Africa’s decade of tremendous human development opens new inequalities Challenge, says new UNDP report
London, Dec. 10, 2019 (AltAfrica)-African countries have made significant strides in advancing human development, gaining ground on primary education and health. But a new generation of inequalities is opening up that, left unchecked, threatens to undermine further progress and makes it harder for those already behind to catch up.
This is the trust of a new report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its 2019 Human Development Report, titled “Beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today: inequalities in human development in the 21st century.”
This Human Development Report (HDR), which pioneers a more precise way to measure countries’ socioeconomic progress, says that just as the gap in basic living standards is narrowing, with an unprecedented number of people escaping poverty, hunger and disease, the necessities to thrive have evolved.
New inequalities are becoming more pronounced, particularly around tertiary education, and the seismic effects of technology and the climate crisis.
“This is the new face of inequality,” says UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner. “And, as this Human Development Report sets out, inequality is not beyond solutions.”
The Report analyzes inequality in three dimensions – beyond income, beyond averages, and beyond today – and proposes policy options to tackle it.
Impressive progress, elusive SDGs
According to the Report’s accompanying Human Development Index (HDI), Africa has experienced one of the most significant improvements in human development. Between 1990 and 2018, life expectancy increased by more than 11 years.
For the first time this year, an African country – Seychelles – has moved into the very high human development group. Others are rising in the ranks as well. Four countries – Botswana, Gabon, Mauritius and South Africa – are now in the high human development group, and 12 countries – Angola, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eswatini, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Zambia, and Zimbabwe – are in the medium human development group.
Between 1990 and 2018, Ghana’s Human Development Index (HDI) value increased from 0.454 to 0.596, an increase of 31.1 percent – which put the country in the medium human development category—positioning it at 142 out of 189 countries and territories.
It is important to note that Ghana’s 2018 HDI of 0.596 is below the average of 0.634 for countries in the medium human development group but above the average of 0.541 for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. From Sub-Saharan Africa, countries which are close to Ghana in 2018 HDI rank and to some extent in population size are Cameroon and Kenya, which have HDIs ranked 150 and 147 respectively.
Moreover, between 1990 and 2018, Ghana’s life expectancy at birth increased by 7.0 years (from 56.8 years in 1990 to 63.8 years in 2018), mean years of schooling increased by 2.3 years (4.9 years to 7.2 years) and expected years of schooling increased by 3.9 years. Ghana’s Gross national income (GNI) per capita, also increased by about 120.0 percent between 1990 and 2018 (from 1,863 to 4,099).
“There is much to celebrate in the unprecedented progress Africa has achieved over the past two decades, especially in fundamentals,” says Ahunna Eziakonwa, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Africa. “But the goalposts are moving, and we need to ensure that people are well positioned today to get ahead tomorrow.”
However, significant challenges remain. African countries find themselves at a crossroad, facing the dual challenge of ensuring that those furthest behind make progress with the basics, while paving the way for those further ahead to keep pace with the emerging requirements of today’s world.
While poverty rates have declined in across the continent, progress has been uneven. If current trends continue, the Report asserts, nearly 9 of 10 people in extreme poverty – more than 300 million – will be in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2030. And among countries that are off track to achieve the SDGs by 2030, most are in Africa. At the same time, many African countries face low tertiary education rates and relatively limited access to broadband, thwarted in part by low digital literacy and skills