Seven of the 10 most unequal countries are in Africa – and most of these are in southern Africa. Inequality stunts macroeconomic growth and sustains high levels of poverty yet there is a troubling paucity of data on the topic across the continent.
Over the next 30 years, Africa’s people will make up a rising share of the world’s population, so the continent’s inequality dynamics should be an important piece of the international puzzle.
To address this gap, UCT leads the African Centre of Excellence for Inequality Research (ACEIR), established by the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA), together with the universities of Ghana and Nairobi. The centre, hosted by the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU), is headed by Professor Murray Leibbrandt who argues that inequality has emerged as perhaps the most important social science issue of this decade.
ACEIR aims to ensure that Africa is included in international measurements by building capacity for frontier data scholarship and advocating for the interpretation of analyses to create policies to reduce inequality.
ACEIR together with Statistics South Africa and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) released the first report on Inequality Trends in South Africa in 2019. ACEIR’s Ghanaian node released a similar report for Ghana in 2020, and the most recent such report was released by the Kenyan node of ACEIR in June 2021. They serve as a baseline on inequality trends in each country and are used to explore the implications of the data analyses with different sectoral stakeholders.
Today, South Africa remains one of the most unequal societies in the world, and SALDRU continues to drive research that measures the origins, as well as the ongoing cumulative effects, of discrimination. One example is a recent study that revealed the extent to which being classified as White during the apartheid era in South Africa provided a passport to better jobs, housing, healthcare and income.