The book “African Poverty at the Millennium: Causes, Complexities, and Challenges” explores the issue of poverty in Africa. It discusses the causes of poverty, its challenges, complications, and the various mitigation strategies applied. The authors begin by discussing a brief history of the growth of poverty in Africa. They note that during the mid-1990s, a large percentage of Africans lived in impoverished situations characterized by lack of safe drinking water, low access to health care services, high levels of illiteracy, high mortality rates, poor nutrition, and low incomes (White et al. 3).
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They also point out that poverty alleviation is slow because statistics reveal that the situation is getting rose. According to the authors, material deprivation is the main defining characteristic of poverty (White et al. 10). This deprivation leads to low income, poor nutrition, low-quality housing, poor clothing, dependency, social exclusion, and lack of access to public amenities that are important for poverty eradication. In chapter 3, the authors categorize and characterize poverty.
Examples of these categories include chronic poverty, transitory poverty, catastrophic poverty, gender-related poverty, urban and rural poverty, and dependency poverty. Chronic poverty results from causes such as lack of political power and low access to labor market opportunities. It can be eradicated by giving people more access to physical, political, and human capital (White et al. 15). On the other hand, catastrophic poverty is caused by extreme situations such as famine and diseases. The situation is changing because poverty is becoming urbanized due to high levels of unemployment, diseases, and civil conflicts.
In the second part of the book, the authors discuss the social, political, and economic causes of poverty. Economic causes include low growth, market failures, market instability, inadequate assets, slow job creation, and income inequalities (White et al. 28). Political causes include war, displacement, disempowerment, and government failures. Social causes include gender biases, poor human capital, high levels of dependence, and weak social structures. Primary factors include environmental degradation, lack of adequate access to human capital, poverty-inducing social structures, and poor governance (White et al. 28).
Proximate causes of poverty include globalization, the influence of location, poor human capital, and social exclusion. Poor human capital is caused by lack of access to social services such as health and education. Social exclusion involves lack of access to opportunities that could lift poor people from poverty by improving the quality of their lives. The authors argue that political systems play a significant role in fostering economic stagnation in many African countries. Government failure is evident from the high levels of corruption, abandonment of democracy, overreliance on foreign aid, and lack of accountability observed in many states (White et al. 55).
In addition, governments have failed to provide legal and institutional frameworks that are supposed to facilitate economic growth, provide security, promote peace, protect property rights, and provide the basic human needs. Political systems ignore the challenge of poverty and instead focus on trivial matters. In order to reduce poverty, it is important for nations to focus on areas such as coalition-building, decentralization of services, people empowerment, and promotion of democracy. It is critical for governments to grow income and provide quality social services (White et al. 75).
The poor are plagued by diseases and illiteracy, and have little access to amenities that are aimed at eradicating poverty. Finally, gender disparities cause differences in the ability of men and women to get access to land, education, health, and economic opportunities. Poverty encourages subordination of women in various ways. In that regard, women have low access to labor market opportunities, are subjected to discriminatory laws and policies, and are marginalized in politics.
Part III of the book discusses the various strategies that are used to reduce poverty in various countries. Some of these strategies include implementation of national policies, poverty monitoring, and the enhancement of donor contributions (White et al. 97). There is need for political and social change in order to eradicate poverty in Africa. Outside sources offer short-term solutions because the underlying causes of poverty can only be addressed effectively by focusing on changing domestic political and economic situations that contribute towards the severity of the problem. The authors suggest that there is need for an integrated approach to poverty alleviation because many of the causes reinforce each other and thus make the situation more complex.
For instance, quality health services, education, and safe drinking water are inseparable in the fight against poverty. Donors need to increase their aid on poverty eradication programs and give African governments the freedom to formulate strategies that they deem effective for mitigating the problem. One of the most critical areas that need consideration is debt relief because many countries have great debts that stifle their economic growth (White et al. 103). Finally, governments need to implement effective policies that promote faster growth, support the poor, and eradicate obstacles such as gender biases, civil conflicts, and uneven wealth and income distribution. The authors explore the issue of poverty in Africa exhaustively and use statistics to support their arguments.
White, Howard, Killick Tony, and Kayizzi-Mugerwa Steve. African Poverty at the Millennium: Causes, Complexities, and Challenges. Washington Dc: World Bank Publications, 2001. Print.