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African development - RFI interview

Zimbabwe comes last in human development ranking


Zimbabwe has the worst quality of life in the world, according to the United Nations human development index. The 15 worst-off countries are all African except for Afghanistan, but Jeni Klugman, director of the Human Development Report Office at UNDP in New York and author of the report, tells RFI she's upbeat about Africa. 


"The overall picture that we find is very positive around the world but especially on the [African] continent,” she says. “We find an overall increase in the Human Development Index since 1970 of the order of 40 per cent, but a much faster rate of progress among the poorest countries.”

Several African countries have made big improvements. Ethiopia’s Human Development Index has improved by some 122 per cent since 1970 owing to improvements in education, life expectancy and income.

The HIV/Aids epidemic has seriously brought down African scores, but Klugman says the overall trend is positive.

"Some of the countries that are still relatively low in the rankings, for example Burkina Faso and Mozambique, are among the top 10 movers over the last decade,” she says.

"So when we look at trends and the rate of improvement over time relative to the starting points, a number of African countries have done particularly well over the whole 40 years. But when we look at the last decade since 2000, we find that several African countries – including those which are still ranked fairly low in absolute terms – have progressed quite quickly."

Zimbabwe owes its low score to low income and life expectancy, which is only 47 years.

"Having an income of only 176 dollars is clearly something which is going to hold back any improvements in human development over time,” says Klugman. “The education scores are actually not too bad in Zimbabwe relative to other countries on the continent and other developing countries but the life expectancy is particularly disappointing.”

Top five

  • Norway
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • United States
  • Ireland

Bottom five (from worst)

  • Zimbabwe
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Niger
  • Burundi
  • Mozambique

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