Niall Cooper: The expendable poor
Poverty in Africa and the UK are more similar than we think
What images come to mind when you think of poverty in Africa? Now, ask the same for poverty closer to home: What do you picture when you think of poverty in the UK? The superficial differences may be very stark. But if I asked you to name similarities or connections, what would you say? Are poverty in the so-called “developing world” and poverty in the UK entirely different, or, is there any sense in which they are – in our increasingly globalised world – now two sides of the same coin?
In August, I was privileged to accompany a delegation of Greater Manchester church leaders, spending time with some of Christian Aid’s partner organisations in Angola to seek the answer to these questions. In many ways, Angola is far removed from the stereotypical image of an African “basket-case” economy. Luanda, its capital, is a fantastic, bustling city, bursting at the seams with a population of around 5 million people – virtually a third of the country’s total population. After a disastrous 25-year civil war, over the past decade it has been enjoying a fabulous economic boom, due to Angola’s significant wealth in oil and diamonds.
But wealth comes at a cost. Forget Tokyo, Dubai or New York – according to international research, Luanda is now the most expensive city to live in anywhere in the world. A meal at an “inexpensive” restaurant will set you back 20 US dollars, and a one-bed apartment in the city centre will set you back an astonishing $3,500 (£2,100) a month. Yet, an estimated two-thirds of the people living there exist on less than $2 a day…
Niall Cooper is director of Church Action on Poverty and convener of the Inner Manchester Network of the United Reformed Church
This is an extract from the October 2014 edition of Reform.