More than 40 percent of people live below the poverty line in Angola, one of the largest but least-developed countries in Africa. Here are a few of the main causes of poverty in Angola.
5 Causes of Poverty in Angola
- Angola was embroiled in a civil war that lasted 27 years from 1975 to 2002.During that time, more than one million people were killed. Though many of the displaced population has returned home, the country has not had the time to combat poverty. The war destroyed important infrastructures, such as schools, hospitals, railways and bridges. Angola is still rebuilding. Aid and oil sales to China have helped improve the economy, but the country has a long way to go.
- A high fertility rate. Contraceptive use and family planning education is low in Angola. Consequently, it has the ninth- highest fertility rate in the world. On average, a woman gives birth to more than five kids in her lifetime. A high birth rate is problematic because it strains resources. The more children a family has, the harder it is for families to give all children the nutrition their bodies need. This is evidenced by the high child mortality rate. One in four children will not reach his or her fifth birthday. In addition, mothers with many children to care for are often restricted to home life. A lower birth rate might increase the number of female workers and output per capita.
- A struggling health sector. Angola’s decades-long civil war ended 17 years ago, but its healthcare sector has not fully recovered. The fighting destroyed medical facilities and caused many doctors to flee the country. There is only one doctor per 10,000 people. This physician shortage is especially detrimental in Angola, where nearly 300,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS. Thousands more contract malaria, bacterial diarrhea or other infectious diseases. Many cases are due to unsafe water and unsanitary toilets. About half of the population depends on unimproved water and restroom access. A lack of trained medical professionals, equipment and facilities is a cause of poverty in Angola because sick Angolans have difficulty finding treatment and getting back to work. Some die from treatable or preventable diseases like polio. A death in a family could leave it with fewer sources of income or create orphaned children. Angola has taken measures to reduce rates of disease and infection, such as child vaccinations in the capital. But Angola still has one of the lowest health expenditures in the world at 3.3 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Due to Angola’s poor healthcare, its life expectancy has increased, but it is still quite low at just 61 years old. Such a drastically low life expectancy cuts years, even decades, from Angolans’ earning potential.
- Low education rates. Because of the high fertility rate, 42 percent of Angola’s 25 million inhabitants are under 15 years old. Many of these children do not complete their education. In rural areas, where the majority of Angolans live, schools can be few and far between. Children may have to walk long distances to school, which is a disincentive to attending. Education comes with additional fees for books and supplies, causing families with limited incomes to pull their children out of school. With children out of school, families can save money or have their children make money on a family farm or through another employer. If a poor family opts to provide education for only one child, it is usually for a boy. On average, males complete 13 years of school and females only complete eight. Ruined classrooms and untrained teachers further restrict the availability of quality education. Angola’s education expenditure is 3.5 percent of its GDP. Children and adults cannot unravel the cycle of poverty without education because they cannot get good jobs to help improve their standard of living. In this way, a lack of education is both a result and a cause of poverty in Angola.
- Unequal distribution of wealth. Finally, an unbalanced economy, coupled with corrupt elites, is one of the causes of poverty in Angola. Despite 55 percent of Angolans living on less than $1 a day, the capital, Luanda, is the most expensive city in the world. It and other urban areas benefit from the oil sector, which is the second-largest in Africa. Oil and diamond extraction brings a lot of revenue to Angola, but much of the wealth stays with large companies and elite individuals, like politicians. Transparency International ranked Angola as 164 out of 176 countries on its Corruption Perceptions Index. Angolan authorities and oligarchs have a reputation of taking from the poor to make themselves richer. According to an article in The Economist, “officials seize state assets through rigged privatizations or rip off the public treasury in bail-outs of private companies. At almost every turn, someone connected to the state is seeking a pay-off.” In addition, some complain that the Angolan government spends money in the wrong places. Angola has a $44 billion federal budget, yet local officials say they do not have funds to provide running water. Instead, the government spent more than $1 billion on four stadiums for a football tournament.
Understanding Poverty in Angola
The devastation of war, the high fertility rate, limited access to healthcare, lack of quality education for all and income inequality partially due to government corruption are the primary causes of poverty in Angola. Fortunately, there is evidence of improvements. The government is beginning to expand its economy which will create jobs. It is also making strides to become transparent, which can increase accountability. Plus, Angola is investing in water, electricity and transportation to improve the lives of its people. Nonprofit organizations also help impoverished Angolans by providing healthcare and schools. With time and effort, Angola’s poverty rate should decrease.
– Kristen Reesor