With an average remaining gap of 33.7%, Sub-Saharan Africa records the third-largest gender gap among the eight regions in this year’s Index, behind the East Asia and the Pacific region and ahead of South Asia. After making progress on closing its gender gap for six consecutive years, the region’s gender gap has started to widen again. Sub-Saharan Africa is characterized by a higher variance in gender gap outcomes than practically any other world region. Rwanda and Namibia rank in the global Index top 10—having closed 80% and 79% of their gender gaps, respectively—while the lowest-ranked countries in the region, Congo DRC (covered by the Index for the first time this year) and Chad, have yet to close more than 40% of their overall gender gaps.
This high variance can partly be explained by high diversity in outcomes on the Educational Attainment subindex, with a more than 40% difference in gender gap size between the highest-ranked and lowest-ranked countries—much higher than for any other region, despite significant improvements over the past decade. While a gap of only 2% separates the highest-ranked and lowest-ranked countries on the Health and Survival subindex—where the region has improved more than any other over the past decade—in some cases, this relative parity masks continued unsatisfactory health outcomes for both men and women alike. Nevertheless, two countries from the region—Botswana and Lesotho—have fully closed both their Educational Attainment and Health and Survival gender gaps.
The Sub-Saharan Africa region is characterized by high female labour force participation, which translates into a comparatively high regional average on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex. The top six countries on this subindex—Benin, Burundi, Guinea, Cameroon, Namibia and Botswana—have closed more than 80% of their gaps and rank in the global Index top 20 for this dimension, while only the four bottom-ranked countries have not yet closed at least 60% of their economic gender gap. On the Political Empowerment subindex, the difference between the highest-performing and lowest-performing countries is once again significant: Rwanda, South Africa and Namibia have closed 54%, 40% and 38%, respectively, of their gender gaps, placing them in the global Index top 20. A further eight out of 33 countries score in the 20% to 35% range, while the remaining 22 countries have not yet closed 20% of their gap on this subindex.
In terms of year-on-year progress, out of the 33 countries from the region covered by the Index this year, 12 countries have increased their overall scores compared to last year, while 18 have seen decreasing scores. Three countries—Congo, DR; Sierra Leone and Togo—make an appearance in the Index for the first time this year due to improved data availability.
Rwanda (6) remains the region’s top performer, despite moving down two ranks this year due to some reversal in progress on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex. It is joined in the global Index top 10 by Namibia (10), which manages to narrow its Political Empowerment gender gap due to an increased share of women in parliament. South Africa (19) also registers some progress on the Political Empowerment subindex, despite a slight decline in wage equality.
The fourth-ranked country in the region, Burundi (31), loses nine places this year. Despite having closed its gender gap in primary and secondary education and healthy life expectancy, newly available data reveals a wider-than-before gender gap in legislators, senior officials and managers as well as professional and technical workers, driving most of the change in its overall performance. Uganda (43) gains several ranks due to progress in healthy life expectancy and women in senior and managerial positions.
Both Zimbabwe (47) and Mozambique (49) have closed 72% of their overall gender gaps; however, they arrive at this outcome from opposite paths. Whereas Zimbabwe registers progress in wage equality and gender parity in estimated earned income, Mozambique moves down 20 spots due to reversed progress in women’s labour force participation and a larger-than-before gender gap in women in senior and managerial positions, revealed by newly available data. Similarly, Botswana (55) and Cameroon (57) arrive at similar Index scores via opposite trends. Whereas Botswana moves down several places due to a widening labour force participation gap, Cameroon climbs 30 spots due to improved parity in estimated earned income and newly available data on gender parity in senior and managerial positions.
Tanzania (71) slightly narrows its gender gap across a range of indicators in all four subindexes, whereas Cape Verde (72) makes progress on Economic Participation and Opportunity as well as gender parity in healthy life expectancy. It is followed by Kenya (76), which sees modest improvements in its share of women in parliament this year.
A cluster of four countries—Eswatini (80), Lesotho (81), Madagascar (84) and Ghana (89)—share a similar level of gender parity outcomes, with each having closed about 69% of their overall gender gaps. However, their underlying trends this year diverge significantly. Eswatini narrows its gender gap on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, where it attains gender parity in professional and technical roles. Lesotho and Madagascar both slip several ranks due to stagnant progress on wage equality, while Ghana sees a reversal of past progress on gender parity in estimated earned income and legislators, senior officials and managers. They are followed by Senegal (94), which likewise widens its gender gap in legislators, senior officials and managers, and Liberia (96), which rises several places due to progress in women’s labour force participation and wage equality.
With about 66% of their overall gender gaps closed, Mauritius (109), Malawi (112), Sierra Leone (114), Guinea (116) and Ethiopia (117) are clustered around a similar score. Out of this group, Mauritius is the only country recording progress this year, due to closing some of its gender gap on the Political Empowerment subindex. Malawi and Guinea move down several places due to wider economic gender gaps, while Ethiopia’s score remains virtually unchanged from last year. Sierra Leone is a new addition to the index this year. It is close to achieving full gender parity with regard to labour force participation, primary education and healthy life expectancy, but lags when it comes to several other indicators.
Benin (118) narrows its gender gap in healthy life expectancy, whereas Gambia (120) records a widening gender gap on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex. Angola (125) registers a decrease in the share of women in parliament and wider gaps in education, counterbalancing progress on Economic Participation and Opportunity as well as healthy life expectancy. While Burkina Faso (129) moves down several ranks, Côte d’Ivoire (131) sees improvements in wage equality, women’s labour force participation and healthy life expectancy.
Nigeria (133) continues last year’s downward trend, falling several ranks this year. While this is partially due to newly available data revealing a larger-than-before gender gap among legislators, senior officials and managers, the country also sees some reversal of past progress on Educational Attainment and in healthy life expectancy. It places ahead of the newly-ranked Togo (134), which records significant gender gaps across the Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment and Political Empowerment subindexes.
Mali (143), Congo, DR (144) and Chad (145) complete this year’s Sub-Saharan regional rankings, with gender parity scores of about 58%. Congo enters the ranking 6th to last, with particularly low parity across all indicators on the Educational Attainment and Political Empowerment subindexes, while Chad, the lowest-ranked country in the region, shows encouragingly better gender parity on the Economic Participation, Educational Attainment and Political Empowerment subindexes, but registers larger gender gaps on life expectancy indicators.