10 Takeaways from “The Rise of the South”

This past week, the UNDP released its annual Human Development Report, which includes the Human Development Index (HDI), an aggregate measure of how well countries are doing across education, health, and income indicators. The HDI combines the data and ranks countries by their overall “development,” which ranges from “Very High Development” to “Low Development, ” assigning each country a numerical value from 1 (Norway) to 186 (Niger).

Here are 10 things you should know about Africa from the report, entitled “The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World:”

  1. Since 2000, all African countries have shown improvements across all indicators—education, health, and income. No country for which data was available in 2000 had a lower human development (HDI) value in 2012.
  2. Africa’s highest performing country is Seychelles, which is in the very high development category with an HDI ranking of 46. Africa’s lowest performing country is Niger with an HDI ranking of 186.
  3. The top 10 African countries according to their HDI ranking are: Seychelles, Libya, Mauritius, Algeria, Tunisia; Gabon, Egypt, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa.
  4. Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest average national HDI, with a value of .475, but the pace of improvement in the region is rising. It has the second fastest HDI growth rate in the world, behind South Asia.
  5. 14 countries display HDI gains of more than 2 percent since 2000; 11 of those 14 are in sub-Saharan Africa, including Sierra Leone, Angola, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Rwanda and Uganda.
  6. Sierra Leone, which a decade ago held the lowest HDI ranking, has registered the second highest HDI growth rate in the world since 2000.
  7. Of the top 10 countries with the fastest HDI growth rates, 7 are African countries: Angola, Burundi, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone.
  8. There have been significant improvements in education and health. For example, since 2000, life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa has increased by 5.5 years to 55. While an improvement, this is still the lowest life expectancy in the world.
  9. There have also been improvements in income inequality. While most regions in the world show an increase in income inequality, sub-Saharan Africa shows a decrease from 45% in 1990 to 40% in 2012.
  10. The overall HDI improvements in Africa are attributed to a wide variety of factors, including an increase in south-to-south trade, investment, and development cooperation. For example, between 1992 and 2011, China’s trade with sub Saharan Africa increased from US $1 billion to more than $140 billion. Over the past decade, governments and regional funds from “global south” nations provided nearly half of financing for infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa.

You can access the full report here.