Income Inequality Trends in sub-Saharan Africa

Divergence, Determinants, and Consequences

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Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) recorded a remarkable economic performance in the first 15 years of the 21st century. Such an encouraging trend, which reversed the stagnation or decline of the prior 25 years, was accompanied by a perceptible, modest, but uneven decline in aggregate poverty, together with substantial cross-country variation in the poverty-reducing power of growth. This is reflected in, and partially driven by, the variation of inequality levels and trends among the African countries. Proper documentation of inequality levels and trends in the region therefore becomes essential in order to better understand the slow and varying rate of decline of poverty reduction in the region. To this end, this book, an outcome of a comprehensive study of income inequality in SSA, documents the initial conditions and changes in income inequality that have taken place in the region since the early 1990s. It proposes hypotheses to account for this experience and draws relevant lessons that could help accelerate reduction in income disparities.

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Inequalities and conflict in Africa: An empirical investigation

Inequalities and poverty are important drivers of social exclusion, while conflict, social unrest and instability are its manifestation. The preponderance of conflicts in poor and unequal societies has long been documented in the literature. As Nagel succinctly argues, “political discontent and its consequences – protest, instability, violence, revolution – depend not only on the absolute level of economic well-being, but also on the distribution of wealth” (Nagel, 1974:453). According to the Kuznets’ inverted-U theory, a high level of income inequality radicalises the proletariat, enhances class polarisation and reduces the tolerance of the bourgeoisie for low-income group participation in political and decisionmaking processes (Muller, 1997).

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