Africa & Haiti: Global Rankings for Human Freedom

This article appeared on on January 21, 2018.

To say that President Trump’s recent alleged remarks about African countries and Haiti at a private White House meeting with a group of important U.S. Senators ignited a firestorm would be an understatement. Although there were denials that the president ever uttered the offending remarks, virtually every cat and dog has rounded on the President.

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Regional Map of Africa

One thing that has been missing from the debate, if we can call it a “debate,” is an objective look at the African countries and Haiti. Just what does that look like? One obtains a clear picture by studying The Human Freedom Index 2016: A Global Measurement of Personal, Civil, and Economic Freedom, a report authored by Ian Vásquez and Tanja Porčnik, and published jointly by the Cato Institute, the Fraser Institute, and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.

The report covers 159 countries using data from 2014. Twelve broad freedom indicators, comprised of 47 sub-indicators, are measured and used to rank each country. For example, the “Rule of Law” is a broad indicator, and its sub-indicators are: “Procedural Justice,” “Civil Justice,” and “Criminal Justice.” The indicators and their sub-indicators are itemized in the table below.

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The Human Freedom Index's "Freedom Indicators"

The indicators are measured and used to construct a “Human Freedom Index.” Once a country receives an index score, it can be ranked relative to the other countries studied. In the table below, I have divided Africa into “North Africa” and “Sub-Saharan Africa.” Haiti stands alone, as it is not an African country.

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Human Freedom Rankings for Africa and Haiti

The human freedom picture is clear. On average, Africa's human freedom rankings are terrible with North Africa coming in with a dismal average rank of 142 out of 159, while Sub-Saharan Africa isn't much better: 111 out of 159. Haiti comes in with a human freedom rank of 61 out of 159, nothing to brag about.

Lacking personal, civil, and economic freedoms, African countries and Haiti are impoverish and unstable. While stability might not be everything, everything is nothing without stability. It's time for these countries to take a strong dose of policies that will enhance the freedoms of their citizenry.

Steve H. Hanke

Steve Hanke is a professor of applied economics at The Johns Hopkins University and senior fellow at the Cato Institute.