Widespread discontent with economy, corruption in key African nations 

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In South Africa and Nigeria – sub-Saharan Africa’s two largest economies – economic sentiments have turned sharply negative since 2015, according to a new Pew Research Center report. Around seven-in-ten South Africans and Nigerians now say their economies are in bad shape. In the East African economic hub of Kenya, the report finds, just over half say the same. And large majorities in all three countries consider the lack of employment opportunities a very big problem.

Just over a year ago, the United Nations agreed to an ambitious agenda for bettering the lives of people around the world – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs call for countries to improve across 17 issue areas, including economic growth, accountable institutions and reduced inequality, among others. While the target for achieving the SDGs is not until the year 2030, the publics in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa are increasingly concerned about some key development issues. At the same time, they express considerable optimism about the future.

Still, many believe the political and economic system is stacked against them. Political corruption – seen by many experts as a key stumbling block to a country’s development – is a major public concern. Broad majorities in all three countries name government corruption as a very big problem. Most South Africans, Kenyans and Nigerians believe that government is run for the benefit of only a few groups of people in society. Perhaps most troublingly, only around a third of South Africans and Kenyans say government corruption will be less of a problem in their countries when today’s children grow up. Nigerians are more optimistic that there will be less corruption in the future – 60% expect things to improve.

In the economic realm, most see rewards and opportunities going primarily to those at the top. Majorities in all three nations say the gap between rich and poor has increased over the past five years. And when asked why so many people lack jobs in their country, the top reason given is that many jobs go only to people with connections.