The Unending Challenges Of Poverty And Inequality In Africa – Is There A Way Out?

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The Unending Challenges Of Poverty And Inequality In Africa – Is There A Way Out?

The World Bank has set two ambitious goals to push extreme poverty to no more than 3 percent by 2030, and to promote shared prosperity and greater equity in the developing world. These targets from the surface looks over ambitious and unrealistic but taking a second look you will agree that it is also achievable within a term period of 17years from now with the date they set as the period ending if all hands should be on desk.

Why did i say it is possible, it is based on the fact that, goals or plan that can stand the rigorous test of SMART (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound) rule usually stand a very good chance of turning in the desire results. Looking at the World Bank target of 3 percent poverty tolerance level, it looks SMART in every sense of it but there is need for cautious optimism because one may be tempted to ask how achievable and realistic this tall dream is if the issues below are not addressed.

‘’Anyone who has struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor’’ so say Baldwin James and the fact that the word of God from the scriptures says that ‘Whoever shuts his ears at the cry of the poor, they also shall cry themselves, but not be heard’. The above positions must have informed the World Bank to come up with a strategy to fight undoubtedly, one of the biggest challenges of our days which is poverty.

The World Bank’s overarching mission of a world free of poverty is as relevant today as it has ever been. So the Bank has established ambitious, but achievable goals to galvanize international and national efforts to end extreme poverty globally within a generation and to promote “shared prosperity,” a sustainable increase in the well-being of the poorer segments of our society.

This second goal reflects the fact that all countries aspire to a better living standard for all of their citizens, not only for the already-privileged.

To end extreme poverty, the Bank’s goal is to decrease the percentage of people living with less than $1.25 a day to no more than 3 percent by 2030.

This is one particular war that we must all get up to fight. I am sure you must have heard it said before that poverty is a curse.

Why is it a curse to be poor? A poor man is hated even by his neighbour, but there are many who love the rich so says the world of God. If your neighbour is eating kola nut with insect during the day time and you failed to caution him, his noise in the night will not allow you to enjoy a deep sleep.

What is poverty?

Poverty is described as the number of people below a certain level of income needed to cover basic necessities. We learnt that, from 2003 people living below poverty line (that is people earning less than $1.25 a day) has dropped from 1.9billion to 1.3billion in 2008. Undoubtedly, this is a major reduction in the population of people living below poverty line.

The Statistics

‘’The number of poor people has been cut in half over the past 20 years’’ said the World Bank’s Branko Milanovic, one of the most influential experts on global poverty and inequality.  He adds, ‘there still enormous inequality as well as poverty in the World’. Most people in extreme poverty nowadays live in South Asia (570million) and Sub Saharan Africa (396million) East Asia is home to 284 million poor people and Latin America to less than 50 million.

In November 2012, the U.S Census Bureau estimated that 16% of the population, and almost 20 percent of children, live in poverty, the highest levels since the early 1960s.

The above report confirms that there is no country or continent that is immune from the poverty deficiency syndrome.  What then is the cause of this evil disease called poverty and inequality?

Interestingly, the factors responsible for this ugly monster called poverty can be summarised into three. No matter how you look at it, they are universal and fundamental in the reasons why people live in poverty.

Coincidentally, all the three factors are scriptural. The bible says ‘The destruction of the poor is their poverty’.

Causes of Poverty

  1. Curse
  2. Ignorance
  3. Laziness

We all know or have it said that poverty is a curse and at the same time is an orphan. Why is it a curse and where from the curse. From the early part of the bible we read that God curse the human race as a result of their disobedience to his commands and the expression of that curse were narrated in the book of Deuteronomy Chapter 27 v 11- 13 and Chapter 28 v 15 to the end.

And Moses charged the people the same day, saying,

12 These [tribes] shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people, when you have passed over the Jordan: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph’s [sons], and Benjamin.

13 And these [tribes] shall stand on Mount Ebal to pronounce the curse [for disobedience]: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.

