The Nature, Causes, and Consequences of Extreme Inequality and Why It Persists in Sub-Saharan Africa

June 2022 No Comments

Speaker(s): Muyeba, S. (Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver)

Date: 8 June 2022

Speaker Session Summary

SMA hosted a speaker session with Dr. Singumbe Muyeba (Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver) as part of its SMA “Anticipating the Future Operational Environment” (AFOE) Speaker Series.

Peoples’ lives can be accurately predicted by the demographics they are born into, including their gender and family’s socioeconomic status. Whether they will be affected by income inequality is among the life outcomes that can be predicted. The full extent of Africa’s income inequality is hard to measure because of scarce data and the largely informal nature of Africa’s economy. Dr. Muyeba commented that there are five basic principles of equity: a) equality of outcomes, b) equality of opportunity, c) equal rewards for equal contribution, d) equal rights, and e) attention to the least fortunate. He also emphasized that the world is in its most prosperous period in human history; people are wealthier per capita than at the beginning of the industrial revolution, the infant mortality rate has decreased, and overall life expectancy has increased. However—despite global prosperity—inequality is staying consistently high among African countries.

As a continent, African inequality can be divided into a north-south divide with the southern region experiencing the highest amount of inequality. The Sub-Saharan region has the highest levels of inequality. The cause of this inequality includes the capitalist world system, countries fiscal policy, and ethnic fractionalization and neopatrimonialism. Also, low taxation, a proportionally overtaxed middle class, and weak property taxes contribute to the longevity of Africa’s economic inequality. Several consequences of Africa’s inequality gap are: a) revolutions and political insecurity, b) more inequality, c) weaker democracies, and d) more vulnerability to climate change. Solutions and interventions for Africa’s inequality issues include a) structural transformations, b) a strong progressive tax on property and capital gains, c) reparations for slavery and colonization, and d) an increasing democratization of states.

Speaker Session Recording

Briefing Materials


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