The idea of a book on the state of inequality among Southern African countries was always going to be an ambitious but necessary exercise. The work of the Labour Resource and Research Institute of Namibia (LaRRI) coupled with a few years’ experience in implementing and supporting economic justice programmes and initiatives in Southern Africa for the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) informs such an ambition. The book itself was conceived to address among other things, six central objectives, including:
• To accurately document the prevailing levels of poverty and inequality in Southern Africa;
• To identify the historical and structural causes of poverty and inequality;
• To examine the nexus between inequality, poverty and socio-economic policy;
• To document the impact of poverty and inequality on human development in the chosen countries and draw regional lessons;
• To identify areas of intervention to reduce poverty and inequality; and
• To provide a series of pro-poor alternatives needed to provide lasting solutionsto the problem.
While this book is evidently not exhaustive and by no means holds the place of the last word on inequality, it certainly demonstrates the growing needs for policy research, policy analysis and policy alternatives. It offers some insights on the similarities and trajectories of poverty and inequality in a region whose history political economy and struggles tend to be similar.
With the exception of a few cases, most of Southern Africa lack knowledge and information on inequality although the experience of inequality is alive. There seems to be not many studies around that examined the relationship between poverty, inequality and growth on the one hand and social policy on the other. Only a small number of studies examined the underlying factors driving inequality. In the last few years, however, efforts in that direction have become more common with the use of assets or capability-based measures of inequality (and poverty) and the use of computer general equilibrium (CGE) models to asses impacts of various policies on both growth and distribution.
It is imperative that a knowledge bank on inequality be developed, so that advocacy for policy changes needed to reduce inequality is evidence-based.
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