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Africa Watch

In human development, Africa makes slow progress
Africa Renewal
From Africa Renewal: 

For some African countries, there is cheery news in the 2011 Human Development Report.* Published by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), it ranks countries according to three measures of human development: life expectancy, education and income. In both Kenya and Nigeria extreme poverty has declined due to improvements in water, sanitation, health and other living standards, while Ghana has made steady progress and is now ranked as having medium human development.

The report notes that according to the Human Development Index (HDI, a composite of the three measures), the countries in the lowest 25 per cent of the rankings (including many African countries) improved their status by 82 per cent between 1970 and 2010, twice the average gain worldwide. “If the pace of improvement over the past 40 years were to be continued for the next 40, the great majority of countries would achieve HDI levels by 2050 equal to or better than those now enjoyed only by the top 25 per cent in today’s HDI rankings,” says the report.

Norway, Australia, the Netherlands, US and New Zealand lead in the global index. The report ranks Libya, at 64, as the highest among African countries. It is followed by Mauritius at 77 and Tunisia at 94. Egypt comes in at 113, South Africa at 123 and Nigeria at 159. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is ranked at 187, the very last, and nine other African countries round out the bottom 10.

The report acknowledges that even though a number of African countries have made progress, they still “suffer from inadequate incomes, limited schooling opportunities and life expectancies far below world averages due in great part to deaths from preventable diseases such as malaria and AIDS.”

The poor showing by some sub-Saharan countries results in part from a legacy of armed conflict, as in the DRC and Liberia. And progress in poor countries may be reversed by mid-century if efforts are not made to deal with climate change, environmental damage and inequalities, the report notes.

The Gender Inequality Index, a recently introduced indicator, lowered the rankings for some African countries, including the Central African Republic, Chad, DRC, Liberia, Mali, Niger and Sierra Leone, all among the ten least equitable countries. “In sub-Saharan Africa the biggest losses arise from gender disparities in education and from high mortality and the adolescent fertility rate.”

The Multidimensional Poverty Index, which examines factors such as access to clean water, cooking fuel and health services (not just income measurements), ranks Niger as having the highest share of poor, followed by Ethiopia and Mali.

The 2011 report covers an unprecedented 187 countries, up from 169 in 2010. This means that the results for 2011 are not comparable to the previous year’s figures, the report notes.

Business climate improves in sub-Saharan Africa, World Bank says

Between June 2010 and May 2011, a majority of countries in sub-Saharan Africa made life remarkably easier for businesses, the secondbiggest improvement after Eastern European. In its latest Ease of Doing Business Index, the World Bank says that 36 of the region’s 46 economies have improved their business environments — a record number since 2005. Six African countries (Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Mali, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, and Senegal) made the top 15 of the world’s most improved business climates.

Nigeria Stock Exchange in LagosTechnicians inspect beer bottles at a Rwandan brewery: Ease of Doing Business Index names Rwanda as most improved climate for doing business in Africa, ranking just one place behind Spain.
Photograph: Reuters

In Rwanda, the continent’s most improved economy for businesses, recent changes included slashing fees associated with starting a business, making credit information more readily available and reducing the frequency of a company’s value-added tax filings from monthly to quarterly. Rwanda now ranks 45th overall in the index, just one rank behind Spain. Measures to improve the regulatory environment for local businesses in Africa also included the first overhaul of an 18-year-old system of business laws and institutions common to 16 West and Central African nations. Despite this positive trend, however, the World Bank notes that sub-Saharan Africa remains the region of the world where starting and running a business is still costlier and more complex than anywhere else.


José Graziano da SilvaPhotograph: UN Photo / Paulo Filgueiras

The UN Secretary-General has named Hervé Ladsous of France as undersecretary-general for Peacekeeping Operations. At the time of his appointment, he was chief of staff in his country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After first joining the ministry in 1971, Mr. Ladsous served in a broad range of positions, including in Asia and the Americas. He was France’s ambassador to China and deputy permanent representation to the UN. Mr. Ladsous is replacing Alain Le Roy.

Margaret VogtPhotograph: UN Photo / Eskinder Debebe

Albert Gerard Koenders of the Netherlands has been appointed as the UN Secretary General’s special representative and head of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI). As his country’s minister for development cooperation (2007 to 2010), Mr. Koenders was involved in integrated peace support initiatives in Afghanistan, Burundi, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan. At UNOCI, he is replacing Choi Young-jin of the Republic of Korea.

Christine LagardePhotograph: UN Habitat / BSHF

Aisa Kirabo Kacyira of Rwanda has been appointed by the Secretary-General as deputy executive director and assistant secretary-general for the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). Ms. Kirabo brings to her position a broad knowledge and experience of more than 15 years in senior management in government and non governmental institutions. Since February 2011, she has served as governor of Eastern Province, Rwanda’s largest province. From 2006 to 2011 she was mayor of Kigali, one of the world’s fastest-growing cities.

Sahle-Work ZewdePhotograph: UN Photo / Evan Schneider

Ian Martin of the UK has been appointed as the UN Secretary-General’s special representative and head of the new UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). He previously served as the Secretary-General’s special adviser on post-conflict planning for Libya, following other positions with the UN in Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


*UN Development Programme, Human Development Report 2011, Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All. Available at: