Is Africa Really the Least Happiest Place on Earth?

Abena Agyeman-Fisher April 24, 2015
Children in Togo

Children in Togo

Children in Togo

According to a new survey released by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), four African countries round out the top unhappiest places in the world, according to their World Happiness index.

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The countries that have the unfortunate distinction of being the “least happiest places” in the world are Togo, Burundi, Syria, Benin, and Rwanda.

According to SDSN, they rank 158 countries based on data from the Gallup World Poll, including GDP per capita, corruption levels, social freedoms, and healthy life expectancy.

Conversely, the countries that were listed as the “world’s happiest countries” are Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, and Canada.

SDSN adds, “Increasingly happiness is considered a proper measure of social progress and goal of public policy.

“A rapidly increasing number of national and local governments are using happiness data and research in their search for policies that could enable people to live better lives.”

SDSN’s goal is to influence government policy with their annual results.

But isn’t the very concept of happiness subjective in nature? 

A more pointed question would ask whether SDSN’s aforementioned measurements for happiness (corruption, life expectancy, etc.) are accurate barometers for happiness.

For example, with all of the gains a country such as Rwanda has made in recent years — often being lauded for its “remarkable renewal” and “rapid economic development” — it is surprising to see that the East African country has a home on the list.

In addition, Rwanda has been internationally lauded for being the only country in the world with more female MPs than male ones.

On the other hand, in countries, such as Togo, the Gnassingbe family has been in power for 48 years and political repression has reportedly been in practice for just as long, if not longer.

Still, I personally grew up hearing my mother tell me that if I wanted to see happiness, I need only travel back home, where people may not have much but happiness abounds. And indeed, in my own experience traveling throughout Africa, happiness is a key emotion I’ve observed throughout.

But let’s return to the underlying premise and ask some questions: how should happiness be defined and are the least happiest places in the world indeed in Africa???

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Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: April 24, 2015


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