Cape Town – Citizens of South Africa, which has been ranked 101st out of 155 countries on the United Nations (UN) Happiness Index in 2017, are willing to give up their democratic rights for better living conditions.
That is according to the UN Happiness Report, which published the annual index on Monday, on the eve of South Africa’s Human Rights Day.
South Africa moved up the rankings from 116th in 2016 to 101st in 2017. In 2015, the country ranked 113th.
However, South Africa still remains only the seventh happiest country in Africa, a surprising spot considering it is the most industrialised country on the continent with excellent infrastructure and resources available.
SA happy to trade democracy for better living conditions
In a section on Africa, the authors of the report said “while poor infrastructure and lack of service delivery may contribute to lived poverty and depressed happiness, it may also undermine Africa’s democracy project”.
“A case in point is South Africa’s relatively new democracy,” it said. “The latest Afrobarometer survey conducted there suggests that South African citizens might be willing to give up their democratic rights in favour of their living conditions being improved.
“While almost two-thirds (64%) of South African respondents thought that democracy was preferable to any other kind of government, a similarly high percentage (62%) stated they would be ‘very willing’ or ‘willing’ to give up regular elections to live under a non-elected government capable of ensuring law and order and service delivery.
“A growing global trend towards authoritarianism could lead to a resurgence of such regimes in Africa.”
South Africa, which is the most unequal country in Africa, had one of the most negative ratings for rising levels of corruption in the last year.
The authors said that 20 years after democracy, “there is still a marked difference between what determines happiness among black and white South Africans”.
“Economists report that better access to infrastructure and public goods increases happiness among black South Africans, while determinants of the happiness among mainly wealthier white South Africans mirror those typically found in Western developed research settings.”
Top 10 happy countries in the world:
6. The Netherlands
8. New Zealand
Top 10 happiest countries in Africa (global ranking in brackets):
1. Algeria (53)
2. Mauritius (64)
3. Libya (68)
4. Morocco (84)
5. Somalia (93)
6. Nigeria (95)
7. South Africa (101)
8. Tunisia (102)
9. Egypt (104)
10. Sierra Leone (106)
Top 10 unhappiest countries:
147. South Sudan
155. Central African Republic
Africa is unhappy with progress
People in many African countries are still waiting for the changes needed to improve their lives and to make them happy, the report explained.
“African people’s expectations that they and their countries would flourish under self-rule and democracy appear not yet to have been met.
“Africa’s lower levels of happiness compared to other countries in the world, therefore, might be attributed to disappointment with different aspects of development under democracy.
“Although most citizens still believe that democracy is the best political system, they are critical of governance in their countries.
“Despite significant improvement in meeting basic needs according to the Afrobarometer index of ‘lived poverty’, population pressure may have stymied infrastructure and youth development.
“Although most countries in the world project that life circumstances will improve in future, Africa’s optimism may be exceptional.
“African people demonstrate ingenuity that makes life bearable even under less than perfect circumstances.
“African people are essentially optimistic, especially the youth. This optimism might serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy for the continent in the years ahead.”
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