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Tax evasion isn’t just for the west: it conspires to keep Africa poor too Phillip Inman

Many economists believe life in the developing world is improving fast. It certainly isn’t in the sub-Saharan region

Lagos at sunset. By 2013 estimates, in sub-Saharan Africa there were 389 million people living on less than $1.90 a day. Photograph: Wayne Parsons/Getty Images/Gallo Images

There is a comforting mainstream narrative which tells us that African nations, like the rest of the developing world, are doing just fine. Look past the terrorist incidents, the latest Ebola outbreak and areas of drought, and you will find that poverty is being alleviated and diseases confined to isolated pockets. A combination of western aid, Chinese investment and the rejuvenating application of neoliberal economic medicine in the guise of free trade has come to the rescue, this narrative runs, improving matters by measurable degrees.

This draws on figures from the World Bank showing that in 1981 around 42% of the world’s population was extremely poor, using $1.90 a day in 2011 prices as a yardstick. By 2013, that figure had fallen to 10.7%. An estimate by the bank suggests it fell further, to 9.1%, in 2016. Likewise, polio and other major diseases are in full retreat.

But most of these gains have benefited the poor in Asia and Latin and South America, where governments of varying levels of stability have sought to raise living standards. In sub-Saharan Africa, the story is one of terrible and debilitating decline, such that in 2013 there were 389 million people living on less than $1.90 a day, which the World Bank says amounts to “more than all the other regions combined”.

Fast-rising populations across the region are one reason governments struggle to combat poverty. The other reason can be found in the pernicious activities of western companies, western governments and the Chinese state, which want to maintain access to important minerals and to make sure they stay as cheap as possible.

The devious nature of the conspiracy to keep Africa poor has most recently been exposed by the work of journalists who have banded together as the Norbert Zongo Cell for Investigative Reporting in West Africa (Cenozo), named after the Burkinabé newspaper editor murdered in 1998.



Source: The Guardian
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