East Africa is fast becoming integrated – socio-economically, politically and in the development policy arena. Since the early 2000s, the regions’ leaders have been collaborating to build common economic and social policies, and creating regional institutions such as the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and the East African Court of Justice (EACJ). In the last decade, progress on regional integration is being seen in a generally positive light, with the business world in particular taking advantage of the benefits and opportunities from integration.
There are many improvements in quality of life and human development indicators in the region, such as increased enrolment in primary schooling and longer average lifespans. And, as the State of East Africa 2012 report notes, most of the region’s countries have lifted millions of people out of poverty over the last 17 years. The discovery of natural resources such as oil and natural gas (respectively off-shore and in the Great Rift Valley) are fuelling excitement about the potential for wealth, growth and prosperity.
However, it may be too early to draw overly optimistic conclusions about East Africa’s prospects for equitable development. For example, during the time period when countries like Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda were lifting millions out of poverty, Kenya and Burundi actually suffered an increase of poverty- with an extra 8.2m and 1.5m in people respectively falling below the poverty line. Coupled with rapid increases in population sizes, this intensifies the challenge for regional policymakers, with people in pockets of chronic poverty “missing out” on the new opportunities.
Additionally, the statistics can mask grim realities which may turn out to be barriers for economic growth and permanent eradication of poverty in the region. For example, many East African children who finish primary school are still unable to continue to secondary school. Malnutrition and stunting still remain chronic problems. As civil society partners in countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia tell us regularly, the discovery of profitable natural resources have the potential to be a curse or a blessing. Not only do poor communities risk being displaced through extracting processes, but their share of the profits from the resources could be quite limited.
Now, more than ever, East Africa policymakers need to prioritise poverty eradication, and to ensure that this is high on the agenda. Ensuring that income from available resources and gains from regional trade, investment and natural resource profits are allocated fairly- with the long-term objective of eradicating persistent and extreme poverty across the East African region and building sustainable, self-sufficient communities. To allocate resources where they are most needed, reliable data and evidence, consultation and targeted engagement with key stakeholders, and high quality analysis will be essential.
To address this need, the Development Initiatives Africa hub team are working closely with the Chronic Poverty Advisory Network, to produce a regular ‘East Africa Poverty Report’ (EAPR). Based on rigorous data analysis and evidence from country experts, the report will aim to keep extreme and chronic poverty high on the policy agenda in the Eastern African region, and inform policymaking.
The EAPR will:
- Conduct regular tracking of, and report on, the status, dynamics and trends of extreme and chronic poverty in the Eastern African region; and,
- Highlight the importance of prioritising resource allocation for the eradication of extreme and chronic poverty.
In addition, through active engagement and relationship building with other organisations in the region, the DI team hopes to positively influence policy actors and other development practitioners operating in the region based on learning and evidence from the report. We hope to contribute to debate, build a strong evidence base, and provide support to regional institutions in building policies and programmes that tackle chronic poverty and decrease vulnerability.
- The first issue of the report is expected in the first quarter of 2014. Please keep updated via the DI newsletter.
- For further information on the East Africa Poverty (EAPR) report, contact Charles Lwanga-Ntale or Jason Braganza
The EAPR network of organisations comprise:
- The Chronic Poverty Advisory Network
- Development Initiatives Africa Hub
- In Uganda: EPRC, DRT
- Rwanda: IPARR
- Kenya: Tegemeo, University of Nairobi
- Tanzania: REPOA, ESRF
- Burundi: We are actively seeking a partner organisation in Burundi.