Lived Poverty Resurgent: COVID-19 Restrictions Feed Economic Contraction to Drive Down Living Standards in Africa

Robert Mattes, Jaynisha Patel

Research output: Book/ReportOther report


Lived poverty – measured as the frequency with which people go without basic necessities – declined steadily in Africa between 2005 and 2015 (Mattes, Dulani, & Gyimah-Boadi, 2016), a trend matched by consumption-based estimates of poverty produced by the World Bank (2018). However, results from Afrobarometer Round 7 surveys (conducted in 2016/2018) suggested that the decade-long trend of improving living standards had come to a halt and that lived poverty was once again on the rise (Mattes, 2020). The most recent findings, from Afrobarometer Round 8 surveys conducted in 34 African countries between July 2019 and July 2021, confirm that deprivation is indeed resurgent. This trend has its roots in a continent-wide slowdown that began in 2014: Economic growth decelerated sharply in 2016, and turned to economic contraction in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Increases in national levels of lived poverty tend to be largest in countries where the economy has stagnated or contracted, measured by changes in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. But the way African governments reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic has also shaped trends in poverty: Among countries whose Round 8 survey followed the first wave of COVID-19, more restrictive government responses were associated with larger increases in lived poverty. And increases in poverty were also larger where higher percentages of respondents told interviewers that it had been difficult to comply with these restrictions.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAccra, Ghana
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 29 Dec 2022

Publication series

NameAfrobaromater Policy Paper


  • lived poverty
  • COVID-19
  • poverty reduction
  • developing economies
  • development
  • Africa


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