The probability for anyone to be under this curse of poverty is 50:50 from the above narration. The twelve descendants of the patriarch, Jacob were divided into two equal half by Moses the friend of God under the instruction of the Almighty Himself. They were charged to pronounce blessings and curses on human race upon the two mountains (Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal). This is the spiritual dimension to the issue of poverty in the world and the solution to this cannot be found in any human text book or literature. The solution is in the word of God.

The solution for this is not physical it is spiritual, no matter how ambitious the goal of World Bank seems towards the eradication of poverty, in any part of the world, we must remember the reason why it is a worldwide phenomenon. God is the only one through His son, Jesus Christ that can provide the solution for this curse.

He made His son to pay the ultimate price of death on the cross for all human races for the remission of sins and the removal of the evil curse of poverty. For the bible says again ‘Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that hangeth on a tree’ Gal 3 v 13

When you see people living in abject poverty it is because they haven’t reconciled themselves with the Lord through his son. Jesus is the truth and He is the only way for anyone that wants to come out or helping people to come out of the ‘poverty line’ curse.

The World Bank may try just like every other human institution but they must understand this fundamental truth that, their effort alone may not yield the necessary objective without introducing the ‘God’s factor’ to it. Romans9 v 16 ‘So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy’.

World Bank can only achieve this ambitious target if they work hand in hand with the churches to bring the gospel truth to the dying world through a deliberate policy of spreading the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Realistically, I know that may be a very difficult one to sell to the people considering the secularity of our world. That is my greatest fear and where I want to express strong reservation in all this drive to reduce the poverty level.

Ignorance

Perhaps, the most pathetic of the three factors is the issue of ignorance. Ignorance is lack of knowledge and the bible also says that, my people perish or enter into poverty because they lack knowledge.

This is the second reason why most people are poor because they have developed their poverty mentality so much that it is difficult for any change to take place in their life.

A change of perspective is the cheapest way to experience a change of position. Until there is a positive change within, there cannot be a positive change around you. It is the change within that provokes the changes around you. Coming out of poverty or living in wealth is essentially a product of man’s capacity to think right and think possibility.

Bishop David Oyedepo, presiding bishop of Living Faith Church Worldwide said ‘’when anything makes you want to feel poor, react violently against it’’  he went further to say that the number one cause of poverty is possessing a poor man’s mentality and until that mentality is healed your prosperity is not in view.

Solution 2

If knowledge is key to getting out of poverty trap, then every effort must be geered towards educating our people to have a change of thinking. A poor man must hear the good news to see his way out of the poverty. Isaiah 61 v 1. We know knowledge is power and when it is made available and mixed with wisdom, it is expected to deliver abundant result to them who have it.

What should World Bank or our government do to achieve this laudable goal? It must embark on aggressive and vigorous educational campaign on various steps people can take to come out of their poverty zone through information dissemination both on local and international media and by extension using local chiefs to get that information down to the grass root, the nooks and crannies of our neighbourhoods to educate our people on the need to change their thinking.

This aggressive educational strategy should be closed or compared to what our politicians’ uses during electioneering campaign to win votes from these poor people. They use sweet words, jingles, promises and appeals to get their votes. I think with the same method or approach would achieve appreciable result in this respect.

Laziness

How does one define laziness, the third factor that is responsible for poverty and inequality? It is disinclination to activity or exertion despite having the ability to do so. That is while bible says ‘The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; [therefore] shall he beg in harvest, and [have] nothing’ prov. 20 v 4

This is one major problem that is difficult to solve among the three. A lazy man has the ability to work but not willing. What can be done? For this class of people. We cannot help them because the word of God says in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 ‘For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat’. Anyone that is fit to work but not willing he should be allowed to experience the other side of living. The best teacher for those classes of people should be hunger and deprivation.

If after the massive education campaign on why people should change their mentality and come out of poverty and someone still prefer to be lazy, then he/she is the enemy of his own destiny we can liken such people to those people bible called children of perdition and we should not blame the World Bank of not trying. Instead we should support them to allow such people to languish in the wilderness of poverty where truly they belong.  Thucydides said ‘An avowal of poverty is no disgrace to any man; to make no effort to escape it is indeed disgraceful’. Therefore, we thank the World Bank for rising up to this great challenge and we wait to sing their praises immediately we see them achieving something close to the set target.

The writer :
Mike Osikoya