Africa Is on Time

41 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2014

See all articles by Maxim Pinkovskiy

Maxim Pinkovskiy

Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Xavier Sala-i-Martin

Columbia University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics

Date Written: August 1, 2014


We present evidence that the recent African growth renaissance has reached Africa’s poor. Using survey data on African income distributions and national accounts GDP, we estimate income distributions, poverty rates, and inequality indices for African countries for the period 1990-2011. Our findings are as follows. First, African poverty is falling rapidly. Second, the African countries for which good inequality data exist are set to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) poverty reduction target on time. The entire continent except for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will reach the MDG in 2014, one year in advance of the deadline, and adding the DRC will delay the MDG until 2018. Third, the growth spurt that began in 1995, if anything, decreased African income inequality instead of increasing it. And fourth, African poverty reduction is remarkably general: It cannot be explained by a large country or even by a single set of countries possessing some beneficial geographical or historical characteristic. All classes of countries, including those with disadvantageous geography and history, experienced reductions in poverty. In particular, poverty fell for both landlocked as well as coastal countries; for mineral-rich as well as mineral-poor countries; for countries with favorable or unfavorable agriculture; for countries regardless of colonial origin; and for countries with below- or above-median slave exports per capita during the African slave trade.

Keywords: poverty, Africa

JEL Classification: F63, I32, O15

Suggested Citation

Pinkovskiy, Maxim and Sala-i-Martin, Francesc Xavier, Africa Is on Time (August 1, 2014). FRB of New York Staff Report No. 686, Available at SSRN: or

Maxim Pinkovskiy (Contact Author)

Federal Reserve Bank of New York ( email )

Francesc Xavier Sala-i-Martin

Columbia University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics ( email )

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