Published first on Allafrica.com: https://allafrica.com/stories/202010141124.html
Africa's Worries & Risks: Implications for US-Africa Policy & Development
Dr. Robin Renee Sanders
The world renown Gallup Poll in partnership with Lloyd’s Register Foundation released their new Worry Experience Harm/RiskGovernment Safety Performance Index (GSPI) indices as part of their World Risk Poll, which covers some 142 countries, of which 39 were African nations. The polling done in local languages with males and females participants aged 15 years and above, highlights the worries, harm or risks of those who were surveyed. The World Risk Poll (and its three indices)– is set to repeat four times over the next six years – with compiling for the 2021 questionnaire already under way. It is likely that the next installation of the poll (and its three indices) will show even starker reactions on these overarching themes of worry, harm or risk as a result of the world having been under a full year by then, and likely more, of COVID-19.
Some of the specific themes included in the three indices of Worry Experience Harm/RiskGSPIfocused on a range of climate change issues from severe weather to food security and, food and water safety; violence, crime, and conflict; safety and harassment in the workplace (particularly against women); infrastructural challenges, online threats; the role and impact of future technologies uses (e.g. artificial intelligence, etc.) on their lives; and, whether or not people trust their government.
Why the Indices are Important & What They Say:
Many of the above themes are important for review by national governments, foreign policy makers, national security leaders, development donors, and are, in some ways, key elements within the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Thus the Worry Experience Harm/RiskGSPIindices are important tools for those working in these areas, because so much attention, focus and money over the last two decades have gone toward and continues to go toward (as it should), tackling global poverty and conflict as well as seeking to make people feel safe. This includes improving quality of life, encouraging democracy and human rights; and, providing assistance to climate sensitive environments (although the U.S. certainly has not done its part on climate change in the last 18 months or more). Thus, the responses in these three indices demonstrate that despite a lot of work and commitment on many of these goals, people are not necessarily feeling safe from harm or risks, and that “moving the needle,” could be even more challenging than previously anticipated, requiring more adjustments in strategic planning, policy, and resources than foreseen. This is especially daunting for regions like Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. We already know that according to the World Bank’s October 8, 2020 Report that COVID-19 alone will push another 40-50 million people around the world into poverty on top of the 2019 prior pandemic figure of 736 million. COVID erases nearly five years of development work, and pretty much wipes out a lot of the progress made under the UN SDGs, with SSAfrica and Asia being the hardest hit, followed closely by countries like Brazil.
Understandably worry and experiencing harm or risk, and their attendant issues of fear and uncertainty, are tough things to measure, but these new indices do a very good job of putting the data into a global perspective. Further, it is clear that many of the responses by those living in SSAfrica were connected to climate change issues; internal social sector uncertainties in their own countries; conflict and infrastructural issues; and, negative reactions connected to online bullying, fraud, validity of information (fake news) and related cybercrimes. It was good to see that the economic impact and development benefits of new technologies usage, such as artificial intelligence, over the long term, had fairly positive responses.
What the Indices Mean as a US-Africa Foreign Policy Tool:
Thus, the biggest take away from the data for the 39 African countries covered in the Worry, Experience Harm/RiskGSPI indices clearly show that for those of us focused on SSAfrica foreign policy, national security and development issues it will be critical to pay more attention to these intangibles – worry, harm/risk and fear – in order to achieve more success on the substantive side of our work. These data points should all be considered elements of development, security, and economic growth. Granted, it will be a bit of a challenge to find ways to restructure, regroup, and reframe some aspects of our foreign policy and development efforts in the region in order to factor in these intangibles. However, the results in these indices, demonstrate that this is a must-do, especially since most SSAfrica respondents said they felt “about the same,” now as they did five years ago regarding their safety – meaning their sense of “feeling safe or safer” had not improved in five years. This underscores that whatever improvements in development or quality of life one might have had over the last 5 years, did not translated into people believing or feeling that they were still not in harm’s way.
We can surely see in today’s Africa that worry, harm/risk and fear, as regards to climate change, are being driven by things like devastating weather-related disasters and further desertification, increasing the number of climate refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs). While others are connected to internal conflicts causing rollbacks on democracy (e.g. Mali, Tanzania); or, upticks in destabilizing activity (i.e. Mozambique’s northern eastern provinces of Zambezia, Nampula and Cabo Delgado have become an extremist hotbed in the last three years. NB: Speaking from experience, the U.S. needs to pay much more attention to this area through a robust Africa Command, and one that stays reasonable close to the SSAfrica region so it can remain fully engaged to avoid a larger Boko-Haram like conflict playing out there).
