The World Happiness Report is an annual publication by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network that contains rankings of national happiness based on analysis of data from various perspectives. The first Wold Happiness Report was launched in 2012, and since then, annual reports have been launched preceding the International Day of Happiness on March 20th. The 2018 report will be released on the 14th of March. The national average is collected based on individual answers to the Cantril ladder question, which asks respondents to think of a ladder, with the best possible life for them being a 10, and the worst possible life being a 0. They are then asked to rate their own current lives on that 0 to 10 scale. A hypothetical country, called Dystopia with the lowest national happiness average is used as a benchmark against which each country is measured.

The happiness measure is based on six factors. These are:

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  • GDP per capita
  • Social support
  • Healthy Life Expectancy
  • Social freedom
  • Generosity
  • Absence of corruption

In last year’s report, Kenya was ranked 112/155 globally and 12th position in relation to African countries. In East Africa, Tanzania was the unhappiest country. In Africa, Algeria was the happiest country. Globally, Norwegian citizens, were the happiest.

Africa stands out as the unhappiest continent in the geography of happiness. The report sites the following factors as contributors to the continent’s happiness deficit.

  • African countries’ turbulent history due to slavery, colonialism, apartheid which have left an imprint on the citizens’ perceptions and expectations of well being
  • Threats to democracy and good governance in the form of authoritarian leaders, patronage systems and corruption. Most African countries adopted the democratic systems of their colonial masters during the independence, consequently paving the way for authoritarian rule. According to the Afrobarometer surveys, most citizens describe democracy in relation to civil liberties and disapprove of one-party, military or one man rule. The reality however, is that many Africans are not getting the democracy they envision. A particular area of interest was the skepticism in the management and quality of elections, the declining political and civic participation of the youth, promoting gerontocracy (rule by the old) in most states. Civic and political participation is also weak among women.
  •  Infrastructure development. On average across 35 countries, 65% of people live in communities with an electric grid, 63% have piped water, 30% have access to sewerage facilities, 93% have access to mobile phones and 54% live in areas with a tarmac road.
  • Corruption which permeates all sectors of governance and society, with nearly 75 million Africans having paid a bribe in 2016 to access public services, justice or to escape prosecution.
  • Lack of media freedom
  • Lack of freedom of movement within the continent. Most African countries do not see the benefit of integration.
  • High levels of unemployment

Despite this, Africans are some of the most optimistic people in the world. The report suggested that genuine investment in the youth matched by substantial infrastructure are some of the ways that countries on the continent can join the ranks of some of the world’s prosperous and happy nations.

Download the 2017 World Happiness Report here.

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