What is the ultimate goal of people? Wealth? Yes. Health? Of course. Security? Yes. Access to education? Living in freedom, democracy? Family, religion? All true. Put that together and you come to this conclusion: people want to be happy. This is why the World Happiness Report (United Nations) is important.
So is Africa a happy continent? No. Sorry. Actually Africa is by far the least happy continent. Lots of good things happening there, but there is so much more work to done. Most happy countries in the world are in Europe, specifically in the northern part. To be precise, in Scandinavia. The most happy country in the world is Finland, up from the sixth position last year. Next in line is Norway, followed by Denmark and Iceland. We also find happy people in The Netherlands and Switzerland as well as some former British colonies like Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The United States is the most powerful country in the world and has the president with the biggest mouth, and it is still far from the most happy. They proudly occupy position 18, down from 14 last year. The UK is at 19 and France, despite the great wine and cheese, sits at number 23.
But we will see that these are still a lot happier than the happiest country in Africa.
If I were to make a list of the most happy African countries I would take into account wealth, economic growth, security, education and political freedom. Following this criteria, I would go with Mauritius, Botswana, Ghana, Rwanda and Namibia. Well, obviously I didn’t make the report and the only country I was right about was Mauritius, which is indeed the most happy country in Africa, only on position 55 (but up from position 64 as of last year). Following that to my surprise is Libya, then Algeria (down from Africa’s number 1 last year). Happy people are in the Maghreb since Morocco is 4th on the list. Nigerians on 5th place are a lot more happy than I expected. And what about Somalia? 6th on the list. South Africa is 9. Number 10 on the list is Côte D’Ivoire, number 107 worldwide (out of 156 countries) – already a rather low score. Some major African countries: Ghana is 11 (worldwide 108), Egypt is 19 (122), Kenya is 21 (124), Ethiopia is 24 (127), Congo Kinshasa is 26 (132).
Now let’s work the list from the bottom. Of the 10 most unhappy countries in the world 7 are in Africa; amongst them the 4 most unhappy: Burundi, Central African Republic, South Sudan and – to my great surprise – Tanzania. Also Rwanda finds itself amongst the most unhappy countries in the world.
So what are the dynamics? Where is Africa heading in terms of happiness? OK, Africa may be not that happy yet, but is it moving in the right direction? Yes and no. Togo is the country that gained most happiness worldwide but it is still at the low position of 139. Also in the top-10 of countries that became more happy are Sierra Leone and Morocco. On the other hand, Malawi, Botswana, Madagascar and Rwanda are amongst the top-10 countries that lost the most happiness.
Bas Vlugt is founder of Africa Business Communities, based in The Netherlands, the 6th most happy country on earth.