Africa’s human development – expanding the choices of its people and giving them a chance to lead full lives – has improved but is still struggling against inequality and low investment in the continent’s population. Africa’s natural resource wealth can be used for economic diversification to improve people’s lives and this chapter argues that good practices exist and policies can be designed to advance sustainable human development.

In 2012 for the first time, an African country – the Seychelles – reached the top level of the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Index (HDI), highlighting advances made on the continent to improve education, health and social wellbeing. There is still work to be done though on transforming economies to make these changes possible and making public and private investment more effective and equitable.

The concept of human development was first put forward in 1990. By adding the criteria of enhancing an individual’s skills and ability to determine his or her own fate to that of income level, it has had a profound impact on the debate on how to boost quality of life.

The HDI – a composite of indicators on life expectancy, education and command over the resources needed for a decent living – is the main assessment of Africa’s human development. The 187 countries around the world are classified in four groups denoted as being of “very high”, “high”, “medium”, or “low” development. Africa’s breakthrough came with the Seychelles achieving a “very high human development” ranking in 46th place, ahead of wealthier states in Europe and the Middle East. Libya, Mauritius, Algeria and Tunisia were put in the “high” group and ten African countries in the “medium” sector. The remaining 37 African countries are in the “low” human development category, and that is without South Sudan being included. Many countries with a “low” ranking are still improving rapidly with the biggest improvements in Angola, Burundi, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe. These countries have a rising life expectancy and incomes, but low educational attainment is holding them back.

Table 4.1. Human Development in Africa

Very high and high human development

Medium human development

Low human development

Algeria

Botswana

Angola

Liberia

Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

Cape Verde

Benin

Madagascar

Seychelles

Egypt

Burkina Faso

Malawi

Tunisia

Equatorial Guinea

Burundi

Mali

 

Gabon

Cameroon

Mauritania

 

Ghana

Central African Republic

Mozambique

 

Morocco

Chad

Niger

 

Namibia

Comoros

Nigeria

 

South Africa

Congo

Rwanda

 

Swaziland

Congo (Democratic Republic of the)

Sao Tome and Principe

 

 

Côte d'Ivoire

Senegal

 

 

Djibouti

Sierra Leone

 

 

Eritrea

Sudan

 

 

Ethiopia

Tanzania (United Republic of)

 

 

Gambia

Togo

 

 

Guinea

Uganda

 

 

Guinea-Bissau

Zambia

 

 

Kenya

Zimbabwe

 

 

Lesotho

 

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