Ten African countries with high levels of wealth inequalities

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020 05:05 | By
Economy. Photo/Courtesy

Three African billionaires have more wealth than the poorest 50 per cent – or 650 million people across the continent, according to a new Oxfam report looking at wealth inequality on the continent. According to United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Income Inequality Trends in Sub-saharan Africa study, of the 19 most unequal countries in the world, 10 are in Africa.  Here are some African States with the highest rates of income inequality according UNDP, World Bank and Oxfam

  1. South Africa

According to the latest figures from the World Inequality Database, the top one per cent of South African (SA) earners take home almost 20 per cent of all the income in the country, while the top 10 per cent curve 65 per cent.

The remaining 90 per cent have to contend with the remaining 35 per cent. These unequal incomes, according to the Inequality Trends report, remain stubbornly racialised, gendered and spatialised.

White people are more likely to find work and once they do, they also earn better.

2. Swaziland

Nationally, 58.9 per cent of Swazis lived below the national poverty line in 2017. By international poverty standards, 38.6 per cent of Swazis lived below the 2011 purchasing power parity (PPP) of $1.90 (Sh100.90) per person per day, and this rose to 60.4 per cent when the 2011 PPP $3.20 per person per day poverty line for lower middle-income countries was used.

Challenges to poverty reduction include slowing economic growth, adverse weather patterns, high prevalence of HIV/Aids, high unemployment, and high inequality.

3. Nigeria

Oxfam International says the combined wealth of Nigeria’s five richest men, which stands at $29.9 billion (Sh3.25 trillion), could end extreme poverty at a national level, but demurred that in the face of such stupendous wealth, five million Nigerians face hunger.

The report puts the number of Nigerians living in poverty at more than 112 million. 

4. Namibia

Since independence most of Namibia’s wealth remains in the hands of only a small number of the population while the majority, as high as 70 per cent, have nothing or are struggling to make ends meet.

Namibia has a poverty rate of 26.9 per cent. Some 10.7 per cent of the population are still below the lower bound poverty line.

5. Botswana

Poverty in Botswana has come down to approximately 16 per cent, but some 30 per cent of the population remains just above the poverty line and are thus vulnerable to a range of shocks.

Botswana’s level of income inequality, while declining, remains one of the world’s highest.

 6. Mauritius

The increase in income inequality over the past decade in Mauritius was driven by a progressive shift from traditional and low-skill sectors to services.

This transformation has generated a considerable rise in the demand for skilled workers that the country is struggling to meet, despite higher education levels among the population.

As a consequence, high-skilled workers received considerably larger wage increases compared to low-skilled workers, and people have become trapped in low-paying jobs with little ability to work their way out. 

7. Kenya

The gap between Kenya’s richest and its poorest has reached extreme levels. Less than 0.1 per cent of the population (8,300 people) own more wealth than the bottom 99.9 per cent or 44 million people. 

If inequality remained at the same level for the following five years, 2.9 million more people will be living in extreme poverty. The number of super-rich in Kenya is one of the fastest growing in the world.

It is predicted that the number of millionaires will grow by 80 per cent over the next 10 years, with 7,500 new millionaires set to be created.

8. Uganda

Uganda’s economy has recently grown at a slower pace, reducing its impact on incomes and poverty reduction. The slowdown is mainly driven by adverse weather, unrest in South Sudan, private sector credit constraints, and the poor execution of public projects.

Uganda’s population, currently at 35 million, is expected to reach 100 million by 2050, while the annual urban growth rate of 5.2 per cent is expected to grow from 6.4 million (2014) to 22 million by 2040.

9. Mauritania

Some 50.6 per cent of Mauritania’s population are multi-dimensionally poor while an additional 18.6 per cent or 821,000 people are classified as vulnerable to multidimensional poverty.

The breadth of deprivation in Mauritania, which is the average deprivation score experienced by people in multidimensional poverty is 51.5 percent.


In Madagascar, 77.8 per cent of the population are multi-dimensionally poor while an additional 11.8 percent are classified as vulnerable to multidimensional poverty.

The breadth of deprivation in Madagascar is 58.2 percent. Madagascar’s Human Development Index value for 2018 is 0.521— which put the country in the low human development category—positioning it at 162 out of 189 countries and territories.

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