Poverty & Conflict in the 10 Poorest countries of Africa by National Institute of Design, Bangalore

Poverty & Conflict
In the 10 poorest countries of Africa

The Project started as an independent initiative to visualize information to convey a specific narrative for the D'source SDG Challenge under the category of Information design. The limits were to visualize information corresponding to the UN's 8 sustainable goals.

My take regarding the Goals took to the conclusion that most of the categories were somewhere in a Subset of “Poverty” & thus I started exploring anything under sight that related to poverty.

Intriguingly enough, when googled “The poorest countries of the world”, the results inferred that 9 out of the Poorest countries in the world are in Africa. Naturally, it got me curious.

I started scrutinizing carefully all the articles, research papers, books, videos, etc., I could get my hands on. What got my attention was two maps,
1. The African Countries under Extreme poverty
2. The region of conflicts in Africa
And slowly the dots seemed to connect, bringing me to an initial narrative that “Widespread conflicts are the reason for Extreme poverty in African countries”.
The Extreme Poverty data gave valuable Insight that the Reduction of Poverty flattened after 2010. But the conflict data revealed a very key truth, how the nature of conflicts has changed over the years. In the years before 2010 when there was considerable poverty reduction, the nature of conflicts and related deaths were majorly related to the military. But after 2010, the nature of conflict dramatically shifted from military to civilian. Violence against civilians creates a Humanitarian crisis, which may be the reason for flattening the Extreme Poverty Reduction Curve.
It is at this point the Project starts to take shape as an exploratory approach to understand how this shift in conflict has contributed to the poverty of the poorest countries of Africa. Two different visual instruments to convey
1. How the nature of conflict has changed over the years
2. How this change of nature has contributed to the poverty of the 10 Poorest countries of Africa.
In visualizing the change in the nature of conflict, a stream graph has been used as a visual encoder which in metaphorical perspective signifies “Loss of Blood”. The red stream, the most prominent one indicates the loss of civilian lives over the years followed by Armed clashes (Grey), Sexual Violence (Yellow), and forced disappearance (Blue). The drama starts when the red stream overcomes the grey stream after 2010.

In Visualizing the effects of the change of nature of conflict in the countries, the visual metaphor of a poppy plant has been used. A total of 5 parameters have been used (Chance of Genocide, Civilians killed in violence 97-21, GDP per capita, changing poverty level by year, Highest extreme poverty level). All these parameters correspond to different parts of the poppy plant bringing us to the narrative “The blood nourished roots of Violence” in Africa.

In the Exploration, while countries Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and South Sudan showed that violence against civilians flattened or increased the Extreme poverty percentage, in Burundi, Central African Republic, and Eritrea, the reduction remained flattened due to the violence. In the case of Niger, Mozambique, and Sierra Leone, even after violence against civilians, the Reduction of Extreme poverty was considerable, while In Madagascar & Malawi, even low violence death couldn’t stop the Extreme Poverty Percentage to rise. Thus, I reached the conclusion that “Violence against civilians may be a Major cause of flattening or rising extreme poverty level percentage in African countries, but it is definitely not the sole reason”.

Resources: Our World In data/ ACLED