How happy is sub-Saharan Africa?

Is where you’re born indicative of how happy you are? It depends.

The happiest people in sub-Saharan Africa apparently reside in Angola, which ranks #61 in the UN’s recent World Happiness Report, a 156-nation survey of the world’s happiest countries. Angola’s happiness is on par with that of Eastern Europe, and way below the US (#17) and the UK (#22).

Although that may not seem like great news, there have been some major strides in sub-Saharan Africa’s general feeling of happiness, which 39 out of 50 sub-Saharan African countries participated in over the course of 3 years. The study measured issues including life expectancy, GDP, perception of corruption, social support and freedom to make life choices.

First, the good news: happiness has improved as a whole in sub-Saharan Africa. The outlook in Angola and Zimbabwe rose more than any other country measured in the survey. In close competition, Sierra Leone made the top 10 of most improved countries in the world.

The three big factors that contributed to improved happiness in the region was an overall rise in GDP, and the largest growth seen in the world both in social support – the feeling of having someone to count on in times of trouble – and freedom to make life choices.

On the other side of the coin, the eight least happy countries on the list – Guinea, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Central African Republic, Benin, Togo and Comoros - are all sub-Saharan. For some context, Syria ranked above those eight countries.

And nine sub-Saharan African countries – Madagascar, South Africa, Tanzania, Malawi, Togo, Guinea, Rwanda, Senegal and Botswana – had a decrease in the level of happiness since last measured. One factor that may have contributed to this is an increase in the perception of corruption in the region.

World Happiness Report Graphic

So why is knowing a country’s level of happiness so important? According to the UN, there is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people’s lives.

The UN’s hope through this report is to show policymakers that the systematic measurement and analysis of happiness can teach us how we can improve the world’s well-being and sustainable development. ONE couldn’t agree more.

Take a moment to improve the quality of life for the world’s poorest. Tell your member of Congress to bring reliable electricity – no longer a luxury in this day and age, but a necessity – to 50 million sub-Saharan African people for the first time.

Sign the petition here.