Poverty has been at the centre of the research programmes of many African economists,
particularly west-African economists, since the end of the nineties. There are several
reasons for this interest in the analysis of poverty.
The first reason is the strong desire of African researchers to understand better the
impact of the economic reform programmes which have been suggested by
development partners over the course of the last twenty years. These programmes seem
to have had positive results at the macroeconomic level. However, their impact seems
more mixed on a microeconomic level, particularly where they affect the well-being of
individuals, and the struggle against poverty. In fact, although several countries in the
West African sub-region have experienced a noticeable improvement in their economic
growth since the middle of the nineties, the results in terms of the reduction of poverty
are often somewhat limited.
The second reason is external. The political agenda of African countries underwent a
great change in 1999. This is the date when the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper –
(DSRP) was introduced as a basis for the relations between most West-African
governments and the Bretton Woods institutions. All West African governments, with
the exception of Nigeria, were obliged to create a document detailing many aspects of
poverty, as a condition of receiving assistance from these institutions. This initiative
clearly played a decisive role in the demand for analyses of poverty; all the more so as
the number of such analyses up to that time had been very limited.
The third reason is, in fact, a result of the combination of the two previous reasons. In
the middle of the nineties, the Canadian Government’s International Development
Research Centre (CRDI) was asked to extend the research programme it was running to
analyse the impact of macroeconomic policies and adjustment policies on poverty and
the distribution of welfare, (the MIMAP programme), to include West Africa. The
MIMAP programme had been set up by the CRDI in 1990 to answer questions from
researchers from developing countries about the impact of structural adjustment
programmes on the most vulnerable groups. The programme also aimed to help
developing countries to reduce poverty by introducing macroeconomic policies and
programmes which were better suited to their particular circumstances.
1 See www.mimap.org.
One of the first aims in widening this programme to include West Africa was to
contribute to the growth in the level of expertise in economic analysis, which was
generally lower than that found in other regions. This low level of analytical ability
meant that the governments of the region were continually at the mercy of the advice
and the expertise of international organisations and external consultants. The second
major objective was to mobilise researchers interested in the analysis of poverty at a
regional level, to include them in the network, and to provide them with an
administrative and intellectual framework which would enable them to produce high
quality scientific work.
Since 1997, about thirty researchers have been involved in MIMAP projects in four
francophone African countries. It seemed natural to us to suggest to the publishers of
the ‘Revue d’Économie du Développement’ (Development and Economic Review), a
publication which is undoubtedly one of the best means of disseminating economic
research in Francophone Africa, that they should publish the work of some of these
researchers. The work was chosen according to strict criteria on quality and scientific
originality, and was all produced independently by researchers from the MIMAP
network. It is important to stress that much of the work done by the network is not
undertaken primarily for publication, but rather to provide answers to questions which
require the use of standard poverty analysis tools. Even though some of the work
produced by MIMAP does not contain much that is original from a scientific point of
view, it nevertheless makes a significant strategic contribution to decision-making at a
national level, helping the decision makers, amongst other things, to formulate their
Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.
The process of selecting the articles which appear in this issue began with an appeal
sent to MIMAP researchers in Benin, Burkina Faso, Morocco and Senegal. About ten
projects were suggested, and eight of these articles were then submitted by the review’s
editorial board for evaluation by the external assessors. The process ended with the
acceptance of the five articles which appear in this special edition.
The first two articles deal with the link between growth, inequality and poverty. This is
clearly a theme which is constantly being discussed these days in the worlds of research
and economic policy. The third and fourth papers are of a more statistical nature, with
the third one deriving statistical inference results on estimators of prediction and
poverty relief tools. The fourth paper describes the results of adjusting functional
conventions to the distribution of welfare. These functional conventions can be useful
amongst other things for summarising the empirical distribution of welfare. The last
paper deals with the fundamental but troubling subject of the allocation and impact of
expenditure on education in sub-Saharan African countries. These papers are described
in greater detail below.
The first paper (‘Growth, inequality and poverty in the nineties in Burkina Faso and
Senegal’ by Dorothée Boccanfuso and Samuel Tambi Kaboré) remind us that efforts to
bring about macroeconomic growth are paradoxically sometimes accompanied by an
increase in poverty. The study describes how the redistribution of income tends to
reduce poverty in Burkina Faso (a lowering of inequality) whilst it is growing in
Senegal (an increase in inequality). The study also shows that exercises of this type can
be sensitive to the choice of deflationary measures used.
The second paper (‘Quality of economic growth and poverty in developing countries:
measurement and application in Burkina Faso’ by Samuel Tambi Kaboré) also deals
with the link between growth, inequality and poverty, but more separately. From this
study it emerges clearly that the growth in real income per head of the rural population
is the main factor in the reduction of poverty in Burkina Faso during the last half of the
nineties. A more exact breakdown also shows that it was the growth in the food sub-
sector in the central region which contributed most to the lowering of poverty
nationally, and that the redistributive effects in all food sub-sectors are conducive to a
reduction in poverty.
The third paper (Poverty, growth and targeting: asymptotic properties of elasticity
estimators and their application in Benin, by Cosme Vodounou) is a contribution about
a suitable statistical approach to the literature dealing with estimators of poverty levels.
The estimate of the elasticity and of the parameter of targeting on the basis of the Benin
figures from 1999 and 2000 identify the rural north and the south as probably being the
priority zones for poverty relief measures. The methodology used in this article sheds
light, amongst other things, on the level of growth necessary to achieve the target level
of reduction in poverty, as well as highlighting the statistical uncertainty about this
The fourth paper (‘Distribution of the cost of household consumption in Morocco: a
parametrical analysis’ by Touhami Abdelkhalek and Abdelaziz Chaoubi) joins an older
statistical branch of the literature on the distribution of welfare. The study shows that
lognormal, displaced lognormal and Champernowne are the three distributions which
adjust best to the figures relating to urban and rural Moroccan settings over the last
decade and by refining the statistical comparison between the distributions slightly
more, the use of displaced lognormal can be recommended.
The last article, (‘Inequalities in access to education in Senegal’ by Fatou Cissé, Gaye
Daffé and Abdoulaye Diagne) deals with public expenditure on education and its
allocation to the different levels of education. Although educational discrimination
towards girls seems to have more or less disappeared in more affluent areas, it is still
present in less well-off households. The difference between the level of education of
the richest and the poorest becomes greater as the level of education becomes higher.
The overall picture painted in this article shows a particularly strong decline in the
allocation of public expenditure to education in Senegal.