On October 17 each year, the world marks the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, colloquially known as End Poverty Day. It’s an important date given major setbacks registered recently across the globe in the fight against poverty, and the ever-growing challenges facing humanity.
This is a difficult year at the outset of what is poised to be a difficult decade ahead. Madagascar and Mozambique – two of the countries under my direct supervision as far as the World Bank’s program is concerned – are at the receiving end of important crises, including those on climate and its spillover effects in the form of water and food scarcity, natural disasters, forced migration, and rural exodus, to name a few.
It’s clear that the climate-induced crisis is an overarching emergency at the center of today’s development agenda. Idai and Kenneth, the twin cyclones that caused an estimated 700 deaths, destroyed vital infrastructures, and ravaged local economies and livelihoods – plunging millions into deprivation, especially in Mozambique, parts of Madagascar, Comoros, Zimbabwe, and Malawi – offer a glimpse into the devastating effects of changing weather patterns. While Sub-Saharan Africa has contributed the least to global warming, without rapid deployment of inclusive, climate-informed development investments, 43 million people there could fall below the poverty line by 2030. The cost of inaction is even higher. Financing adaptation is still more cost-effective than frequent disaster relief.
Madagascar and Mozambique, among the poorest countries on the continent, were under fiscal distress prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and are bearing the brunt of the severe economic crisis compounded by the advent of the pandemic. However, as is the case for many other Sub-Saharan African countries, these two are also showing encouraging signs of economic recovery, albeit from a lower rate if compared to the pre-COVID-19 period. As the recent World Bank Africa’s Pulse report notes, this growth rebound, estimated at 3.3 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa, is currently fueled by elevated commodity prices, a relaxation of stringent pandemic measures, and recovery in global trade. However, the report warns, it remains vulnerable given the low rates of vaccination on the continent, protracted economic damage, and a slow pace of recovery.
These are some of the reasons why this year’s End Poverty Day is not the moment for celebration. This is the moment to reflect, regroup, and recommit to rebuild and increase resilience for future shocks, because they will come.
Ending poverty starts with a conviction that poverty is not a fatality. Poverty can be defeated. It takes a combination of the right set of policies, attitudes, and commitment; it takes unquestionable conduct by all of us in the position of power; it takes transparency with and accountability to those we serve; and it takes moral principles of honesty and decency between public officials upon whom citizens bestow their trust. Only through those principles can we restore the social contract and trust in institutions that work for the majority and the most vulnerable, and not the few and well-off. To address poverty, it will take a vision, which should emanate from an open and engaging society, where solutions result from dialogue and constant engagement. Only through dialogue can we achieve greater inclusion, and can we build societies grounded on principles of equity, where institutions work for all, and where the economy is deliberately and resolutely broad-based in order to create jobs and achieve shared prosperity.
At the World Bank, we base our work on evidence we collect from our work in many countries across the globe. We put that knowledge to use in the countries we serve, in response to local needs. That wealth of knowledge is adapted to local circumstances through our engagement with local policy makers and other stakeholders.
As we start the discussions aimed at updating our operational strategies (Country Partnership Frameworks) which will define the composition and volume of our lending and non-lending portfolios for the next four years in Mozambique and soon in Madagascar, we’ll rekindle our engagements with civil society organizations, opinion leaders and other relevant non-state actors, and we will make those engagements sustained over time. This will complement an existing sustained engagement with government and development partners, as we continuously deepen our understanding of development challenges and potential solutions in a fast-moving global and local context. We look forward to your feedback and comments on how we can collaboratively support the people of Mozambique and Madagascar to reach their goals.