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Inequality in Africa: Economic Vulnerability, Environmental Risks, and Inequitable Access to Justice

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The debate on inequality has become a true global phenomenon. Oxfam report (2015) warned that “the combined wealth of the richest 1% will overtake that of the other 99% of people next year unless the current trend of rising inequality is checked.” It estimates “that the lower half of the global population possesses barely 1% of global wealth, while the richest 10% of adults own 86% of all wealth, and the top 1% account for 46% of the total. " Business leaders at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos called it “one of the biggest threats to the world economy.”

The long-held belief of the ‘trickle-down economy’ has been questioned, as economic growth has not been translated into a reduction in inequality. The debate has gained momentum in Africa as well. Within the ‘Africa Rising’ euphoria, the sharp increases in inequality were momentarily downplayed in the assumption that economic growth would benefit the societies as a whole. The renewed debate has shown that poverty reduction cannot be taken as a natural outcome of economic growth. Higher GDP does not necessarily address the fundamental inequality within a given society. Poverty is now framed in light of deliberate exclusion and exploitation - a systematic denial of entitlements to resources and services and an exclusion to participate on equal terms in social, economic, political and cultural arenas. Inequality is a fundamental component of the distribution of worldwide resource use and its effect on the environment and climate change. In Africa, as anywhere else, inequality is seen as a destabilizing factor in societies.

 

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