as striking as those of China, but for countries of their size, the results are no less impressive. It is this scale though that can skew our perception of success in the global fight against poverty. For example, while Ethiopia and Uganda may be succeeding in their own struggles against extreme poverty, larger neighboring countries like Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo offset their success, and influence perceptions of the entire region in a negative fashion.
There are no guarantees that the 63 countries currently on pace to meet poverty reduction goals will ultimately succeed. Economic growth and regional stability can hardly be guaranteed. But it is important to note that success in the struggle can be found worldwide. And that it’s important to look at the smaller countries, who are improving the lives of their own citizens in just the same manner as those of China, only on a smaller scale.
Smaller, but no less significant.
– David Wilson