Regional Sustainability ›› 2023, Vol. 4 ›› Issue (3): 296-308.doi: 10.1016/j.regsus.2023.08.007

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Examination of the poverty-environmental degradation nexus in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sadat Daaki SSEKIBAALA*(), Twaha Ahmed KASULE   

  1. Department of Economics, Islamic University in Uganda, Mbale, 2555, Uganda
  • Received:2023-03-06 Revised:2023-06-04 Accepted:2023-08-29 Online:2023-09-30 Published:2023-10-20
  • Contact: *E-mail address: (S.D. SSEKIBAALA).


The relationship between environmental degradation and poverty has increasingly become the focus of national strategic decision-making in recent years. However, despite several theoretical explorations on the nexus, a dearth of empirical literature on the poverty-environmental degradation nexus, specifically on Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), still exists. In this study, we investigated the poverty-environmental degradation nexus in SSA. We hypothesized that poverty is both a cause and effect of environmental degradation, and this relationship is explained as a vicious cycle. Unlike previous studies, we employed several alternative indicators of environmental degradation to examine the poverty-environmental degradation nexus in this study. We used data from 41 countries of SSA between 1996 and 2019 and employed the generalized method of moments (GMM) approach. The findings suggest a cyclical relationship between poverty and environmental degradation in SSA, which confirms that an increase in poverty leads to an increase in environmental degradation, especially in deforestation and PM2.5 emissions. Similarly, the increase in environmental degradation positively affects poverty in SSA. We also confirmed that exogenous conditioning factors such as population growth rate, education, industrialization, and income inequality, institutional quality indicators such as governance effectiveness, control of corruption, freedom ad civil liberty, and democracy, and endogenous factors including fossil fuel energy use, fuelwood energy use, household health expenditure, infant mortality rate, and agriculture productivity influence the nexus between poverty and environmental degradation. The findings on the relationship between poverty and environmental degradation in SSA are a testimonial evidence that both poverty and environmental degradation are significant issues in SSA. Hence, poverty alleviation policies in SSA should not lead to PM2.5 emissions and deforestation, which may as well force people into a poverty-environmental degradation trap. Instead, poverty reduction policies should simultaneously achieve environmental conservation.

Key words: Environmental degradation, Poverty, Vicious cycle hypothesis, Sub-Saharan Africa, Generalized method of moments (GMM) approach