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Long-run trends in Africa's wellbeing are provided on the basis of a new index of human development, alternative to the UNDP's HDI. A long-run improvement in African human development is found that it falls short of those experienced in other developing regions. A closer look at Africa reveals the distinctive behaviour north and south of the Sahara, with Sub-Saharan Africa falling behind other developing regions and North Africa catching up. Education has been human development's driving force over time. Since the late 1980s, stagnating life expectancy largely due to the spread of HIV/AIDS and the arresting effect of economic mismanagement and political turmoil on growth, help to explain Africa's falling behind. Human development advancement since the mid-twentieth century is positively associated to being a coastal and resource-rich country and negatively to political-economic distortions. The large country variance of the recovery during the last decade suggests being cautious about the future's prospects.
africa; sub-saharan africa; human development; hdi; life expectancy; education