NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 10, 2006

The gap between the richest and poorest countries is growing as human development stagnates in sub-Saharan Africa, the world's poorest region, a U.N. report said on Thursday.

  • Most regions of the world enjoy a better standard of living now than over the past three decades, except sub-Saharan Africa, where tens of millions of people face a devastating AIDS pandemic.
  • The disease has slashed life expectancy, keeping many of the area's nations at the bottom of the pile in the U.N.'s Human Development Index (HDI) for 2006.

The single biggest factor that has driven the reversals that we've seen in sub-Saharan Africa has been HIV/AIDS, says the report's lead author, Kevin Watkins.

  • The index -- which rates countries on wealth, life expectancy and education -- ranked Norway as the best country in which to live and Niger in West Africa last, unchanged from last year.
  • People in Norway are more than 40 times wealthier than people in Niger and they live almost twice as long.

The world as a whole has seen unprecedented growth in material wealth over the past few decades, but the prosperity has not been evenly shared.  The report paints a grim picture for the poorest of the poor, despite massive debt relief.

At the same time these increases (in wealth) have been very uneven, with vast numbers of people not participating in progress, it said.

Source: Gordon Bell, "Africa stagnates while world gets richer-UNDP," Reuters UK, November 9, 2006; based upon:


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