First in Africa: Seychelles reaches U.N.'s 'very high' development group, validating investments in health, education

Seychelles has been placed in the ‘Very High Development’ group of the 2019 United Nations Human Development (UNDP) report, becoming the first African country to reach such a rank.

Seychelles is 62nd out of 189 countries, scoring an index of 0.801. This score places the island nation in a very high development index along with many European countries.

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a statistical composite index of life expectancy, education and per capita income indicators. The indicators are used to rank countries into four tiers of human development – very high, high, medium and low.

The UNDP resident representative for Mauritius and Seychelles, Amanda Serumaga, told reporters on Wednesday that the ranking means two things.

“First of all, it means that it is possible for the African continent. Secondly, I think what Seychelles has done, particularly as a small island developing state, is it has demonstrated that if you invest in free tertiary education, free healthcare, you have almost 96 percent access to electricity, these things result in human development and for Seychelles in particular, it has resulted in very high human development,” said Serumaga.

She added that the government of Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, is to be commended for this achievement which has happened over the course of the ten years.

Between 2000 and 2018, Seychelles’ High Development Index value has increased from 0.712 to 0.801, a jump of 12.6 percent. Between 1990 and 2018, Seychelles’ life expectancy at birth increased by 2.6 years, mean years of schooling increased by 2.2 years and expected years of schooling increased by 4.0 years.

The health minister, Jean-Paul Adam, who officially received the report from Serumaga during a ceremony on Wednesday, said that the placement “is recognition of the vision and strategy that the government has adopted over many years since our independence.”

UNDP resident representative presented a copy of the report to Minister of Health, Jean-Paul Adam. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY

“There are years where we didn’t have much economic growth but we always placed investment in education and health. This has been a platform that has helped us gain a lot. The report shows that when as a country, you make this investment at an early stage, it gives you long term benefits,” said Adam.

He added that “the current government has made new engagement where President Danny Faure recently, during the Nairobi conference that was held on population and development, said that at least 10 percent of the budget will go towards health as well as education.”

Adam said that the investments will continue in these sectors to bring further improvement.

Other countries that have moved up the tier along with Seychelles include Palau and Turkey. The top five ranking countries in the global HDI are Norway, Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, and Hong Kong.

On the other spectrum of the index are Burundi, South Sudan, Chad, the Central African Republic and Niger.

Unequal distribution of human development gains in education, health and living standards within countries remains a challenge to achieving human development for all. The inequality-adjusted HDI shows that globally, 20 percent of human development progress was lost in 2018, when taking into account inequalities in the index’s indicators. 

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Written by Chiamaka Ekeh

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