The transformation of developing countries into major economies with growing political influence is having a big impact on the progress of human development, according to a new report.
The 2013 Human Development Report says that, in the last 10 years, all countries in Sub-Saharan Africa increased efforts to improve education, health and income levels, as measured by the Health Development Index (HDI).
As a result, all countries with a low HDI value in 2000 had improved dramatically by 2012.
“Africa has achieved sustained rates of economic growth at a time of great involvement with emerging economies,” said Tegegnework Getu, Regional Director of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Africa.
He said progress has been seen more widely, with improvements also taking place in health and education. The average national HDI in Sub-Saharan Africa is the lowest in the world, but the pace of improvement is striking.
Out of 14 countries worldwide to have recorded HDI gains of two per cent or more annually since 2000, 11 are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Ethiopia is in a group of countries with diversified, high-performing agriculture-based economies, that has shown the second-highest rate of HDI improvement worldwide since 2000.
The report puts this down to a rise in trade, investment and development co-operation with emerging countries like Brazil, India and China, which have successfully lifted millions of their citizens out of poverty.
Annual trade between Sub-Saharan Africa and China rose from $1 billion to $140 billion in the last 20 years.
To maintain this level of growth, the Human Development Report calls on countries to continue working to reduce inequality, focusing on youth, women and marginalized people.
It also warns that regional progress is put at risk by climate change and other environmental pressures.
It considers the potential harm of a severe “environmental disaster” scenario, with a halt in progress to slow global warming.
In this scenario, the report warns Sub-Sahran Africa’s overall human development could be halted, or even reversed, by 2050, with hundreds of millions more people pushed into extreme poverty.
Illustrating the pace of progress in Africa, Niger was found to have the 10th fastest average rate of human development growth between 2000 and 2012 – 2.2 per cent – even though it has the lowest human development score in the world.
By that measure, it lags behind Afghanistan, which has a human development growth rate of 3.91 per cent, Sierra Leone at 3.29 per cent, Ethiopia at 3.09 per cent and Rwanda at 2.73 per cent.