Since discussions and debates emerged from the 2017 World Happiness Report, it is still interesting to examine all factors that have so far inhibited the general well-being of the African people.
In the African case, unlike many developed countries or other continents, there is a shared theme cutting across the countries with many individuals believing most of the problems facing the continent largely lie or can be resolved by the ruling elite.
The problems facing African countries raised by the people surveyed in the report mirror those raised in several others economic and development reports. According to the citizens in the 44 countries surveyed in World Happiness Report 2017 these are the major problems facing the continent.
1. Poor Governance
The report says, African countries have undergone two forms of governance liberation, yet remain stuck in the middle of a third one. First, it was the struggle for independence from the colonial rule then liberation from dictatorships that merged from independence. Now, many African countries are facing a struggle of getting proper democratic governance.
In several countries, incumbent long serving political leaders have found ways to manipulate the electoral process. Aside from increasing term limits, the methodical undermining of the opposition parties and leaders along with civil societies is widespread across the nations. The challenge for current governments regardless of systems used, is the creation and implantation of policies which reflect of the immediate and future needs of the people. Healthcare, security, political stability, and development projects are all affected by poor governance.
Corruption is endemic to the way of life in much of Africa. It has permeated all life facets from simple things like access to medical care, schools and jobs, to the grand scale of it all like award of contracts and use of public resources. The effect has been great inequalities both in access of services from government offices as well as opportunities for investment with many local and foreign firms discouraged and forced to close business. Misappropriation of public funds and biased awarding of tenders compromises on the quality service available to the members of the public.
As a result the huge gap between the classes is further enhanced. While strides are being made by respective governments, the perceptions of corruption and level of trust to the government and the organs show the situation is still far from ideal. Corruption affects key sectors like healthcare, education and infrastructure resulting in poor living conditions.
The whole world may be facing a surge of unemployment especially among the youth but the case for Africa is more precarious. This is because governments do not sufficiently invest in youths. As the labor force increases, there is a huge disconnect between the older generation in majority of the policy and decision making organs and the ever expanding youth population. From the education to employment opportunities and entrepreneurship plans and assistance, the governments face challenges on how best to mitigate for what has been described as a time bomb. This in turn contributes to lower family incomes with many dependents, crime due to joblessness and a host of other social issues.
4. Population growth
The African continent has some of the highest averages for fertility rates and population growth in the world. The statistics alone paint quite a huge scale of challenge now and years to come. While the average world fertility rate is 2.5 children per woman, in Africa it is 4.7 children per woman. The current population of the continent is 1.2 billion people up from just under half a million people in 1980. The UN projects that by 2050 the annual growth increases of the continent will by 42 million people every year and the total population of the continent will have doubled. As growth rates in the rest of the world decrease Africa will contribute 54% of the overall world population growth by 2050.
While the population growth points to recent medical advancements and improved conditions to increase life expectancy and lower infant mortality, the challenge is meeting the needs of this population explosion. While family planning programs in many parts of the world led to a fall in fertility rates, in Africa this has not happened and even where gains were made they are at risk of being reversed.
With no effective solutions for family planning and not sufficient planning by the government to mitigate and plan for the explosions countries will be thrown in the vicious cycle that comes with the pressure many people place on limited resources.
Insecurity is rampant across Africa hindering progress at national and regional levels. From the urban crime to terrorist groups like Al-Shaabab and Boko-Haram to civil wars in South Sudan and political instability in Libya and Somalia, the examples are unending. The insecurities affect all factors of production, cause massive displacement of people, loss of investments, lives and also scare away direct foreign investment. It also
6. Droughts and Famine
Weather patterns continue to be a challenge to the continent which is yet to fully realize its agricultural potential. Pro-longed drought periods result in people displacement and deplete grain reserves and loss of livelihoods for a great number of people in the continent especially along the horn of Africa. It takes countries steps back in development and affect the ability of future generations to battle from a malnourished childhood to better living standards as adults especially with they become cyclic.
None of Africa’s problems is beyond the means and resources within the continent. What has largely lacked is the proper policy making and implementation from the political class down to the civil service in the countries. These are problems that can be solved and mitigated by proper governance which remains the single biggest challenge the continent faces.