These are the most unequal countries in the world – including South Africa

 ·8 Sep 2019

Three African billionaires now have more wealth than the poorest 50% – or 650 million people across the continent, according to a new Oxfam report looking at wealth inequality on the continent.

The report showed that seven of the 20 most unequal countries by income are African – including the four most unequal: Swaziland, Nigeria, South Africa and Namibia.

“Most measures agree that income inequality in sub-Saharan Africa has hardly budged over the last 25 years,” Oxfam said.

“Research by the European Commission found that, while the period of growth after 2000 did lift incomes across the board, the bottom 40% saw no greater benefit than other income groups.

“Evidence from the World Bank highlights that the challenge will be even greater for some African countries.

“Between consumption actually decreased for the bottom 40% in a third of the sub-Saharan countries surveyed in their 2018 Shared Prosperity report.”

The below graph shows the most unequal countries in the world using raw and adjusted gini measurements.

The gini coefficient is a single number aimed at measuring the degree of inequality in a distribution. It is most often used in economics to measure how far a country’s wealth or income distribution deviates from a totally equal distribution.

The report estimates that there are currently 20 billionaires in Africa, living alongside 413 million people in extreme poverty.

South Africa is home to five of these billionaires, as well as 50,000 millionaires.

The most unequal country in the region, Swaziland, is home to one billionaire, Nathan Kirsh, who is estimated to have $4.9 billion.

If he worked in one of the restaurants that his wholesale company supplies on a worker’s minimum wage, it would take him 5.7 million years to earn his current level of wealth.

Reducing inequality

While South Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the world, Oxfam recognised that it was also the African country doing the most to inequality.

“Top-ranking South Africa is in second place for social spending, with a strong record of investing in health, education and social protection,” Oxfam said.

“Their Africa ranking on labour rights and minimum wages is also reasonably high, coming in eighth. This may improve further if the government introduces a national minimum wage this year as planned, despite opposition.

“The most impressive indicator, however, is tax progressivity, where South Africa comes first among African countries, and third globally.”

Read: How much you need to earn each month to be in the richest 1% in South Africa

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