Why this rule hurts

If you have ever been to a truly impoverished part of the planet, especially in Africa, you may have already witnessed that, in the majority of remote rural communities, there is usually nothing whatsoever that is happening to end extreme poverty.

The only change that can ever happen in such communities, or the only change that will ever last in these places, is the change that is directly led by the ultra poor themselves.

It is also worth noting that, in many of these poor communities, countless antipoverty interventions have come and gone, often without leaving a trace — a big reminder once again, that the only change that will ever last, or the only way global extreme poverty can ever end, is when the extreme poor themselves are directly at the helm.

The bad news?

Humanity still insists that the best way to end global poverty, is for the world’s ultra poor to sit and wait for the right people (i.e., those from the global development sector), to come and move them from poverty.

And without mincing any words, humanity is very keen to make this clear, by making sure that only 1% of all the money that is intended to end global poverty, is what is given directly to the extreme poor in the global south, keeping the other 99% in the hands of the people from the development sector.

Specifically, only 1% of all Official Development Assistance (funding from agencies like USAID, UKAID etc), and an even smaller portion (0.4% in 2018 alone) of all international humanitarian assistance (all charitable global antipoverty funding included), is what goes directly to local and national grassroots organizations in the global south, today.

Moreover, for the latter, the 0.4% in 2018 was an increase, according the 2019 Global Humanitarian Assistance Report. In earlier years, that figure was even smaller.


And when it comes to Africa in particular — the ground zero of the global fight against poverty:

In 2018 alone, only 5.2% of the $9 billion in US foundation funding that was specifically earmarked for Sub Saharan Africa, went to local organizations in Africa — the African Visionary Fund, a partnership between the Segal Family Foundation and other US grantmakers, says on their website, quoting a report from the US Council on Foundations.

And since the total amount of development aid and international humanitarian assistance that goes directly to the global south as a whole is just ~1.4%, it is safe to say that, overall, the total share of this, which goes directly to grassroots organizations in Africa alone, is well in the 0.1%’s, with all charitable global antipoverty funding included. 

The least-articulated part, however, is:

When people hear of these figures (the 1%, the 0.4%, the 5.2% etc), they assume this is where it all ends.

That’s, most people assume that, at the end of the day, the right people always arrive with the other 99% of global antipoverty dollars, and the right solutions, to move the ultra poor from extreme poverty.

Quite often, the world is even told that when the right people arrive with the other 99%, that their role is to listen to what the poor need, help them escape extreme poverty “through self-determination” etc.

What the world doesn’t really understand is the disconnect between the people who keep that 99%, i.e., the development sector, and those of us who are directly sweating out ultra poverty, in the global south.


I don’t have the right words to explain how the global development sector, or the global antipoverty movement, distances itself from those of us at the very bottom of the pyramid.

But the mere fact that these people only allow the poor in the global south as a whole to receive only 1% of all global antipoverty funding, says it all.

This is what makes a final end to global extreme poverty a very chanceful, unpredictable process. Regardless, billions are still spent every year, in the name of ending global poverty, in a way that doesn’t touch the ultra poor in any way.