AFRICANS are among the most likely in the world to believe that people in their countries can get ahead by working hard. According to a recently released Gallup survey, 85% of Africans believed that hard work pays off. This trumps 2013 results found in more developed nations, including Northern America, which had a score of 84%.
Says the report, “for many Africans, working hard is not an option; it’s often required to meet even their most basic needs. This mindset may help explain why such sizeable majorities in all 32 African countries surveyed in 2013 believe people can get ahead through hard work.”
Another factor these results can also be attributed to is the large opportunity for growth that the continent still presents - Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world. This is most evident by the regions burgeoning middle class. The African Development Bank (AfDB) estimates that Africa’s middle class, which numbered 115m in 1980, has grown to 326m in the past three and a half decades and continues to rise.
Not in Angola
Not surprisingly, Angola had one of the lowest scores for the region with 63%; more than 90% of Angola’s revenue comes from oil production, but despite this oil wealth Angola remains largely impoverished and inequality in the country is high. However in some African countries there was near universal acceptance that hard work pays off - for example Malawi (98%) and Ghana (97%).
For many who do business in Africa this may come as a surprise since, according to the the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness report 2013-14, subSaharan Africa trails the rest of the world in global competitiveness - one indicator in the ranking being poor work ethic in the national labour force.
For example, for the sixth year running, the report WEC report described “a poor work ethic” as the most problematic factor for doing business in Botswana. However in Gallup’s survey, 90% of people in Botswana believed work ethic was key to success.
What was also intriguing is that in a different Gallup survey on the “percentage of the population who rate their current and future lives positively”, wellbeing was generally lowest in sub-Saharan Africa. The median thriving percentage was 12% across the countries surveyed. Thriving percentages were in the single digits in many African countries. This suggest that even though people do not think their situation will have a positive outcome, they nonetheless believe that if they work hard it will.
Anglophone Africa is from Mars, Francophone from Venus
Another striking factor that the report highlighted is the discrepancy between Francophone and Anglophone countries. Although large percentages of Africans living in Francophone (French-speaking) countries and Anglophone (English-speaking) ones believe it’s possible to get ahead through hard work, residents in Francophone countries believe this less so.
These small differences reflect what countries view as most valuable to actually get ahead or achieve success in life. In Francophone Africa family and friend connections are seen as particularly beneficial, whilst in Anglophone countries education is seen as key to success. The results showed that over the past few years the gap between Anglophone and Francophone nations has been narrowing, but the persistent differences illustrate the different political and economic realities in these countries.
Ultimately, these results give hope to the possibility that with “good governance, jobs, training, and coaching” Africans’ strong belief in hard work could translate into real economic power.
Combining more than 75 years of experience with its global reach, Gallup’s consultants help private and public sector organisations with forward-thinking research, analytics, and advice. The results are based on approximately 1,000 face-to-face interviews each wave with adults, aged 15 and older. Surveys were conducted with 1,000 respondents from 2006 to 2013.