Third Eye

Kenya needs a social contract to end poverty by 2030

Monday, September 30th, 2019 10:48 |

In September 2015, World leaders made a commitment to end poverty by 2030 alongside adoption of 16 other goals under the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

It makes the month of September special and historic to all the poorest citizens across the globe and offers policy makers an opportunity to reflect on progress towards this crucial goal that seeks to offer the poor chance to enjoy a decent life and dynamics of poverty.

Four years later, are we on truck or have we veered off?

The biggest question should be, Has the quality of life improved for the millions of poorest? Are we headed there?

Sadly, we are yet to get on the truck, if we go by the current statistics.

World Bank Data shows that globally, poverty rates have more than halved in recent decades, leaving slightly over 700 Million people surviving on less than Sh 195 per day. Global poverty rate has thus fallen from 36 percent in 1990 to current estimates of 10 percent.

Asian economies especially India is making great contribution towards poverty eradication on a robust economic growth. The soon-to-be largest country in the world is projected to have less than 50 Million people living in extreme poverty from 268 million in 2011. Poverty rate in the country is estimated at 3 percent and could be among the first countries to end poverty.

Africa’s fight against poverty however, is a bad news. World Data lab projects that 70 percent of World’s poorest will live in Africa in 2019, rising by 20 percent compared to five years ago.

By 2023, Africa is projected will have added 20 percent more poor people to 80 percent, at this rate, it means most African nations will be locked out of SDG1 milestone celebrations by 2030.

World poverty clock estimates that only four percent of the global population will have escaped extreme poverty by then, which indicates that 478 million will still be considered poorest citizens across the globe.

Similarly, World data lab estimates global poverty rates will be 436 Million by 2030. Technically this sustainable development goal will not be achieved.

Closer home, things are not better either.

World Bank Kenya Poverty and Gender Assessment (KPGA) 2018 shows over the last 10 years, poverty rate has declined by 10 percent to 36.1 percent or 16.4 million people. The rate is still very high compared to the global average.

Interestingly, the country’s economy has over the review period grown at an average 5 percent annually, but this is not reflective of the anticipated improvement in quality of life to its citizenry especially the poorest.

With only 10 years remaining to 2030, Kenya needs a robust transformation plan that will lift at least 1 Million Kenyans out of poverty annually.

At just a percentage drop or lifting 160,000 people from extreme poverty annually, the trend suggests that economic growth might not always be enough to reduce poverty. If this trend will persist over the next decade, Kenya might as well be locked out of the SDG1 milestone celebrations.

So do we have options to find a way to this event by 2030? I agree with Utz Pape, World Bank poverty economist and lead author of the KPGA report, that we will need higher and more inclusive growth rates and sharper focus on poverty reduction policies.

But first of all, we need to measure real impact of current social assistance interventions to find out how much it contributes to general poverty reduction numbers and how we can collectively sign a social commitment contract to leverage on this to lift our brothers and sisters from poverty.

You will note that Kenya started a serious focus on Social protection programmes over the last five years, almost a similar period the country joined the world in committing to the SDG goals. There should therefore be a correlation between the two.

Kenya’s four cash transfer programmes have so far benefitted over 1.3 million beneficiaries according to government data, with positive reports recorded in school enrolment, improved health, reduction in shock and growth of satellite towns, bringing the role of Social Assistance programmes to the fore.

Infact, World Bank’s State of Social Safety Nets 2018, Shows that an estimated 36 percent of the very poor escaped extreme poverty because of social safety nets, a clear evidence on their impact in the global fight against poverty.

Let’s first appreciate Kenya’s higher ranking among countries with well-designed, cost-effective programmes and take advantage of it for social good. Kenya leads in East Africa with Cash for Orphans and Vulnerable children, Older Person Cash Transfer, Cash for Persons with Severe Disability and Hunger safety Net.

If we can agree on a turnaround strategy to the challenge of getting enough budgetary allocations for scaling social protection programmes, more deserving citizens will benefit from these programs.

Government policy think tank, KIPPRA in a budget brief in June, called for more allocation to cater for increments in monthly stipend to help beneficiaries cope with rise in cost of living and onward scaling for a bigger intervention.

This is a red alert that while many are benefiting from the programmes, it would not be sustainable in the long term if the current monthly stipend rates of Sh 2,000 stands as is.

This might as well explain why poverty rates in rural areas are still higher at 40 percent, even higher than the national average. Counties in Northern and Eastern parts of the country like Mandera, Garissa, Turkana are the worst affected and would need immediate, targeted interventions.

Let’s use these important data sets to gets better insights to work on key areas that needs urgent interventions and formulating long term poverty reduction policies. Priority areas must be given to increasing amount of transfers and boosting coverage of programs, with a focus on addressing household shocks like natural disasters and climate change, economic and financial crises, conflict and displacement.

But for this to be effective, it calls for the goodwill from all stakeholders including government, political institutions, corporate leaders and all the citizens. It should be a social contract that will give us a ticket to SDG1 milestone celebration table by 2030.

By Conrad Onyango, the writer is a data journalist based in Nairobi. [email protected]

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