ACCRA, Ghana – The Afrobarometer, simply put, is a research project that aims to measure poverty by tracking the social, political, and economic atmosphere in Africa. There are innumerable studies about the quality of life in Africa from government groups, NGOs, and philanthropies, just to name a few.
What sets the Afrobarometer apart is that the research is conducted through face-to-face interviews with individuals and households. That is to say, they collect qualitative data straight from the source – the people who are actually living there and experiencing the changes first hand.
Their research is conducted through a series of surveys and now encompasses over 35 different African countries. The surveys ask respondents about their attitude and behavior regarding a range of subjects including democracy, social capital, crime, conflict, and national identity. Because the surveys are a standard set of questions, the data can be compared and generalized conclusions can be drawn from it.
Through this method, public attitudes can be tracked over both time and space. The research is then released via reports to politicians, advocates, and researchers – really any interested individual.
The Afrobarometer has both national and international support from a wide and prestigious group of individuals and organizations. They have received funding from The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), The World Bank, The African Development Bank, and Michigan State University, to name a few. One of the main reasons their work is deemed so important is because it tracks actual, local opinions rather than drawing conclusions from quantitative data – an equally valid, though much more removed, approach.
Since they began conducting surveys in 1999, the Afrobarometer has released 5 main rounds of data. The latest round is in the process of being released, with various reports set to come out all through the fall and into December. A study released on the 1st of the month has already drawn attention with its findings. The report, entitled “After a Decade of Growth in Africa, Little Change in Poverty at the Grassroots” finds that despite improved economic growth over the last decade, the projections of declining poverty rates do not accurately reflect the rate of “lived” poverty within a majority of African countries.
The surveys found that one in five Africans interviewed experiences frequent shortages of basic needs like food and clean water. Almost half of those interviewed said that they regularly lack an income, and 76% say that they have been without cash at least once in the last year.
While overall poverty has decreased in general, several countries, including Senegal and South Africa, have actually seen increased poverty rates over the last 10 years.
Researchers say that these results indicate that either the economic growth “is not trickling down to average citizens and translating into poverty reduction…[or]there is reason to question whether reported growth rates are actually being realised.”
In light of this, the report urges governments to focus on tangible poverty reduction rather than growing the economy.
– Rebecca Beyer