Poverty Reduction in China: “Lessons for Africa”

by Gedion G. Jalata


The African continent has demonstrated impressive growth rates over the past two decades. Even though Africa register continuous economic growth, many countries in Africa are unable to sustain high levels of long-term economic growth to reach the 7% threshold required to significantly improve populations’ incomes on the continent. The growth in the continent is also criticized as just growth without prosperity because of lack of improvement in economic and social conditions for marginalized groups such as the rural residents, women, the youth, and the disabled. In comparison with other regions, Africa lags in all indicators of social development. Currently, half of the population of Africa – 48% – is living in absolute poverty and if the trend is not reversed, the number of people that are living in absolute poverty will increase significantly in the future. Per the latest research by the UNECA, 2017: 69,

“poverty reduction has been slow and the number of people in poverty on the

continent has stayed almost constant since 2002.”

“from less than 15 per cent [poor] in 1990, more than 50 per cent of the world’s poor in 2013 were in Africa”.

There has also been insufficient progress towards meeting international food security targets. As indicated in 2014, more than one in four people remain undernourished in Africa – the highest prevalence of any region in the world. Although Africa has had robust growth in the past two decades, its impact on poverty and inequality has been modest (ECA, 2017: 26-28). Moreover, the continent except few countries did not meet most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. The progress towards achieving MDGs for nearly every goal has been off the track and falling back in some areas, where there was progress it has been too slow to achieve MDGs. Sub-Saharan African countries being the worse than any other similar countries in other continents.

China, on the other hand, demonstrated sustainable growth in agriculture, improvement in the livelihood of small-scale farmers, and success in reducing rural poverty and commendable achievement in food security. The country achieved the most rapid large-scale poverty reduction in human history since the 1970s. Per the UN MDG report 2015, the number of citizens China has raised from poverty accounts for 70 % of world’s total. This is an experience that Africa policy makers can learn. African countries indeed can learn a lot on how East Asian countries including China manage to transform from poverty, agrarian economy into a middle or high-income economy in a very short time. If Africa could lift just half as many people out of poverty as China has in the past thirty years (700 million Chinese people), it could eliminate extreme poverty in the continent.




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“poverty reduction has been slow and the number of people in poverty on the continent has stayed almost constant since 2002.” ግንቦት 2010 / MAY 2018


China used important strategy to reduce poverty in the country. The latest strategies the country is using include (2015 to 2020):

Setting clear goals: the government has been committed to stable access to adequate food and clothing, compulsory education, and basic medical services and housing to the poor among others.

Implementing a targeted strategy: targeted measures in terms of funding, projects and recipients have been promoted by the government. This strategy aims to eradicate poverty and improve living and working conditions in different regions and communities by developing local industries, relocating impoverished residents to other places, offering compensation for ecological conservation, improving educational conditions and providing social safety nets.

Improving the conditions for development: it aims to address development bottlenecks by fast-tracking development bottlenecks through infrastructure development: transportation, water and power as well as Internet Plus strategy – alleviating poverty through e-commerce.

Strengthening the support system: not only the government avails funds into poverty alleviation programs but also new funding sources explored from commercial and cooperative institutions among others. The government also improves policies concerning the use of land for poverty reduction purposes.

Mobilizing society: engaging the community, private companies, social organizations and philanthropists in poverty alleviations. This strategy also aims enhanced collaboration between the eastern and western regions of the country for poverty alleviation.

Defining responsibilities: government authorities at central, provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities and countries levels must be responsible and accountable for policy and strategy implementation. In this regard, firm assessment, supervision and answerability enforced while underperforming departments and regions are held accountable.

Enhancing international cooperation: aims to draw lessons from globally advanced concepts, practices, and cooperation with other countries and international organizations on poverty alleviation. This strategy also commits China to undertake international poverty reduction obligations mainly to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In using the above poverty reduction strategies, priorities have been given to the following aspects: (i) creating profiles for the impoverished people nationwide; (ii) sending work teams to impoverished village; (iii) adopting corresponding measures to help diverse poor families and (iv) strengthening fund management.

China indeed achieved an impressive poverty reduction in the past three decades. See the table I below on the rate of poverty reduction in China in the past three decades.

Concluding Remarks

Overall, Chinese poverty reduction is because of sustainable economic growth, reform, opening-up, market role, the government also played an important role in long-term plans, setting annual targets, and targeted poverty alleviation and elimination with different measures tailor-made for different regions per local conditions. Chinese strategy to reduce poverty could help African leaders and policy makers to develop confidence that it is possible to win the war against poverty. However, a homegrown strategy must be developed to reduce poverty and increase food security as well as political commitment must be backed with a financial commitment.

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Rate of Poverty Reduction in China from 1986 to 2016


Population lifted out of poverty (annually)

China reduced poor population by an annual average of 6.39 million


2001 -2010

An annual average of 6.73 million poor people rose out of poverty

An annual average of 13.17 million people had been lifted out of

2011 -2016

Source: New Progress in Poverty Alleviation in China, n.d. p. 41


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