People living in Africa are happier, healthier and better educated than ever before, says the United Nations.
The organisation looked at the standard of living in 135 countries since 1970 in its latest check on development.
And it found most African countries have made major leaps forward.
But there were some gaps. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe had actually slipped back and the situation for people living there has worsened. This they put down to factors such as armed conflict, HIV/Aids and financial turmoil.
Ethiopia was rated eleventh in the world for improving its basic living standards since 1970, the report said. And judging by progress over the past decade, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Rwanda and Uganda came out as the ‘top 10 movers.’
Education is the area in which most African nations have made the most progress, the report says. “Sub-Saharan Africa’s average literacy rate nearly tripled in percentage terms over the past four years, rising from 23 per cent in 1970 to 65 per cent today.”
Health care, however is still a problem in Africa, especially because of the impact of HIV/Aids. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the average life expectancy is now 52, according to the report, which has gone up from 44 in 1970. But it is still the lowest of any part of the world and way behind the average 70 years across the world as a whole.
Zimbabwe came last among all the countries for quality of life, even though its average life expectancy rose to 47 from 37 just a few years ago. The agency said poverty has risen above levels seen in the decade before independence in 1980.
The findings of the report will have a major impact on the way governments and the media view development. Instead of just looking at a few criteria, mainly based on income, it also for the first time took into account general living standards, such as health and nutrition, bad housing conditions, social exclusion, personal freedoms and education.
“The Human Development Report challenged the purely economic measures of national achievement and helped lay the foundation for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, calling for consistent global tracking of progress in health, education and living standards,” the UN said, releasing its findings.
About a third of the world's population, some 1.7 billion people, live in poverty, the researchers found based on these factors. That is more than the 1.3 billion that the World Bank estimates live on about 75p or less per day.