East Africans are still trapped in poverty being inhabitants of countries with ‘very low human development,’ according to the United Nation’s 2014 Human Development report launched on Thursday in Tokyo, Japan. The human development report measures people’s development progress based on three factors: life expectancy, education, and income.
Despite having some of the fastest growing economies in the past decade, the report doesn’t feature any African state among countries with ‘very high development’ which is again topped by Norway.
Just three African countries appear among the second category of ‘high human development’ and these include Libya as the continent’s best ranked nation at 55th, Tunisia 90th and Algeria placed at 93rd position. They are all from North Africa.
Ten African countries are ranked among nations with ‘medium human development’ and these include respectively so, Botswana, Egypt, Gabon, South Africa, Namibia, Morocco, Ghana, Congo Brazzaville, Zambia and Equatorial Guinea.
East African states are to be found in the last category, countries with very low human development meaning they rank worst on major indicators that shape the survey, life expectancy, education, and income.
Kenya, the region’s largest economy, but currently suffering from a spate of terror attacks, is ranked 147, Rwanda 151, Tanzania159, Uganda 164 while Burundi pulls in at 180 out of a total of 187 countries surveyed.
To calculate countries Human Development index (HDI) the UN studies three major indices, Life expectancy (people’s quality of life), education index (years spent in school) and income index. Very low human development therefore means that East Africans rank worst on all three indices hence signaling a major challenge to the region’s policy makers.
Where’s the problem?
Speaking in general terms, Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, the Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa says countries in this region should chart ways of ‘withstanding crises and protecting the most vulnerable’ such as women and youth as the “key to ensuring development progress is sustainable and inclusive.”
Dieye’s observation should be seen by the region’s policymakers as a solution to the fact that while ‘countries are enjoying higher levels of economic growth and well-being, insecurity and natural or human-induced disasters persist in some parts of the region’ hence hampering human development.
Sub-Saharan countries are generally being advised to intensify their battle against deprivation and prevent crises from setting back recent development advances.
To do that, the region’s policy experts have been tasked with the responsibility of initiating policies that lead to job creation, social protection and more cohesive societies in order to secure the region’s development gains.
The advice is within this year’s theme that underscores a need for ‘sustaining human progress through reducing vulnerabilities and building resilience.’
Rwanda and Ethiopia are given special mention in the report for achieving the fastest growth between 2000 and 2013 followed by Angola, Burundi, Mali, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia in the process helping Sub-Saharan Africa to achieve the second highest rate of progress in the Human Development Index (HDI) which combines achievements.
In spite of this progress, UNDP’s Coefficient on Human Inequality indicates that sub-Saharan Africa is still the most unequal region in the world with at least 585 million people, the equivalent of 72 percent of the region’s population either live in multidimensional poverty with overlapping deprivations in education, health and living standards or risk falling back into poverty.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s highest disparities in health and there are considerable gender inequalities in income, educational attainment and access to reproductive health services a trend that the report authors advise can be overturned by creating equal access to jobs, healthcare and education opportunities hence promoting sustainable and equitable development.
Globally, 1.2 billion people live on $1.25 or less a day but almost 1.5 billion people in 91 developing countries are living in poverty with overlapping deprivations in health; education and living standards while almost 800 million recently liberated people risk falling back into poverty.
“The eradication of poverty is not just about ‘getting to zero’—it is also about staying there,” notes Helen Clark, UNDP’s administrator.
Alarmingly, 77 percent of the sub-Saharan population is in vulnerable employment with the youths the most affected. For East African leaders, the Report calls on them to adopt full employment policies and ensure that economic growth is employment-intensive while paying special attention to the quality and security of the jobs created. Creating decent employment opportunities is critical to achieving substantive poverty reduction and social cohesion.
Rwanda’s HDI value
At 151st, Rwanda’s ranking has registered an improvement from 2012’s ranking of 167th and between 1980 and 2012; Rwanda’s HDI value has increased from 0.277 to 0.434 a gallop of 57 percent or average annual increase of about 1.4 percent.
Rwandans’ life expectancy has improved to 64.1 in 2012 from 30.5 in 1995 gaining 34 more years in just 17 years. Expected years in school have increased from 5.9 in 1995 to 13.2 in 2012 while people’s Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) seen as gross national income (GNI) has also surged from $590 in 1995 to $1147 in 2012.