WASHINGTON • The number of people living in 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, the World Bank has said.
"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 World Bank president Jim Yong Kim.
According to World Bank projections, about 702 million people, or 9.6 per cent of the world's 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 global population. In 1999, it stood at 29 per cent.
According to Mr Kim, the continuing decline in extreme poverty is the result of dynamic economic growth in developing nations and investment in education and health, 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$1.80) or less a day were defined as living in extreme poverty. The World Bank revised that figure this year to US$1.90 to reflect inflation.
The World Bank report comes after world leaders last month pledged 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.
"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," it said in a statement.
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 South America and Asia.
"In 1990, East Asia accounted for half of the global poor, whereas some 15 per cent lived in sub-Saharan Africa; by 2015 forecasts, this is almost exactly reversed: Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for half of the global poor, with some 12 per cent living in East Asia," it said.