Two Africas? Why Africa’s ‘Growth Miracle’ is barely reducing poverty
Abstract India has one of the highest underweight burdens in the world, with signs of rising obesity. Coexistence of underweight and overweight women is symptomatic of the double burden of malnutrition. The present study aims to throw new light on the double burden of malnutrition among Indian women in the age group 22-49 years. The analysis is based on a nationally representative household survey, InAlthough growth has improved substantially in most African countries in recent years, poverty across the continent has fallen very little in the aggregate, even though there have been outstanding performances by some countries. Indeed, some African countries have slipped back, and exhibit higher poverty rates than in 1990. This paper seeks to understand the reasons for this variance between countries; the reasons why, certainly if one uses headcount poverty data, there are ‘two Africas’, one with powerful ability to reduce poverty and one without. We argue that some of the reasons for this difference are rooted in colonial times, and those countries which developed dynamic exports of smallholder cash crops, the ‘peasant export economies’, received a headstart in relation to mineral- and large farm-based economies, because of the more equitable income distribution which labour-intensive, smallholder-based economies generate. However, in the post-colonial period, many peasant export economies wasted this headstart, and some mine/plantation economies were able to transcend the limitation of not having received one. The key reasons for this evolution, we argue, lie in the motivation and ability of African elites to form pro-poor coalitions, which in some cases were then able to implement tax and expenditure policies with the ability to bring a pro-poor pattern of growth into being. This story is tested both econometrically and by means of four contrasted country case studies.dia Human Development Survey, 2005. The results indicate that the factors underlying this burden include socio-economic status (SES), location, marital status, age, education, physical activity, media exposure, and dietary composition and frequency of eating. We find that there is a socio-economic patterning of underweight and overweight women, with a large concentration of underweight women among those with a low SES and of overweight women among high SES. Given that the health implications of being underweight and overweight are grim, it is imperative that there is a simultaneous increase in the focus on the health needs of overweight and obese people and on the needs of the large number of severely undernourished people in society. For Indian women, the glaring health/nutrition disparities are matched only by the grimness of their existence and survival prospects.
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