The World Happiness Report has yet again painted a bleak picture of the state of happiness in Botswana.
The latest report, the first of which was published in 2012, rates countries like Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, Sudan and DRC above Botswana.
Of the 44 African countries surveyed Botswana ranks at a devastating 34, performing better than only 10 nations that include South Sudan and Central African Republic. Save for Madagascar, Batswana are the unhappiest nation in SADC, according to the rankings.
On the world scale, Botswana is ranked 142 out of 155 countries surveyed, performing worse than even some war-torn countries like Iraq and Libya.
Batswana are in the same league as war Syria, and the Republic of Haiti which has continued to face significant humanitarian, political and development challenges; where 75 percent live on less than US$2 per day, and half of the population earns less than US$1 per day
This year’s report emphasises the importance of the social foundations of happiness. This can be seen by comparing the life experiences between the top and bottom 10 countries in this year’s happiness rankings.
There is a four-point happiness gap between the two groups of countries, of which three-quarters is explained by six variables, half due to differences in having someone to count on, generosity, a sense of freedom, and freedom from corruption.
The other half of the explained difference is attributed to GDP per capita and healthy life expectancy, both of which, as the report explains, also depend importantly on the social context.
“In richer countries the within-country differences are not mainly explained by income inequality, but by differences in mental health, physical health and personal relationships: the biggest single source of misery is mental illness,” the report says.
It states that income differences matter more in poorer countries.
“Work is also a major factor affecting happiness,” the report says.
It says unemployment causes a major fall in happiness, adding that even for those who work, the quality of work can cause major variations in happiness.
The Africa chapter of the World Happiness Report tells a much more diverse story, as fits the African reality. But these, the report says, are often marked by delayed and disappointed hopes for happier lives.
Youth voting with their feet
The chapter makes reference to the Arab Spring where disgruntled youth were seeking democratic representation and economic participation.
“Political analysts have warned that responses to Africa’s current youth revolts may not necessarily meet protesters’ demands for greater access to education and to skills that will lead to employment,” the report says, adding that “an important question, therefore, is what will happen to Africa’s youth who do not find jobs in their countries of birth by their mid to late 20s. Will they despair, join extremist groups, or emigrate?”
It says Africa’s increasingly IT-connected youth will have expectations of a higher standard of living than their parents. Even the youth left behind in the rural areas, the report says, are not content to till the soil as past generations have done and will try to find greener pastures in urban areas or, in some cases, even overseas. “African people have always been on the move.”
The report says Africa will need to provide jobs for its youth if it is to meet their aspirations for the good life.
In 2010, it says, there were roughly 200 million Africans between 15 and 24 years of age and the number could rise to over 450 million by 2050.
“According to an African Development Bank report, young people aged 15 to 24 constitute 37 person of Africa’s labour force but make up 60 person of the continent’s total.” It estimates that 18 million jobs will need to be created every year just to accommodate Africa’s current jobseekers.
The latest Afro barometer identified unemployment as a top concern in African countries.
“Some Africa watchers argue that the continent is already falling behind in providing education and employment for its youth.”
The African Development Bank has pointed out that in 2012 only a quarter of young African men and just 10 percent of young African women managed to get jobs in the formal economy before they reached the age of 30. Botswana has one of the world’s highest unemployment rates in the world.
In Europe, Norway has jumped from fourth place in 2016 to first this year, followed by Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland in a tightly packed bunch. All of the top four countries rank highly on all the main factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance.