What Africa wants

Posted in Other , Africa | 16-Jun-04 | Author: Richard Dowden| Source: Guardian

Survey shows half of those questioned believe world is going in wrong direction

A third of Africans feel worse off this year than last and half feel the world is going in the wrong direction, according to a survey of nearly 8,000 Africans to be published today.

The survey shows that Africans feel their countries are not run by the will of the people, have more trust in their churches and religious leaders, but hold their governments accountable for solving their most important national problems.

They are in favour of globalisation but think rich countries get more from it than they do. They like what America is doing in the world but do not trust rich countries in trade negotiations and worry most about Aids, jobs and poverty.

In all, 37% of those surveyed by Globescan, a global public opinion research organisation, think life has got worse in the past year while only 24% think it is getting better. Even the richest and best educated groups are polarised, with just 32% believing life is improving, while nearly half of the poorest group feel it is getting worse.

The survey reinforces the impression of a continent struggling with crime, war, corruption, economic malaise and the scourge of Aids. Almost 30 million of the 635 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have HIV/Aids. The per capita income for the region is $575 (£315) a year, with half the population on less than a dollar a day.

And yet attitudes are not universally gloomy. In South Africa 60% of respondents said the country was going in the right direction. The only two countries that do think their governments reflect the people's will are Ghanaians (65%) and Kenyans (73%).

Overall Africans expect their governments to sort out problems such as Aids but 36% have not much little or no trust in their national governments.

The sentiments are gloomiest in Nigeria and Zimbabwe. In Nigeria three-quarters of the people believe the country is going in the wrong direction. Only 3% of people think life is getting better in Zimbabwe, a country whose economy has contracted by more than a third in the past five years.

Corruption also causes serious concern in a continent that regularly contributes leading contenders for the Transparency International Corruption Index.

Two-thirds of South Africans and four out of five Zimbabweans think their countries are more corrupt than a year ago. Only a sixth of Zimbabweans and Nigerians believe they can get access to honest government. Kenyans, however, think their new government is making things better: 84% think there is less corruption.

The survey was conducted in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Egypt, although the Egyptian government does not allow questions on corruption or democracy.

More than 90% of those surveyed see Aids and the spread of diseases as serious problems for them and their families. The message on Aids seems to be getting through. Men and women, rich and poor, well-educated or not, everyone agrees that it is a serious problem.

When asked to prioritise their problems Zimbabweans and Tanzanians put Aids at the top. But in west Africa where the disease is spreading but has not yet killed substantial numbers of people, it is given a far lower priority. West Africans are more worried about jobs and poverty.

In Egypt they worry about the cost of living, most of all and in South Africa, where more than 2.5m crimes were committed last year, the crime rate is seen as more important than Aids.