Sub-Saharan Africa

With an average regional index score of 51.1, Sub‑Saharan Africa is the lowest ranking region in the SDG Gender Index. While no country in the region comes close to meeting targets across all goals, significant differences exist between countries in terms of overall scores on the index and in performance across goals and indicators. There are a number of stand-out issues in which the region performs fairly well relative to other regions, and even several indicators on which Sub-Saharan African nations are the world’s top performers.

Gender Equality Context

Relative to other regions, Sub-Saharan Africa’s strongest goal performances are on SDG 2: Hunger and Nutrition, SDG 8: Work & Economic Growth. Sub-Saharan Africa falls farthest behind other regions on goals related to development and infrastructure, including on SDG 7: Energy, SDG 3: Health, SDG 6: Water & Sanitation, and SDG 4: Education. Indicators where most of the world performs quite well – maternal mortality, access to basic drinking water, access to electricity – are still critical and persistent weak spots across much of Sub‐Saharan Africa. On SDG 17: Partnerships the region performs better than Latin America and the Caribbean and almost on par with Asia and the Pacific, despite the goal being the weakest spot in the global index overall. Sub‐Saharan Africa is the only region for which SDG 17: Partnerships is not the region’s lowest scoring goal.

Key Findings

  • Indicator 4c: Percentage of young women (15–24 years) not in education, employment or training (NEET), measures the critical ability to provide successful school-to-work transitions for girls. Sub-Saharan Africa has one of bottom two regional scores on this indicator, but Angola and Madagascar are among the best three scoring countries in the world and a number of other Sub-Saharan Africa fall into the top two quartiles of the global ranking.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa has the greatest number of countries severely threatened by climate vulnerability. Chad, Liberia, Mali, and Niger all score under 40 on indicator 13c and 26 countries in the region fall under 50.
  • Many Sub-Saharan African countries perform well, and several countries perform exceptionally well, on proportions of women in government (indicator 5d and 5d). Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region, aside from Latin America and the Caribbean, where any country has fully achieved or surpassed parity in a lower house of parliament.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa does far better than other regions on the extent to which a national budget are broken down by factors such as gender, age, income or region (all but five African countries do this).

Thematic Deep Dive

Women in government

The 2019 SDG Gender Index finds that 47% of ministerial or senior government roles in Rwanda are held by women, 2017, compared to the global average of 21%. Photo: Getty Images

Countries around the world – including high-income countries, OECD countries, and countries that rank in the top ten places overall in the index – struggle when it comes to women’s representation in governing bodies. In Sub-Saharan Africa, though, the gap between performance on indicators 5d and 5e and the other indicators in SDG 5: Gender Equality is tighter.

The region performs significantly better on both indicators than the Middle East and North Africa and Asia and the Pacific, and falls within ten points on of Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe and North America on both indicators. Moreover, Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region aside from Latin America and the Caribbean where any country has fully achieved or surpassed parity in a lower house of parliament. Rwanda (61%), Namibia (46%), South Africa (42%), and Senegal (42%) all rank in the top ten countries in the SDG Gender Index in terms of women in parliament.

When it comes to women in senior positions of government, more women in Sub-Saharan Africa than in any region other than Europe and North America hold ministerial positions with key strategic portfolios, such as defence, foreign affairs, and finance, which have historically seen lower proportions of women taking office than other ministries (e.g. home, gender, education, or child and family welfare ministries).