Norway, Iceland, Australia, Ireland and Sweden rank as the best five countries to live in but Africa's quality of life has plummeted because of AIDS, said a UN report released yesterday.
People in Norway, for example, are 40 times wealthier than people in Niger, which ranks 177th, the lowest ranking country on the list.
Ghana was ranked in 138th place, sandwiched between Papua New Guinea (137) and Bangladesh (139). Ghana was the 12th best place in Africa to live in, performing better than Sudan (141), Congo (142), Togo (143), Uganda (144), Zimbabwe (145), Swaziland (147), Cameroon (148) and Lesotho (149).
Ghana performed better than 26 others, including Kenya (154), Gambia (155), Senegal (157), Nigeria (158) and Cote d'Ivoire (163), in the report that rates not only per-capita income but also educational levels, health care and life expectancy in measuring a nation's well-being.
The Human Development Index, prepared by the UN Development Programme, has been issued annually since 1990 and includes every country for which statistics are available.
When the survey was done in 2002, Ghana was found to be a country where per capita income had declined and was in fact lower than the period between 1976 and 1980, when the economic trough was said to have been very deep.
In the latest survey, Libya was the best placed African country at 58, followed by Tunisia (89), Algeria (103), Cape Verde (105), Egypt (119), South Africa (120), Equatorial Guinea (121) and Gabon (123). Other relatively good African performers were Namibia (125), Sao Tome and Principe (126) and Botswana (131).
Since 1990, sub-Saharan Africa has stagnated, in part because of economic decline but mainly because of the "catastrophic effect of HIV/AIDS on life expectancy," the report said.
The list of 177 nations ends with Niger. Above it are Sierra Leone, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, the Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Burundi, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which ranked 167th.
Unsurprisingly, the countries at the top of the list are high income nations as people in richer countries tend to be healthier and have more educational opportunities.
The United States was ranked in eighth place, after Canada and Japan.
For the 31 countries with low human development, life expectancy is only 46 years — some 32 years less than in rich nations, the report said.
But some nations have a rank above their income. Vietnam for example is poor but ranks above countries with a higher per capita income. Conversely Bahrain has an average income twice the level of Chile but ranks lower because it "under-performs on education and literacy," the report said.