September 16, 2015

Health Care, Education Are Top Priorities in Sub-Saharan Africa

Most Are Optimistic about Economic Future

As the United Nations prepares to ratify new global development goals, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that people in major sub-Saharan African nations are feeling more optimistic about the future than many others around the world. Having experienced relatively high rates of economic growth in recent years, African publics are more likely than citizens of many wealthier nations to believe their economies will improve in the short run, and that in the long run the next generation will be better off financially.

Nonetheless, throughout sub-Saharan Africa people recognize that their countries face tremendous challenges. Even though extreme poverty around the world has been cut by more than half since the last round of UN development targets (the Millennium Development Goals) were adopted in 2000, economic challenges persist, especially a lack of jobs.[1. For more on the UN Millennium Development Goals, see the Millennium Development Goals Report 2015.]

And when asked what the top priorities should be for their country beyond strictly economic issues, people in the nine nations surveyed identify health care and education as top-tier concerns, both of which should figure prominently in the next set of development goals (the Sustainable Development Goals), which will be solidified at a UN summit at the end of September.

Health Care Seen as Top Priority for Improvement in Sub-Saharan Africa
Asked which of six pressing issues should be the most important priority for their country, a median of 38% across the nations polled name health care, including more than four-in-ten in Burkina Faso, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda. In eight of nine countries, improving health care is the number one priority.

Education is also an important concern. A median of 23% say improving education should be their nation’s top priority. In South Africa, education is named more often than any other option. To a lesser extent, people in the region are also worried about issues such as corruption, food supply, infrastructure and energy.

Most Say More Foreign Aid NeededDespite the progress that has been made, and widespread optimism about the future, people in sub-Saharan Africa still believe their countries need assistance from abroad. Across the nine nations in the study, a median of 68% think their country needs more foreign aid than it gets today. The outlier is South Africa, where just 26% hold this view.

These are among the key findings of a new Pew Research Center survey, conducted in nine nations among 9,062 respondents from March 25 to May 21, 2015. Pew Research Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. This report was made possible by The Pew Charitable Trusts, which received support for the survey from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Development in Africa

2014 GDP Growth and Attitudes about Current Economic Conditions
Pew Research Center conducted a survey in nine sub-Saharan African nations (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda) among 9,062 respondents from March 25 to May 21, 2015. Explore survey findings in the interactive below.

More details about Pew Research Center’s international survey methodology and country-specific sample designs are available here.
Population 1
17.4 million
GDP per capita (USD) 2
$720
Income level 3
Low income
show more data
Poverty headcount ratio at
$1 a day (PPP) (% population) 4
▼11.9 percentage points
Primary school
enrollment (% net) 5
▲28.5 percentage points
Ratio of female to male
primary enrollment 6
▲17.9 points
Infant mortality rate 7
▼23 per 1,000 live births
Maternal mortality ratio 8
▼50 per 100,000 live births

Note: Change from latest year available in the period 2000-2004 to latest year available in the period 2005-2014 shown unless otherwise noted.

Click here to see all statistics' footnotes.

1 Source: African Development Bank Group

2 GDP per capita is gross domestic product divided by the 2014 midyear population. Source: World Bank

3 Note: Change from latest year available in the period 1990-1995 to latest year available in the period 2005-2014 for Ghana and Kenya. The poverty headcount ratio is the proportion of the national population that lives on less than USD 1 per day (using purchasing power parties). Source: African Development Bank Group

4 The net enrollment rate is the ratio of children of official school age who are enrolled in school to the population of the corresponding official school age. Source: World Bank

5 Ratio of female to male primary enrollment is the percentage of girls to boys enrolled at primary level in public and private schools. Source: World Bank

6 Infant mortality rate is the number of infants dying before reaching one year of age, per 1,000 live births in a given year. Source: African Development Bank Group

7 Maternal mortality ratio (modeled estimate) is the number of women who die from pregnancy-related causes while pregnant or within 42 days of pregnancy termination per 100,000 live births. Source: African Development Bank Group

