The Narrative of The 2 Dollar Poverty

What narrative do you accept?


Taiwo Ajakaye

7/28/20233 min read

Narrative of the $2 economy - Taiwo Ajakaye
Narrative of the $2 economy - Taiwo Ajakaye

I just want to understand how this $2 became the narrative imposed on Africa, nothing more.

"The international poverty line is a monetary threshold under which an individual is considered to be living in poverty. It is calculated by taking the poverty threshold from each country — given the value of the goods needed to sustain one adult—and converting it into dollars."
So, in my mind of logical reasoning, no one can survive on $2 in the developed world daily. Now, taking that template as the yardstick to measure poverty in Africa may not be accurate, it's just to create the USUAL NARRATIVE for Africa since Africa has refused to own the narrative.

It is crucial to avoid drawing direct correlations between the amount someone needs to survive in the United States and Africa. The World Bank's definition of poverty in absolute terms, where extreme poverty is defined as living on less than US$1.90 per day, may not accurately reflect the economic realities and cost of living in different regions of the world.
Is $2 in the USA the same in Africa in terms of value and purchasing power or ability?

The international poverty line is determined by calculating the poverty threshold in each country based on the value of goods required to sustain an individual and then converting it into dollars. However, this approach does not consider the significant variations in prices, lifestyles, and purchasing power across countries.
What can $2 afford in developed countries like the USA, Canada, Europe, etc.? A 500ml bottle of water and the little change remaining will not afford you another bottle of water in those climes.

It would be misleading to apply the $2 poverty line used in developed countries like the USA, Canada, and Europe directly to measure poverty in Africa, specifically Nigeria. The cost of living and the prices of goods and services in Africa are notably different from those in developed countries. Therefore, using such a standard may create an inaccurate narrative for Africa and fail to reflect the actual circumstances on the ground.
For instance, $2 in the USA might be insufficient to purchase even a bottle of water in some states and would not be enough for basic daily survival in any state. However, in Nigeria, $2 could be equivalent to N1000, which could buy at least ten bottles of water. Extrapolating the $2 poverty narrative to Africa may lead to misconceptions, as the same amount could provide different standards of living and purchasing power.

Comparing the cost of living between countries, it becomes evident that the narratives around poverty levels need to be locally contextualized. In the developed world, certain goods and services may be expensive, while in Nigeria, they might be more affordable. Consequently, the $2 poverty level cannot be universally applied to define poverty in different regions without considering the specific economic and social factors at play.

A $2 poverty level means you can't go to the barber shop in developed countries, but you can do so in Nigeria and Africa.
In the USA and other climes where the $2 poverty standard was canonized, you need at least $20 or more to go to a corner barber shop. In Nigeria, an adult will get a haircut twice for less than $2.

What exactly is the narrative behind the $2 poverty level being used to measure abject poverty?
For instance, a kilogram of Onion is far away from the $2 poverty level in the developed world, meaning if you live below the poverty level of $2, you obviously cannot afford 1kg of onion, as obtainable in Africa. Using the same standard of $2 in Nigeria, N1000 may cook good soup for an average home. NARRATIVES!

What I'm driving at? Is it that the advanced economies are tactically imposing set narratives on everyone for a purpose? For example, Africa is constantly urged to do away with power generation from coal, but it is still being used by some world economic leaders including China, the United States, Europe, and Australia.

In conclusion, it is essential to refrain from using a one-size-fits-all approach to define poverty levels across diverse regions like the United States and Africa (Nigeria). Each region has its unique economic circumstances, and applying a standard set by developed countries may not accurately portray the realities faced by those living in African nations. It is essential to adopt locally relevant metrics and narratives to understand and address poverty effectively, rather than imposing external standards without proper consideration of the local context.

Check every narrative, OWN YOUR NARRATIVES!

Taiwo Ajakaiye writes from Nigeria. 
Follow him on @dmightyangel