THE BLOG

Astonishing Poverty Rates Indict Sub-Sahara African Leadership

03/12/2015 02:48 EDT | Updated 05/12/2015 05:59 EDT

Peter Drucker, an Austrian-born American management guru famously stated that "management is doing things right" and that "leadership is doing the right things." From this we learn that great leaders set their sights on the "things" that merit topmost attention. The shocking and heart-breaking poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is crying out loud for a leadership that possesses what Drucker nailed in this writings - a zest for change by "doing the right things." Not nearly enough of this happening in SSA.

This becomes evident when poverty is measured by the headcount of people earning less than $2 a day. Below are percentages of the population living on less than $2 a day in 43 SSA countries drawn from the World Bank data.

Besides illustrating astonishing high rates of poverty, this data reveals several puzzles. For example, 82.2 percent of Nigeria's population live on less than $2 a day, despite the fact that the country is the largest economy in Africa with growth domestic product (GDP) of $594 billion. The second puzzle involves Ethiopia and Rwanda. The two have had impressive GDP annual growth rates of over 8 percent and 10 percent since 2006, respectively, but their percentages of the poor remains very high. The population of people living on less than $2 a day in Ethiopia stands at 72.3 percent.

Rwanda has even larger numbers of poor people - 82.3 percent of its population subsist on less than $2 a day. Interestingly, the Rwandan ruler Paul Kagame claims to have built an African economic success story. Writing in the Wall Street Journal about "Rwanda and the new lions of Africa" on May 19, 2013, Kagame disagreed with those who say that there is no short cut to development. "We do not agree. Development is a marathon that must be run at a sprint. In our pursuit of progress, we have of course looked to East Asia's so-called "tiger" economies for inspiration." With a poverty headcount of 82.3 percent, and ranked 35th out of 43 SSA countries on my list, Kagame's lion appears to be terminally sick.

Perhaps most depressing is the fact that of the 43 SSA countries ranked below, 34 or 79 percent are in poor shape. In each of the 34 countries, people living on less than $2 a day constitute more than half of the national population. Meanwhile, Burundi, Liberia, DRC, and Madagascar face the most disastrous scenario. Poverty headcount is above 93 percent of their respective populations.

Here are the rankings:

1. Mauritius, 0.2 percent

2. Seychelles, 0.2 percent

3. Gabon, 20.9 percent

4. South Africa, 26.2 percent

5. Botswana, 27.8 percent

6. Cape Verde, 34.7 percent

7. Namibia, 43.2 percent

8. Sudan, 44.1 percent

9. Mauritania, 47.7 percent

10. Ghana, 51.8 percent

11. Cameroon, 53.2 percent

12. Gambia, 55.9 percent

13. Congo Republic, 57.3 percent

14. Cote d'Ivoire, 59.1 percent

15. Swaziland, 59.1 percent

16. Senegal, 60.3 percent

17. Chad, 60.5 percent

18. Uganda, 62.9 percent

19. Comoros, 65.0 percent

20. Kenya, 67.2 percent

21. Angola, 67.4 percent

22. Ethiopia, 72.2 percent

23. Burkina Faso, 72.4

24. Guinea, 72.7 percent

25. Togo, 72.8 percent

26. Tanzania, 73.0 percent

27. Sao Tomé and Príncipe, 73.1 percent

28. Lesotho, 73.4 percent

29. Benin, 74.3 percent

30. Niger, 76.1 percent

31. Guinea-Bissau, 78.0 percent

32. Mali, 78.8 percent

33. Central African Republic, 80.1 percent

34. Nigeria, 82.2 percent

35. Rwanda, 82.3 percent

36. Sierra Leone, 82.5 percent

37. Mozambique, 82.5 percent

38. Zambia, 86.6 percent

39. Malawi, 88.1 per

40. Burundi, 93.5 percent

41. Liberia, 94.9 percent

42. Madagascar, 95.1 percent

43. Democratic Republic of Congo, 95.2 percent

As can been seen from these headcount rates, poverty is the perpetual state for the overwhelming majority in SSA. But why is this? Are Sub-Saharan Africans responsible for their own predicament? Are they lazy and therefore responsible for their circumstances? Or perhaps this has to do with colonial legacies 50 years on? No. Poverty in SSA is an indictment of SSA leadership, not least those that have been in power for 15-35 years. And as if that were not bad enough, several of their counterparts are currently seeking to join the club by amending constitutions to grab power in order to preside over poverty-making.