1 Source: African Development Bank Group

2 GDP per capita is gross domestic product divided by the 2014 midyear population. Source: World Bank

3 Source: World Bank

4 The poverty headcount ratio is the proportion of the national population that lives on less than USD 1 per day (using purchasing power parties). Change from latest year available in the period 1990-1995 to latest year available in the period 2005-2014 for Ghana and Kenya. Source: African Development Bank Group

5 The net enrollment rate is the ratio of children of official school age who are enrolled in school to the population of the corresponding official school age. Source: World Bank

6 Ratio of female to male primary enrollment is the percentage of girls to boys enrolled at primary level in public and private schools. Source: World Bank

7 Infant mortality rate is the number of infants dying before reaching one year of age, per 1,000 live births in a given year. Source: African Development Bank Group

8 Maternal mortality ratio (modeled estimate) is the number of women who die from pregnancy-related causes while pregnant or within 42 days of pregnancy termination per 100,000 live births. Source: African Development Bank Group

Country problems
90% of those surveyed in Burkina Faso say lack of clean drinking water is/are a very big problem.

* Data not reported for Ethiopia on government corruption.

Crime
Energy shortages
Food shortages
Government corruption
Lack of access to clean toilets
Lack of clean drinking water
Lack of employment opportunities
Pollution
Poor health care
Poor infrastructure
Poor quality schools
Too few citizens participating in politics

* Data not reported for Ethiopia on government corruption.

Top priorities
66% of those surveyed in Burkina Faso say health care should be the most important priority.
11%
education
0%
energy
18%
food supply
0%
gov't
effectiveness
66%
health care
3%
infra-
structure
Confidence in institutions
69% of those surveyed in Burkina Faso are confident that national government will help solve the major problems in the country.
Burkina Faso
Survey median
Burkina Faso
Survey median
National
government
Foreign
aid orgs.
Domestic
companies
Foreign
companies

* Data not reported for Ethiopia on confidence in national government.

National government
Foreign aid orgs.
Domestic companies
Foreign companies

* Data not reported for Ethiopia on confidence in national government.

Government & taxation
65% of those surveyed in Burkina Faso believe the national government is run for the benefit of all.
benefit
a few
31
benefit
all
65
46% of those surveyed in Burkina Faso favor lower taxes even if it means the government will provide fewer services.
lower
taxes,
fewer services
46
higher
taxes,
more services
39
Foreign Aid
37% of those surveyed in Burkina Faso have the impression that the country receives a lot of foreign aid.
A lot of aid
Some aid
Very little aid
37
29
25
85% of those surveyed in Burkina Faso say the country needs more foreign aid.*
More aid
About the same amount of aid
Less aid
85
6
5
* “None” responses not shown.

58% of those surveyed in Burkina Faso describe programs funded by aid organizations as corrupt.
Burkina Faso
Survey median
Burkina Faso
Survey median
Burkina Faso
Survey median
Corrupt
Inefficient
Effective
Beneficial
Corrupt
Ineffective
Effective
Beneficial
Foreign extractive companies’ impact
63% of those surveyed in Burkina Faso say foreign companies in the mining industry have a positive impact on the country.
Negative
impact
32
Positive
impact
63
69% of those surveyed in Burkina Faso say foreign companies in the mining industry ruin the environment.
Burkina Faso
Survey median
Burkina Faso
Survey median
Burkina Faso
Survey median
Ruin the
environment
Mines unsafe
for workers
Don’t pay
their share
of taxes
Provide
jobs for
local
workers
Contribute
to economic
growth
Ruin the environment
Unsafe working conditions
Don’t pay enough taxes
Provide jobs to local workers
Contribute to economic growth

Source: Pew Research Center’s Spring 2015 Global Attitudes survey. Icons by Noun Project.

Click here for tables comparing all countries' data. Click here to download the data.

 

Confidence in Government, Aid Groups, Private Sector, but Concerns Too

Most Express Confidence in Government, Aid Groups, Domestic and Foreign Companies Overall, people in the region express at least some confidence that major institutions will be able to deal with the challenges facing their countries. Most believe that governments, foreign aid organizations and businesses can help solve key problems. However, people believe that these institutions have both important strengths and significant weaknesses.

In most countries polled, people express the greatest faith in their own national governments. A median of 78% across the eight countries where the question was asked say they are at least somewhat confident that their national government will help solve major problems in the country.

