Human Development in Africa

60 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2013

See all articles by Augustin Fosu

Augustin Fosu

United Nations - Economic Commission for Africa

Germano Mwabu

University of Nairobi - Department of Economics

Date Written: June 7, 2010


Human development (HD), a process designed to enhance human lives directly, is contrasted with economic development, which entails the expansion of material things intended to fulfill human needs. Human development empowers people to participate in the improvement of their own well-being. The paper looks at the record of HD in Africa over the period 1970-2005, using half-decadal data derived from United Nations sources and national statistical bureaus. It is found that over the period analyzed, the human development index improved in all African countries except in Zambia, where it declined, due to unfavorable terms of trade and to persistent health and governance problems, among challenges. Nonetheless, despite this progress, African countries continue to lag behind other regions of the world in HD. There has been little advance on the economic development front, where growth plummeted in most African countries, impoverishing nearly 50 percent of the population. Towards the end of the 1990s, however, African economies began to recover due mainly to reforms in governance and distributive systems, and in mechanisms to protect people against downside risks, including disease pandemics, political instabilities, droughts and adverse terms of trade. The paper argues for a continuation of reforms in order to further improve economic and human development outcomes on the continent.

Suggested Citation

Fosu, Augustin and Mwabu, Germano, Human Development in Africa (June 7, 2010). UNDP-HDRO Occasional Papers No. 2010/8, Available at SSRN:

Augustin Fosu

United Nations - Economic Commission for Africa ( email )

Central Africa Office
Addis Ababa

Germano Mwabu (Contact Author)

University of Nairobi - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 30197
2542226451 (Phone)

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