The Sociology of Poverty in Africa

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International Journal of Research and Innovation in Social Science (IJRISS) | Volume VI, Issue V, May 2022 | ISSN 2454–6186

The Sociology of Poverty in Africa

Dr. Ambrues Monobe Nebo (Sr. Doctor of Sociology)
Department of Sociology, African Methodist Episcopal University, Department of Political Science, University of Liberia.

IJRISS Call for paper

Abstract: This paper explores poverty in Africa under the lenses of sociology by unpacking the main cause(s).
Methodologically, this paper employed a qualitative approach with particular emphasis on document analysis researched by some prolific scholars. It conceptualized poverty in Africa as a social problem.
As the theoretical frameworks explaining the sociology of poverty in Africa, the paper was guided by three theories; the individual deficiencies or behavioralist theory, the theory of Cultural Belief Systems that Support Sub-Cultures of Poverty, and the theory of economic, political, and social distortions or, the social progressive theory of poverty. Among these theories, the paper settled on the social progressive theory of poverty that attributes the cause(s) of poverty to economic, political, and social systems that cause people to have limited opportunities and resources with which to achieve income and well-being. It advances the argument that in Africa, poverty is artificial, created, grows and nurtured or fertilized by the economic and social policies our government makes and how they fund the instruments, policies created to counter poverty, and the safety net of public income supports. It also attributes rampant corruption that entrenched extreme poverty to the very same economic, political, and social systems.
Based on the social progressive theory considered as the main framework, this paper concluded that poverty is a deliberately constructed social phenomenon that is strategic to the personal interests or political agenda of politicians. As such, the urge to tackle poverty as they claim have always been a mere lips service and political rhetoric. It recommends that until Africa can deconstruct the economic, political, and social systems that benefit politicians’ personal interests at the expense of vulnerable youth, the continent will remain one of the poorest toppings on the list on this earth.

Keywords: Africa, Poverty, social problem, Sociology of Poverty


Sociology provides a powerful lens through which to view the wide range of socio-political or socio-economic phenomena confronting human societies. One of the phenomena confronting human societies is poverty which is so pervasive. Since political independence, Africa, the world’s second largest and second-most-populous continent, after Asia in both cases (UN DESA, 2019) continues to be confronted with poverty. For example, according to World Population Review (2022), Africa is the poorest continent on Earth. This is evidenced by 27 countries worldwide currently ranked by World Bank as Low-Income Economies, indicating they are the very poorest countries in the world, 23 are located in Africa. Moreover, over 70% of global poverty is in African countries (Tong, 2020).