African job creation lags developmental gains, study finds

Most African nations are doing a better job in promoting development and safeguarding human rights but are falling short in providing jobs for their burgeoning populations, a study by a foundation started by Sudanese billionaire Mo Ibrahim has found.

While an overall African governance index reached a decade-high last year, with 34 of the 54 countries registering gains since since 2008, an index that measured sustainable economic opportunities barely changed, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation said in its assessment released on Monday. That’s despite a 40% surge in the region’s gross domestic product over the period, according to the annual study which is based on data from 35 independent, external sources.

“Africa has a huge challenge ahead,” Ibrahim said in an emailed statement. “Its large and youthful potential workforce could transform the continent for the better, but this opportunity is close to being squandered. The evidence is clear - young citizens of Africa need hope, prospects and opportunities. Its leaders need to speed up job creation to sustain progress and stave off deterioration.”

Mauritius was ranked Africa’s best-governed country, followed by Seychelles, Cabo Verde and Botswana, while Somalia and South Sudan got the lowest ratings. Nigeria, which is one of Africa’s largest economies, was ranked 33rd, and South Africa seventh. Governance improved the most in Ivory Coast and deteriorated the most in Libya.

The study’s other key findings include:

  • The quality of education has worsened for more than half of Africa’s citizens over the past five years.
  • Governance improvements have been irregular and mainly led by 15 countries, where progress has gained momentum.
  • There is no significant correlation between the size of a country’s economy and its success in providing its citizens with economic opportunities.
  • Access to sustainable economic opportunities improved in 27 countries over the past decade, and deteriorated in 25.
  • The provision of health services has improved in 47 countries over the past decade, with indicators measuring the provision of AIDS drugs and child mortality among those that improved.
  • While transparency and the rule of law has improved, there has been a decline in safety standards and the rule of law.

Ibrahim founded telecommunications company Celtel International in 1998 and built it into Africa’s third-largest mobile-phone company. The Kuwait-based Zain Group, previously known as Mobile Telecommunications Company, bought 85% of Celtel for $3.4bn in 2005, and Ibrahim started his foundation the following year.

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