Despite significant challenges, and persistent uncertainty, Africa has made extensive progress in recent years.
Since the year 2000, violent conflict in Africa has greatly declined. Data from the World Health Organization showed a 95% decrease in African conflict deaths between the year 2000 and 2012. Although localised conflict increased between 2012 and 2015, conflict is once again experiencing a downward trend in Africa, with the main persistent threat now that of militant Islamic groups.
In the last 10 years, 34 of 54 African countries have improved their governance, leading to significant improvements in human rights. Although some elections have been tainted by corruption, and new democracies challenged by autocratic leadership, generally, there has been a continent-wide push towards democracy in Africa. Democracy has contributed to the alleviation of African poverty, but in countries where it has stalled, economic progress has been hindered.
Overall, Africa has made gains in reducing poverty. With high economic growth rates in most African countries, the proportion of African people living in poverty decreased from 54% in 1990, to 41% in 2015.
However, due to rapid population growth, the absolute number of poor people in Africa has actually increased. Also, inequality means that economic growth does not always eliminate poverty for ordinary people. While the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to eliminate all forms of poverty by the year 2030, recent estimates by the Africa Growth Initiative expect poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa to have reached 25% (at best) or 30% (at worst) by the year 2030.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on Africa’s economic growth. In 2020, Sub-Saharan Africa experienced its first recession in 25 years. Per capita income in the region decreased by over 5% in 2020, reducing the average individual’s income to 2013 levels.
It is difficult to assess the health impacts of the pandemic in Africa, as COVID testing remains low in most regions. Africa’s reported death rates for COVID-19 have been low, attributed by some to its young population. However, the pandemic has placed additional pressure on the fragile health systems of African countries, placing previous health gains at risk.
In 2021, the global pandemic has made life uncertain for all of us. But uncertainty is no stranger to Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, with its 1 billion people, half of whom will be under 25 years old by 2050, does face an uncertain future.
However, in Christ, with your support and the partnership of the local church, Africa’s uncertainty is turned to hope.
Ben Campbell (Sydney) is the CEO Africa Enterprise.