How do people survive in extreme poverty

Nigeria: The World's New Poor House

Africa's largest economy has replaced India as the country with the greatest number of people in extreme poverty. 87 million people have to survive on less than $ 1.90 a day.

Vienna. There is good news. By the time you finish reading this text, a few dozen people will have escaped extreme poverty again. It is 1.1 per second. This is how it shows the World Poverty Clock, an interactive website that measures (or more precisely: estimates) poverty in real time. But in parts of Africa the poverty clock is ticking differently. The pointers are moving in the wrong direction. There are 18 countries around the world in which, according to forecasts, poverty will not decrease but increase. 14 of them are in Africa.

Nigeria, for example. The largest economy in Africa is now also the largest poor house in the world in absolute terms. This spring, according to estimates, Nigeria replaced India as the country with the most people in extreme poverty. 87.1 million Nigerians have to get by on less than 1.90 US dollars a day. In India, which is seven times larger, the number fell to 70.2 million.

The results also surprised Martin Hofer, researcher at World Data Lab and thus the Viennese NGO that operates the World Poverty Clock website. Hofer assumed that poverty would fall much faster in India than in Nigeria. “But we didn't expect that things would go in the wrong direction in Nigeria,” he told the “press”. Every minute there would be six more Nigerians who would have to (survive) on less than 1.90 US dollars a day.

Big differences

Inequality has always been rampant in the most populous African country. Nigeria is not only home to most of the people in extreme poverty, but also to the richest African, Aliko Dangote. The development organization Oxfam recently estimated that Dangote earns 8,000 times what poor Nigerians spend on basic needs per day - per year.

And Nigeria is swimming in oil. However, it was also the fall in the price of the raw material that plunged the country into recession in 2016. The economy is now picking up again. Which is why Nigeria's Trade Minister Okechukwu Enelamah doesn't give much to the World Poverty Clock (poverty figures are always a political issue in Africa). However, there is a dilemma: the economy is likely to continue to grow in the future, but more slowly than the population. With dramatic consequences for the next generations.

However, Africa cannot be lumped together. There are bright spots. “In Ethiopia, for example, poverty is being combated effectively,” says data analyst Hofer. But from a bird's eye view, Asia has escaped from the African continent. And the gap will widen even further: two out of three people in extreme poverty now live between the Mediterranean and the Cape of Good Hope. In twelve years' time, 90 percent of extreme poverty will be in Africa. By then, extreme poverty should actually have been eradicated worldwide. This is what the UN Sustainable Development Goals provide. But for this to happen, the prerequisites must first change.

Conflicts inhibit advancement

Africa's gloomy forecast has to do with the numerous local conflicts. In Nigeria's northeast, for example, the Islamist Boko Haram sect is raging. South Sudan has been ravaged by a civil war. This is one of the reasons why most people in this youngest country in the world - measured in terms of population - live in extreme poverty. It is 85 percent of the population (Nigeria: 44 percent). Ascending trend.

The forecast for parts of Africa also overshadows India's successful run. It is estimated that every fourth Indian was extremely poor seven years ago. Seven years later, the share shrank to five percent. Or to put it another way: every minute, 43 Indians escape extreme poverty.


Sustainability goals. The United Nations (UN) aims to eradicate hunger and extreme poverty around the world by 2030. To this end, the UN General Assembly adopted the so-called Sustainability Goals (SDGs) in September 2015, which were supposed to replace the Millennium Goals (MDGs). The SDG catalog comprises a total of 17 goals that are to be implemented over the next twelve years. This includes, among other things, that all people should be guaranteed access to clean water, a decent toilet and free primary education.

("Die Presse", print edition, July 17, 2018)