WASHINGTON (AFP) - Extreme poverty will this year fall to less than 10 per cent of the global population for the first time, although there is still "great concern" for millions in Africa, a World Bank report said on Sunday (Oct 4).
"This is the best story in the world today. These projections show us that we are the first generation in human history that can end extreme poverty," said Mr Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, which will hold its annual meetings from Oct 9-11 in Lima, along with the IMF.
According to World Bank projections, about 702 million people, or 9.6 per cent of the world population, will live below the poverty line this year, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
In 2012, that number stood at 902 million, or about 13 per cent of the world population.
It was 29 per cent in 1999.
According to Mr Kim, the continuing decline in extreme poverty is the result of dynamic economic growth in developing nations and investment in health and education, as well as social safety nets that prevented millions of people from falling back into poverty.
"This new forecast of poverty falling into the single digits should give us new momentum and help us focus even more clearly on the most effective strategies to end extreme poverty," he said.
Previously, people living on US$1.25 (S$1.79) or less a day were defined as living in extreme poverty. That figure is now US$1.90, to reflect inflation.
The report comes after world leaders pledged in September to end extreme poverty within 15 years, adopting an ambitious set of United Nations goals to be backed up by trillions of dollars in development spending.
Releasing the figures, the World Bank nevertheless urged caution, saying "major hurdles remain" in the goal to end poverty by 2030.
"The growing concentration of global poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa is of great concern," it said in a statement.
"While some African countries have seen significant successes in reducing poverty, the region as a whole lags the rest of the world in the pace of lessening poverty." The report singled out Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo as particularly worrisome examples of deprivation in Africa.
It also cautioned that reliable current data was not available in parts of the Middle East and North Africa because of conflict.
In contrast, the report noted a marked decline in extreme poverty in Asia - particularly India - and in South America.
However, World Bank chief economist Kaushik Basu sounded an alarm over a slowdown in emerging markets worldwide, with Latin America an emblem of the sputter.
"There is some turbulence ahead," said Mr Basu.
"The economic growth outlook is less impressive for emerging economies in the near future, which will create new challenges in the fight to end poverty and attend to the needs of the vulnerable, especially those living at the bottom 40 per cent of their societies."
Oxfam welcomed the landmark figures below 10 per cent, but warned that hard work remains to drag the remaining 702 million people out of extreme poverty.
"That figure remains unacceptably high and much remains to be done," said Mr Nicolas Mombrial, head of Oxfam International's Washington office. "A lot of new resources and fundamental political change are needed."