EA countries among the least happy places to live in

Monday April 27 2015
happy pix

Illustration | JOHN NYAGA

A majority of countries in the east African region are among the five least happy countries in the world according to a new report.

The third annual World Happiness index released by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), an initiative under the United Nations, places Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania as among the world’s 20 most unhappy places.

The rankings, based on GDP, healthy life expectancy, ‘freedom of life choices’ and corruption lists 158 countries in its report topped by Switzerland, Iceland and Denmark.

The survey was released on the eve of presidential elections in Togo – the least happy country in the world, where one family has been in power for 48 years.

Aimed at influencing government policy, the UN says it is an important index as happiness is increasingly considered a measure of social progress and a goal of public policy.

Worryingly for East Africa however, happiness is in short supply with Burundi even ranking lower than of Syria.


The report indicates that an increasing number of local and national governments are using the happiness data and research in their search for policies that could enable people to live better lives.

“The concepts of happiness and well-being are very likely to help guide progress towards sustainable development,” the report reads.

“Sustainable development is a normative concept, calling for all societies to balance economic, social, and environmental objectives. When countries pursue GDP in a lopsided manner, overriding social and environmental objectives, the results often negatively impact human well- being.”

The SDGs are designed to help countries to achieve economic, social, and environmental objectives in harmony, thereby leading to higher levels of well-being for the present and future generations.

Societies with a high level of social capital – meaning generalised trust, good governance, and mutual support by individuals within the society – are conducive to good social behaviour.

High social capital directly and indirectly raises well-being, by promoting social support systems, generosity and voluntarism, honesty in public administration, and by reducing the costs of doing business.

The pressing policy question is therefore how societies with low social capital, riven by distrust and dishonesty, can invest in social capital.