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Abstract

Combating poverty remains a major hindrance to economic development across Africa, even though it is well known that the poor are generally concentrated in rural areas. Paradoxically, identifying and targeting development efforts to the (very) poor remains a major challenge, mainly due to data deficiency and the wide application of popular but poorly adapted absolute poverty assessment approaches. This paper succinctly revisits the comparative advantages of relative over absolute poverty measures, and their prospects for application in rural Africa. Claims in favour of the relative approach are then substantiated by its application to empirically elicit poverty distribution among households in rural Cameroon. Analytical results fundamentally based on principle component analysis strengthen our advocacy for a dominant application and better prospects for relative poverty assessments over absolute ones, especially in rural areas of developing countries such as Cameroon, where data unavailability persists. In addition, the holistic and multi-dimensional attributes embedded in the relative approach oblige an atonement of its overarching prospects for identifying and targeting the poor in order to fight poverty and enhance economic development, especially in rural areas in Africa, as demonstrated in the Cameroonian case study.

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