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My three wishes for Africa's Gini coefficients

Africa faces many unique development challenges. Among them is the continent’s staggering levels of unequal income distribution. Countries like South Africa and Namibia have the most unequal income distribution in the world. By contrast, Ukraine, Slovenia and Norway, rank as the countries with the world’s most equal income distribution. 

A luxury automobile driving on a very impoverished African street

Cognizance to the dangers of hoarding the means of production, to nominal enrichment while people are getting poorer and an awakening that economic growth without inclusiveness is folly. (DP)

Only a handful of African nations come anywhere close to levels of relatively even income distribution. In fact, 8 of the top 10 countries in the world with the highest wealth inequality are African. Based on their Gini Coefficients they are: South Africa -63.0%, Namibia -59.1%, Zambia -57.1%, CAR -56.2%, Eswatini -54.6%, and Mozambique -54.0%. Africa’s combined Gini coefficient currently stands at a worrisome 54%.

Every country in Africa has its own unique reasons for their high levels of wealth inequity. For example, South Africa’s income distribution problems are rooted in its complex history. South Africa has the world’s worst Gini coefficient in part because race was once a primary driver. In South Africa, 10 percent of the population still holds more than 80 percent of its wealth, a problem that has lingered and has only partially abated. 

Several other African countries, mostly MICs, that aren’t among the world’s top nations in income inequality, have no reason to celebrate. They’re not far off from having Gini coefficients that hover close to 50 percent. Nigeria is foremost among them.

While there are different causes for income inequality in Africa, there are also several commonalities. Primary among them is the lopsided ownership of the factors of production, especially land, accompanied by high inflation, and stagnant wages.

There are several African countries that do not have the complex history of nations like South Africa. They have created their own income distribution problems over time. They have allowed the concentration of the means of production to generate the wide gaps in income distribution we see today. 

Several African nations now have a private sector that is nothing more than a handful of families whose hold on the means of production is seemingly becoming tighter and tighter. Accordingly, in Africa it is now common to see 2-10 percent of a nations populace with staggering wealth, living alongside extreme levels of poverty.

In many African countries, that are notably resource rich, rising GDP, and the wealth that came with it, has for the most past not been equally shared. With the number of African billionaires constantly rising, this is happening along side populations living on less than US$2 per day. 

My three wishes for Africa’s Gini coefficient is a continent that isn’t blind to the dangers of hoarding the means of production. It’s a continent that understands that countries are getting richer while their people are getting poorer. It’s a continent that realizes that economic growth without inclusiveness is folly. 


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