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Comparison with other developing countries: Africa’s human development



Table 1 sets out the HDI and its components by region for 1994. Life expectancy in Africa is 53
years, compared to 61 in South Asia. Much of the lower life expectancy in Africa reflects higher
child mortality. Under-five mortality rates are 31% higher in Africa than in South Asia, and infant
mortality rates 19% higher. However, adult mortality is also much higher in Africa than elsewhere (see
World Bank, 1993). The explanation for the higher child mortality is probably not under-nutrition: the
proportions of low-birth weight infants and of underweight children under five are much lower in Africa
than in South Asia (see Table 47, UNDP, 1997). Instead, inferior health care is likely to be a factor.
Immunisation rates are much lower in Africa: only 60.5% of one year olds are fully immunised against
measles compared to 75% in South Asia; disparities in immunisation against tuberculosis are similar.

Access to health services is lower in Africa: only 61% can reach a health facility by foot or local means
within one hour, compared to 82% in South Asia. This partly reflects the lower population density in
Africa. However, there are also less medical personnel. For the sample of countries for which information
is available, there are estimated to be 16,957 people per doctor in Africa compared to 3,704 in South
Asia. Another factor may be lack of access to “safe water”: only 56% of Africans have access to safe
water, compared to 76% of people in South Asia.
Africa has higher adult literacy rates than South Asia. This largely reflects the higher rates of
literacy among women in Africa compared to South Asia (43% compared to 34%; for men,
literacy rates are 64% and 62% respectively)3. Nonetheless, African men are still nearly 50%
more likely to be literate than African women. Africa’s superiority in literacy rates is likely to be
eroded over time: school enrolment rates are now lower in Africa than in any other region.
Combined primary, secondary and tertiary enrolment ratios average 46% in Africa, compared to
53% in South Asia. In most developing countries outside of Africa, male gross primary enrolment
ratios are close to 100% whilst in Africa they are 85% (for girls, gross primary enrolment ratios
are 73%). Box 1 discusses the issues raised by gender and human resource development.
These comparisons of Africa with other regions need to be seen in the context of trends in
income and human development since 1960.

Human Capital and Economic Development
Simon Appleton and Francis Teal


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The African Development Bank is the premier financial development institution of Africa, dedicated to combating poverty and improving the lives of people of the continent and engaged in the task of mobilizing resources towards the economic and social progress of its Regional Member Countries.The Bank’s s mission is to promote economic and social development through loans, equity investments, and technical assistance. The ADB is a multilateral development bank whose shareholders include 53 African countries and 24 non-African countries from the Americas, Asia, and Europe. It was established in 1964, with its headquarters in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, and officially began operations in 1967.
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