Mireille Razafindrakoto and François Roubaud
Sub-Saharan Africa is the region in which poverty is at once most acute and paradoxically at the same time least understood. This state of affairs can be explained to a large extent by the lack and/or doubtful quality of available data (see Chapter 11). For the most part, analyses of poverty based on statistical information are merely monographic and only very rarely take account of the temporal dimension. To go beyond merely anecdotal observations to obtain an overview of poverty in all its complexity it is necessary to produce an analysis of its evolution over time which takes into account the macroeconomic and social context of the country under consideration. We have therefore concentrated on African capitals in which the incidence of poverty has markedly progressed, and in which, concomitantly, a major restructuration of the socio-economic environment is taking place. On the basis of a certain number of factors derived from statistical data and illustrated by specific examples, we will attempt to draw up an inventory of the situation in the continent's major cities and evaluate the impact of the recessionary trend of national economies on their populations' living standards.
The first part of the study presents an overview of the situation, emphasising two major trends apparent in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa - prolonged recession and rapid urbanisation. The second part deals specifically with the evolution, extent, and characteristics of poverty in the urban context. The objective of the third part of the study is to attempt to understand the process which has reduced certain households to a state of complete destitution. Mechanisms at work in the African context following the economic recession will be explored. On the one hand, the effects of the deterioration of the labour market on the life of city dwellers will be explained, while on the other, the limits of individual and community strategies in the face of the magnitude of the shocks produced by the recession will be highlighted. Lastly, taking the example of Madagascar - which tends to confirm the influence of the macroeconomic context on the situation of urban households, despite the ingeniousness of their adaptation strategies - the question of a possible reversal of these trends, thanks to a recovery in growth, will be discussed.