Saturday, March 25, 2023

Botswana’s poverty now more urban than rural

Botswana’s poverty has taken on the behaviour of a deputy sheriff who will scour the entire country in search of a wily defaulter.


Traditionally, people migrated from rural to urban areas in search of a better life but in its assessment of Botswana poverty, the World Bank says that poverty has itself migrated to urban areas.


“Although urbanization levels were unaltered between 2002/03 and 2009/10, poverty became more urban. In 2009/10, 43 percent of Botswana’s population lived in rural areas, a decrease of only 1 percentage point since 2002/03. Poverty is still relatively concentrated in rural areas at 24.4 percent, compared to the national mean of 19.4 percent. However, poverty became relatively more urban between 2002/03 and 2009/10,” the Bank says in a report titled “Botswana Poverty Assessment.”


In another part, the report says that employment rates increased in rural areas, particularly among the poor, while they “barely changed” in the urban areas. The researchers found that poverty in Botswana has a clear regional dimension, characterized by higher poverty rates in the northern parts of the country.


“Regions with relatively low average poverty rates are traditionally located in the east and southeast, where most of the population lives. Northern parts of the country are characterized by relatively higher poverty rates. This general pattern remained unchanged over time, but the differences are much less prominent, and the regional picture has become much more homogeneous. The North-West is traditionally the poorest region in Botswana, with a poverty rate of 30.1 percent in 2009/10. The region with the least poverty is located exactly opposite on the mapÔÇöthe South-East region, with a poverty rate of 8.9 percent in 2009/10,” says the World Bank, noting that the latter “remained the richest region in Botswana.”


While a significant reduction in inequality occurred between 2002/03 and 2009/10, Botswana remains one of the world’s most unequal countries with a Gini co-efficient of 60.5 percent in 2009/10. This makes the country the third most unequal in the world, trailing only South Africa and Seychelles. In 2009/10, the highest income inequality was in the North-West and Kgalagadi regions in the west and North-East and South-East regions in the east. The lowest inequality was in Kweneng and Kgatleng. In Gaborone, inequality increased by 3.6 percentage points while it decreased in other regions and urban areas.


On the whole, the Bank attributes the reduction in national poverty rates to fast growth in the rural areas, which reduced the gap between rural and urban Botswana and subsequently reduced income inequality.


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