Lovemore Mataire Senior Writer—
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has ranked Zimbabwe as having the fastest average growth in human development and the most improved quality of life in Africa. Zimbabwe came out tops out of 52 African countries ranked, including South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, but on the global ranking it was on 155 out of 188 countries that were surveyed worldwide.
The country scored these points despite illegal economic sanctions imposed against it by the European Union and the United States of America over the last decade. According to the 2015 UNDP Human Development Report released on Monday, Mauritius and Seychelles retained their positions as the countries with the highest quality of life on the continent. However, the report noted that five years to 2014 saw Zimbabwe experiencing the fastest average growth in human development.
“The economy recovered during 2010-12 significantly from the negative levels observed in the previous decade, although has slowed down a bit recently. Since Zimbabwe has lost some ground in the past, the recovery at a faster rate from a lower base is not a surprise.
“Human development is about enlarging human choices- focusing on the richness of human lives rather than simply the richness of economies. Critical to this process is work, which engages people all over the world in different ways and takes up a major part of their lives. Of the world’s 7.3 billion people, 3.2 billion are in jobs, and others engage in care work, creative work, voluntary work or other kinds of work or are preparing themselves as future workers,” the report says.
Ethiopia and Rwanda, viewed as the continent’s foremost developmental states, have also rapidly raised the living conditions of their nationals between 2010- 2014. However, it is Zimbabwe that has surprised many analysts,which had the highest change on the Human Development Index (HDI) ranking on the continent, a 12 place jump ahead of Seychelles, Cameron and Mauritius.
In another similar index last year, the UNDP established that Zimbabwe had made some notable gains. The UNDP report attribute the top ranking to a significant rise in life expectancy, at almost four times the sub-Saharan average, and an increase in expected years of schooling.
The report also noted that the country’s gross national income per capita increased four percentage points faster than the sub-Saharan average, from $1, 442 to $1,662, or a 12 percent jump. While the report says Zimbabwe’s HDI was below the continental average, it conceded that it grew at double the pace of the continent.
Average annual HDI growth is defined as ‘smoothed, annualized growth of the HDI in a given period, calculated as the annual compound growth rate.’
Out of 188 countries that were assessed, Zimbabwe was paced 155 ahead of Uganda, Rwanda and Senegal. The report gives an indication of how much the continent’s recent robust growth has trickled down to those who need it most. The index is thus a composite that measures average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development – a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living.
Another country that has experienced a phenomenal rise is the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is in the top five ranking of African countries probably propped up by its oil reserves. The least improved country over the same period is Equatorial Guinea.
Despite its battle with Ebola, Sierra Leone is also in the top line together with Burkina Faso. Liberia, which was also ravaged by Ebola, also fared better than many African countries in changing the living conditions of its people.
Another country which has previously been ranked near the bottom of the index, Chad, performed better in the five-year review period, as was Malawi, suggesting a growth pace from a low base. Countries like Seychelles, Namibia, Mauritius and South Africa which have higher standards of living are in the middle of the 52 African countries.
Libya, whose political situation deteriorated since the ouster and murder of Muammar Gaddafi is placed second from last so as Egypt, which also experienced the Arab spring, which is also near the bottom.
Eritrea also shocked most analysts by being ranked ahead of Botswana, Senegal, Algeria and Tunisia. The UNDP says some two billion people have been lifted out of low human development in the last 25 years and urges governments to focus on work to build on that progress. At least 830 million people live on less than $2 a day and are classified as working poor, while over 200 million, including some 74 million youth, are without work.
Political analyst Professor Charity Manyeruke said: “I am not surprised that Zimbabwe has been ranked high because if you just take a look at the congestion in terms of cars in the city centre, it shows that a large number of people now have the means to purchase a vehicle. It is the same with schooling, education is a basic right in Zimbabwe and Minister (of Primary and Secondary Education Dr Lazarus) Dokora has even emphasised that no child should be denied access to education. Look at the number of graudates coming out every year, it shows that Zimbabweans are highly literate. Of course NGOs have also played a role in the education sector.”
Rankings (African countries)
1. Zimbabwe 2. Ethiopia 3. Rwanda 4. Congo Republic 5. Siera Leone 6. Burkina Faso 7. Democratic Republic of Congo 8. Liberia 9. Guinea 10. Malawi 11. Chad 12. Zambia 13. Cameroon 14. Lesotho 15. Togo 16. Ghana 17. Angola 18. Nigeria 19. Tanzania 20. Ivory Coast 21. Seychelles 22. Djibouti 23. Mozambique 24. Mauritania 25. Kenya 26. South Africa 27. Gabon 28. Comoros 29. Sudan 30. Namibia 31. Morocco 32. Mauritius 33. Cape Verde 34. Burundi 35. Benin 36. Eritrea 37. Botswana 38. Mali 39. Senegal 40. Sao Tome 41. Uganda 42. Guine Bissau 43. Algeria 44. Egypt 45. Swaziland 46. Madagascar 47. Tunisia 48. South Sudan 49. Gambia 50. Central African Republic 51. Libya 52. Equatorial Guinea.