Still, Nigeria is the only nation where a majority is very confident.[2. The survey in Nigeria was conducted April 20 to May 12, 2015, after the March 28-29 elections.] Moreover, it is clear that people do have serious criticisms of their governments. Large majorities consider government corruption a very big problem, including about eight-in-ten or more in Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda. And majorities in most countries believe government is run for the benefit of a few groups rather than the benefit of all.

Foreign donor groups also receive largely favorable ratings. A median of 70% across all nine countries surveyed are at least somewhat confident that these organizations can help solve major problems in their country, including majorities in every nation polled. A median of 68% describe foreign aid programs as effective and 60% say they benefit people in need. Still, these positive views are tempered with doubts. Smaller, yet still significant, shares perceive these foreign assistance programs as corrupt (median of 53%) or inefficient (45%). And there is no country in which a majority is very confident in international aid organizations.

Most also believe the private sector can help address the challenges facing their country. A median of 66% express confidence in domestic companies, and 60% say this about foreign businesses.

Views of Foreign Companies in the Extractive IndustriesMore specifically, foreign companies involved in extractive industries are seen in a mostly positive light. In eight nations, respondents were asked about the impact of the mining industry in their country, while in Nigeria, where oil is a major export, people were asked about the oil and petrol industry.

In all countries, more than half say these companies are having a positive impact, including about seven-in-ten or more in Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda. A median of 67% across the nations polled say extractive companies are providing jobs for local workers and 59% believe they contribute to economic growth.

At the same time, as is true for the government and nonprofit sectors, people have some concerns about these for-profit industries as well. A median of 61% believe foreign extractive companies in Africa are causing environmental damage, while about half (51%) say the mines and oil rigs are unsafe for workers and 45% say these firms do not pay their share of taxes.

Economic Optimism in the Short, Long Term

The survey finds that, compared with other parts of the world, people in sub-Saharan Africa are feeling relatively positive about the economy. Many nations in the region have enjoyed strong growth in recent years, and it is clearly having an impact on public attitudes.

Africans More Positive on Economy Compared with Other Regions
Across the nine nations polled, a median of 48% say their national economy is in good shape. While still less than half, this is a significantly higher share of the public than in other parts of the world, with the exception of the Asia-Pacific region. Positive economic ratings are especially common in Ethiopia, Senegal, South Africa and Nigeria, where majorities believe their country is doing well economically. (For more on global public opinion on economic issues, see this recent report based on Pew Research Center’s 40-nation Spring 2015 survey, which includes the nine countries featured here.)

And when asked about the near-term economic future, sub-Saharan Africa is the most positive region of the world. A median of 60% believe their nation’s economy will improve in the next 12 months. Latin America is a distant second at 44%, and Europe trails the world at 24%.

Over the long term, Africans are optimistic about the economic prospects for the next generation. A median of 56% in the region believe that when today’s children grow up, they will be financially better off than their parents. About seven-in-ten or more hold this view in Nigeria, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa are the only nations in the region where less than half are optimistic for the next generation.

Average GDP Growth Since 2005 and Optimism for Next Generation
Average GDP Growth Since 2005 and Optimism for Next Generation

Correlation: 0.75

Source: Spring 2015 Global Attitudes survey. Q6. Data for GDP growth from IMF World Economic Outlook Database, April 2015, accessed June 1, 2015. Data not available for Palestinian territories.

Globally, optimism about the economic future is closely linked to a country’s recent economic past. Nations that have enjoyed strong gross domestic product (GDP) growth since 2005 also tend to be more optimistic about the financial well-being of the next generation. Overall, there is a 0.75 correlation between a country’s average GDP growth from 2005 to 2014 and the share of the public who think today’s children will be better off financially than their parents.

In African nations that have experienced high growth rates in recent years, such as Nigeria, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, large majorities believe the next generation will be better off. The same pattern is found in Asian nations that have had strong growth, like China, India and Vietnam.

In contrast, many wealthy nations that have struggled with the Great Recession and its aftereffects are relatively pessimistic about the future. For example, in France, Italy and Japan, less than 20% say children in their country will surpass their parents financially.