The inequality crisis in West Africa

What are the solutions to West Africa's failure to reduce inequalities?

Peter Akmtter is a construction worker on one of the high-rise buildings shooting up in Ghana’s capital, Accra. He and many of the workers live with their families in makeshift houses on or close to the building-sites. Photo: Lotte Ærsøe/Oxfam
Paper author: 
Christian Hallum et Kwesi W. Obeng
Paper publication date: 
Tuesday 09 July 2019

In West Africa, inequality has reached a crisis level. While a small but growing number of individuals are enriching themselves in an unprecedented way, the immense majority of the population is deprived of the most essential elements for a dignified life, such as quality education, health care, and decent employment, despite a remarkable economic boom driven by the extractive industries. Oxfam's Commitment to Reduce Inequality (CRI) index shows that West African governments are the least engaged across the continent in reducing inequality. If they do nothing to radically strengthen their commitment to reducing inequality, the crisis is likely to worsen.

Governments must promote progressive taxation, increase social spending, strengthen labor market protection, invest in agriculture and defend the right to the land for family farmers; ECOWAS, for its part, must give priority to the fight against inequalities and develop a regional action plan aimed at considerably improving the region's performance in this area.