What are African countries’ HDI & Democracy Index?



There are several ways and methods to compare countries, whether you look at the largest in size of landmass, population, economy, richest or poorest, cultural diversity, languages spoken or other like elevation.

HDI rates a country’s performance on the Human Development Index, while Democracy Index looks at countries’ Governance. Let’s start with the latter.

Democracy Index

According to Wikipedia, the Democracy Index is an index compiled by the UK-based Economist Intelligence Unit, measuring the state of democracy in 167 countries, of which 166 are sovereign states and 165 are UN member states. The index is based on 60 indicators grouped in five different categories measuring:electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties.

The index was first produced in 2006, with updates for 2008, 2010 and the following years since then. Norway is the most democratic, ranking 1st since 2010, while the least democratic, you could have guessed it, is North Korea at 167th.

In addition to a numeric score and a ranking, the index categorises countries as one of four regime types: full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes and authoritarian regimes.

Almost one-half (49.3%) of the world’s population lives in a democracy of some sort, although only 4.5% reside in a “full democracy”, down from 8.9% in 2015 as a result of the US being demoted from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” in 2016. Around one-third of the world’s population lives under authoritarian rule, with a large share being in China. According to the 2017 Democracy Index, 76 of the 167 countries covered by the model, or 45.5% of all countries, can be considered to be democracies. The number of “full democracies” has remained at 19 in 2017, the same as in 2016, when the total declined from 20 in 2015 as the US fell into the “flawed democracy” category. The score for the US fell to 7.98 in 2016, reflecting a sharp fall in popular confidence in the functioning of public institutions, a trend that predated—and aided—the election of Donald Trump. Of the remaining 91 countries in our index, 52 are “authoritarian” and 39 are classified as “hybrid regimes”.

So now how are African Countries performing on the Democracy Index?

It is no surprise that none features in the most democratic‘full democracy’ category, while Cape Verde comes in at 23 and Botswana at 28 in the ‘flawed democracy’type.

Also to feature there are South Africa at41, Ghana at 52, Lesotho at 56, Tunisia at 69, Namibia at 71 and Senegal at 74.

As having a ‘hybrid regime’ the following 15 countries are classified: Zambia at 85, Mali at 86, Benin at 87, Malawi at 89, Tanzania at 91, Liberia at 93, Kenya at 95, Madagascar and Uganda at 98, Morocco 101, Burkina at 103, Sierra Leone at 105, Nigeria at 109, Gambia at 113 and Mozambique at 115.

In the least democratic ‘authoritarian regime’ are the remaining 24 African countries, with: Ivory Coast at 116, Mauritius at 121, Niger at 122, Comoros at 123, Angola at 125, Gabon and Cameroon at 126, Algeria at 128, Ethiopia at 129, Egypt at 130, Congo Republic (Brazzaville) at 132, Rwanda at 133, Zimbabwe at 137, Guinea at 1328, Togo at 142.

Swaziland at 144, Djibouti at 145, Eritrea at 151, Burundi at 153, Libya at 154, Sudan at 155, Guinee Bissau at 157, Equatorial Guinea at 161 and Democratic Republic of Congo at 163, Central African Republic at 164 and finally Chad at 165.

Recent elections and in particular the aftermath have a big influence on future ranking. Take e.g. the respect for the independent position of the judiciary, which often needs to withstand pressure from a president or parliament to dismiss or uphold oppositions’ claims of election fraud as it did recently in Kenya and did not in Liberia.

For details and more insight go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index or https://www.eiu.com/topic/democracy-index

How about Africa’s Human Development Index?

The HDI was created to emphasize that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone. The HDI can also be used to question national policy choices, asking how two countries with the same level of GNI per capita can end up with different human development outcomes. These contrasts can stimulate debate about government policy priorities.

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a summary measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and have a decent standard of living. The HDI is the geometric mean of normalized indices for each of the three dimensions.

The health dimension is assessed by life expectancy at birth, the education dimension is measured by mean of years of schooling for adults aged 25 years and more and expected years of schooling for children of school entering age. The standard of living dimension is measured by gross national income per capita. The HDI uses the logarithm of income, to reflect the diminishing importance of income with increasing GNI. The scores for the three HDI dimension indices are then aggregated into a composite index using geometric mean.
The HDI simplifies and captures only part of what human development entails. It does not reflect on inequalities, poverty, human security, empowerment, etc. The HDRO offers the other composite indices as broader proxy on some of the key issues of human development, inequality, gender disparity and poverty.

So how do African countries with their history of socialist or nationalist policies and more recently the donor instigated Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) feature on the HDI list of countries?

There are three groups: High, Medium and Low Human Development.

In the High Development category Seychelles comes in at 63, Mauritius at 64, Algeria at 83, Tunisia at 97 and Libya at 102.

Medium Human development gives Botswana at 108, Gabon at 109, Egypt at 111, South Africa at 119, Cape Verde at 122, Morocco at123, Namibia at 125, republic of Congo (Brazzaville) and Equatorial Guinea at 135, Ghana and Zambia at 139, Sao Tomé and Principe at 142 and finally Kenya at 146.

Low Human Development ranks carry Swaziland at 149, Angola at 150, Tanzania at 151, Nigeria at 152, Cameroon at 153, Zimbabwe at 154, Mauritania at 157, Madagascar at 158, Rwanda at 159, Lesotho and Comoros at 160, Senegal at162, Uganda at 163, Sudan at 165, Togo at 166, Benin at 167, Malawi at 170, Ivory Coast at 171, Djibouti at 172, Gambia at 173, Ethiopia at 174, Mali at 175, D.R. Congo at 176, Liberia at 177, Guinea Bissau at 178, Eritrea at 179, Sierra Leone at 179, Mozambique and South Sudan at 181, Guinea at 183, Burundi at 184, Burkina Faso at 185, Chad at 186, Niger at 187 and finally Central African Republic at 188.Look for details at:

Comparing the scores on the Democracy Index and HDI ranking is another matter, which can say a lot about a country’s policy in practise. I leave that as a challenge to one of my fellow columnists!


With the population of 24 countries still suffering under authoritarian regimes and most experiencing low human development, African governments need to pull up their socks and realize that the ‘Africa rising’ trend does not benefit all!

*Ato Bob is a former Dutch Diplomat who now consults with various NGO’s on African issues. He lives in Rotterdam and may be reached on atobobhensen@hotmail.com