Africa is much in the news of late. The Europeans are learning that Muammar Gaddafi may have been a flamboyant nut, but he was pretty good at keeping the people to the south from heading north. Since his demise, sub-Saharan Africans have been heading north, hoping to get into Europe. The Moslem lunatics are promising to open the floodgates unless something magical happens. Hundreds are drowning in the Mediterranean and you can be sure that number will only rise.
So, just how bad is it in Africa?
I thought it would be useful to look at the key metrics for measuring the awfulness of a country. The wonder of our age is that this sort of data is at our fingertips. If you want to know something about Equatorial Guinea, for example, you don’t have to go there, which is probably a good thing given that their ruler is a cannibal. But, perhaps my good friend Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is getting a bad rap.
There’s a lot of data so I decided to think about it in personal terms. If I were to move to Africa, I would take stock of the things important to me. When you move to a new home, you think about the schools, the neighborhood, crime, the commute to work etc. That strikes me as a sensible way of looking at Africa. After all, a whole lot of Africans want to leave for some personal reason.
The first thing to consider is the murder rate, which is a good proxy for overall crime. I can tolerate most anything, except being murdered. In the US, the murder rate is 4.7 per 100,000, but we all know the truth of those numbers. Net out the black rate and the number drops in half. Look just at whites and the rate is within the norm for a European country, which is below 2.0.
Here’s a table of murder rates for Africa:
|Country Name||Murder Rate||Country Name||Murder Rate|
|Sierra Leone||1.90||The Gambia||10.20|
|Niger||4.70||Central African Rep||11.80|
|Kenya||6.40||Republic of the Congo||12.50|
|Mali||7.50||Republic of Sudan||13.90|
|Guinea-Bissau||8.40||DR of the Congo||28.30|
The numbers are from the UN so we should assume some fudging to make these countries look a little better. They also exclude war so the violent death rates is surely much higher. To give some perspective, the hardest thumping ghettos in America have a homicide rate in the 30’s.
On the other hand, New York City has a homicide rate of 4.0, below the national average. London has a rate of 1.6. Berlin is at 1.8 and Paris is at 1.0. The worst city in Europe is Amsterdam (legal weed, obviously) with a murder rate of 4.4. If you’re an African in Eritrea or Mali, north looks like a good option. It’s safer crossing the Mediterranean than crossing your own village.
The other piece to this is that these murder rates exclude war and they rely on local reporting, which is never going to be very good. Lots of people disappear every day in these countries and they never end up on official reports. That’s why I included the counties of the Maghreb in the table. Libya is certainly not the low violence utopia imagined in these UN reports.
Just looking at the violence rates, it is easy to see why the Africans are heading north. They live in hyper-violent societies. Even though the trip north is wildly dangerous, it pales in comparison to daily life in most of these places.