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Key findings
  • On average across 39 countries surveyed between late 2021 and mid-2023, unemployment and management of the economy top the list of the most important problems that Africans want their government to address, along with health. o Across 31 countries surveyed consistently since 2014/2015, the proportion of citizens citing management of the economy among their top priorities has more than doubled.
  • About two-thirds (65%) of citizens assess their country’s economic condition as "fairly bad" or "very bad." More than half (52%) also hold gloomy views of their personal living conditions. o Both assessments have worsened significantly since 2014/2015. o Citizens are divided as to whether economic conditions will get better (40%) or worse (35%) over the next 12 months.
  • Eight in 10 respondents (81%) say they or a family member went without a cash income at least once during the previous year, including 43% who did so “many times” or “always.” o Two-thirds (65%) report having gone without medical care at least once, and about six in 10 suffered shortages of food (59%) and water (56%). o Six in 10 Africans (61%) experienced moderate or high lived poverty during the past year. Moderate-to-high lived poverty has been increasing and affected majorities in all but eight of 39 surveyed countries, including more than eight in 10 citizens in Congo-Brazzaville (86%), Mauritania (84%), Niger (84%), and Cameroon (81%).
  • Only a quarter (26%) of Africans say their governments are doing “fairly well” or “very well” in managing the economy. o Even fewer give their governments passing marks for their efforts to improve the living standards of the poor (22%), create jobs (20%), narrow income gaps (16%), and keep prices stable (12%).

The African continent has been navigating economic turbulence. Fallout from the COVID-19  pandemic, Russia’s war in Ukraine, and rising U.S. interest rates, among other factors, have  strained African economies already grappling with high public debt levels and constrained  fiscal resources (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, 2023).

In the face  of these challenges, Africa has demonstrated remarkable resilience, with projected average growth stabilising at 4.1% in 2023-2024, up from an estimated 3.8% in 2022  (African Development Bank, 2023).  

But tightening global financial conditions, inflationary pressures, supply chain disruptions, and the impacts of climate change pose threats to the  continent’s economic recovery. In addition, African countries continue to  contend with a range of structural issues, from infrastructure deficits and  growing insecurity to power shortages (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, 2023). About 40% of the population still live below the poverty line  (United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, 2021), and unemployment rates remain  high, particularly among youth (International Organisation of Employers, 2024). 

Afrobarometer surveys in 39 African countries between late 2021 and mid-2023 show that  public concerns about economic management have surged in recent years, placing the  issue second only to unemployment among the top priorities that Africans want their  government to address. Citizens offer increasingly gloomy appraisals of their country’s economic condition and their personal living conditions, and fewer than half expect things  to improve in the near future. 

In growing numbers, Africans report going without basic necessities such as a cash income,  medical care, food, and water. In most surveyed countries, majorities are experiencing  moderate or high lived poverty, and citizens’ ratings on key indicators of their government’s economic performance are bleak and getting worse. 

Josephine Appiah-Nyamekye Sanny

Josephine is Afrobarometer's acting director of communications.

Maakwe Cumanzala

Maakwe Cumanzala is a Neubauer Family Economics and Public Policy PhD student at Tufts University.