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Poverty and ageing in Africa

ZW Kazeze

21 - 25 February 2005

Posted with permission of the author.
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  1. In the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development and the Programme of Action (ICPD-PA), the international community and governments committed themselves to raise the quality of life for all people through appropriate population and development policies and programmes aimed at achieving poverty reduction, and sustained economic growth in the context of sustainable development.The World Summit for Social Development (WSSD) adopted a Declaration and Plan of Action in 1995. The Declaration included ten Commitments. One of them was on poverty eradication. In that commitment, the Heads of State and Government agreed on the goal of eradicating poverty in the world through decisive national actions and international cooperation, as an ethical, social , political and economic imperative. The Millennium Declaration in 2000 also featured the need to reduce poverty. Consequently, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) included a target of reducing poverty by half by 2015. In 2002, the World Summit for Sustainable Development also addressed issues of poverty eradication. The summit emphasized the importance of promoting socially and culturally acceptable policies; equal and equitable access to education, health care services and economic opportunities; and initiatives that enable economic and social empowerment.

  2. The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) addresses poverty reduction as one of the priority areas. Consequently the African Union (AU) Extraordinary Summit, held in Burkina Faso from 8 to 9 September in 2004, adopted a Declaration and Plan of Action on Poverty Alleviation and Employment Promotion.

  3. Explicit and focused issues of poverty as they affect older persons are found in : a) The Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA) which was adopted at the United Nations Second World Assembly on Ageing, held in Madrid in April 2002, and b) The African Union Policy Framework and Plan of Action on Ageing, adopted by the AU Heads of State and Government in July 2002.

  4. There is consensus that expansion and growth in employment is essential for poverty reduction by half by 2015. There is further consensus that economic growth rate of at least 7 percent per year would be needed to halve the poverty levels by 2015. Unfortunately, most of the African countries are far from reaching the 7 per cent economic growth rate. In 2003, 16 of the 53 African countries registered growth rates of under 4 per cent; only 5 countries registered growth rates of 7 per cent or higher. For Africa as a whole the growth rate was 3.8 per cent in 2003, according to ECA.

  5. Despite various declarations and plans of action, there seem to be little or no progress in most countries in Africa, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, towards meeting the millennium development target of reducing poverty. According to United Nations, more than 300 million people in Sub- Saharan Africa live on less than $1 per day. In view of the weak economic situation of the older people in society in Africa and the weakened family support, the older persons are most affected by the impact of poverty.

  6. The current situation on poverty should not be allowed to continue. Addressing problems of poverty of the elderly people need to be done in a comprehensive and integrated manner in the context of overall economic and social development, taking into account the intergenerational linkages. The implementation of MIPAA and the AU Policy Framework and Plan of Action on Ageing should therefore be give particular attention in reducing the impact of poverty on the elderly people.

  7. The rest of the paper deals briefly with the following aspects: the concept of older persons and poverty; causes of poverty; recent poverty levels in some African countries; poverty and older people as reflected in the MIPAA as well as in the AU Policy Framework and Plan of Action on Ageing; some activities undertaken towards the implementation of MIPAA and the AU Plan of Action on Ageing; policy interventions for poverty reduction; and a conclusion.

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