Of course, a lot has been done by donors, governments, the private sector and philanthropists. No one is discounting this. But we also know that more always needs to be done. But clearly these indices demonstrate that there are additional important gaps we need to take into account.
Over the years we have all seen the increase in well-being surveys from organizations and institutions from around the world, which pull together a basket of key sectors on which to determine how people are doing. But what is different with these new indices is they reflect “how people are feeling.” Many people in Africa, as well as all over the globe, are feeling worried as they feel unsafe, and fear harm or risk to themselves or someone they know -- a reflection of the uncertainty felt in the world in general way before COVID-19.
Closer Look at Some of SSAfrica Results – Worry, Harm/Risk & GSPI:
A few highlights, summary points and analyses from the three indices follow below regarding responses by SSAfrica participants in the Gallup-Lloyd’s Register Foundation Worry, Experience Harm/RiskGSPI indices:
I. Respondents in Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe rated high on the “Worry and Experience Harm/Risk” indices, driven by concerns centered on “high levels of everyday risks,” associate with severe weather, unsafe food and water, crime or harm by household appliances or powerlines.a.) Although the percentages for the above countries were the highest among the SSAfrica countries surveyed, percentage breakdowns across the board for women in the region in these categories were always greater.
b.) South Africa rated the highest on these indices in this category, with 58% of its people being worried or experiencing harm/risk to themselves or someone they know on par with Brazil and Venezuela, which also rated 58%. Nigeria, on the other hand, had a lower percentage than the world median (39% to 43%) on the “Worry and Experience Harm/Risk” indices, although with the recent youth-driven protests against the country's Security Anti-Robbery Squad (see #EndSARS) this rating will likely change during the next polling.
b.) Given the recent political tensions, conflicts and elections issues in Ethiopia, however, FEEEDS’ expectation is that Ethiopia’s results in this category will likely drop from this high of 55%, to something lower, in the next survey. Off-and-on demonstrations in the capital, Addis Ababa; tensions in the Oromo area; and, the October 7, 2020, cutting of political ties between the federal upper house of parliament and the state assembly of the key regional administrative area of Tigray over its unsanctioned September 9, 2020, elections will likely lead to a drop.
III. Respondents in the Ivory Coast, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, Swaziland (now called eSwantini), and Zambia had higher concerns than other SSAfrica countries with people feeling “harassed or experiencing violence in the workplace.” Malawi and Zambia rated highest within this group at 47 % and 46% respectively. Even though these countries had the highest levels in the region in this category, these challenges were still prevalent in many of the SSAfrica nations surveyed.
IV. Looking at the GSPI index, globally, governments in 25% of the 142 countries surveyed were not trusted to provide safe food, water and power. In SSAfrica, the top countries where respondents said they experienced harm from food were Liberia (52%), Cameroon and Mali (42%), Malawi and Guinea (41%), while on harm from water Cameroon (47%), followed by Zambia (45%), Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe (44%) were among the highest.
V. Looking regionally at the data, countries in Southern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean have some of the world’s highest levels of economic inequality. This can add to worry since most people do not have the resources to change where and how they live. It has been widely reported by the World Bank and IMF for almost a decade now, and FEEEDS has highlighted this often, that South Africa, not just in the region but in the world, has one of the highest levels of both income inequality and income distribution. Today this is further exacerbated by a 23% unemployment rate as of third quarter 2020 (mostly as a result of closing businesses), down from 30% in first quarter 2020, when COVID hit the country.
Click here to see links to the resources and data used for this article on the Gallup-Lloyd’s Register Foundation Worry, Experience Harm/RiskGSPI indices and the implications for SSAfrica, with related issues.
About the author of this article: Dr. Sanders FEEEDS® Advocacy Initiative holds an annual Africa-focused program with Gallup. However, this article was not solicited by Gallup or the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, and represents the analysis done by FEEEDS®. Sanders, who holds a doctorate degree in information systems & communications, served as a senior career U.S. diplomat in such countries as Sudan, Namibia, Republic of Congo (where she was U.S. Ambassador), and as U.S. Ambassador in Nigeria and U.S. representative to ECOWAS during the onset and further growth of Nigeria’s Boko Haram. NB: Key countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, and Sudan are not mentioned in the analysis above because those countries were not part of this edition of the World Risk Poll or its indices.
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