Hunger, disease and poverty continue to extract a painful toll throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Large percentages in the 10 African countries surveyed say there have been times in the past year they have been unable to afford food, clothing and medical care. And fewer than four-in-ten in every African country surveyed say they are very satisfied with their lives.

At the same time, many Africans say they are making progress in their lives and majorities in most countries are optimistic about the future. Even in Uganda, where just 7% rate their current lives highly on the so-called ladder of life (at least seven on a scale from 0-10), a solid majority (63%) believe their lives will be better five years from now.

Despite the continent’s continuing economic problems, majorities in four of the 10 countries surveyed, including Nigeria and Kenya, say they are better off financially than they were five years ago. In the other African countries, however, most say their finances are no better, or have gotten worse, compared with five years ago.

This year’s first Global Attitudes report showed that the U.S. image remains relatively strong in Africa. Positive views of the United States also are reflected in the large numbers that name the United States as their country’s most dependable ally. Despite China’s growing influence on the continent, the United States is viewed as a more dependable ally than China by significantly greater numbers in seven of the 10 African countries surveyed.

However, the United States is not widely viewed as doing a great deal to address the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan. Most Africans say the United Nations or the African Union – not the U.S. – is doing the most to stop the violence in Darfur. Pluralities or majorities in most countries say the U.S. is making a minor effort, or doing nothing at all, to stop the violence there.

While views of Sudan itself are generally negative throughout Africa, Muslims in Ethiopia and Nigeria are far more likely than non-Muslims to have favorable impressions of Sudan. More broadly, opinions vary as to whether Arabs and blacks in North Africa can live together peacefully. In Ethiopia, Senegal, Kenya and several other countries, majorities say Arabs and blacks in that region can peacefully coexist. But most respondents in Uganda and Tanzania disagree. There also are substantial differences of opinion among Muslims and non-Muslims in Tanzania and Nigeria about whether blacks and Arabs in North Africa can live together peacefully.

Many Struggle for Food, Other Necessities

The breadth and depth of Africans’ struggles to pay for the necessities of life is particularly striking in Uganda. Two-thirds of Ugandans (66%) report not being able to afford food in the past year and even greater numbers say they have lacked money for medical care and clothing; 58% say they experienced all of these deprivations.

Even in more affluent African countries, relatively high per capita income and a comparatively robust economy do not translate into a life without want for many residents. South Africa, which has long been regarded as the economic engine of the continent, enjoys the region’s highest per capita gross domestic product. But the country also is a land of great disparities between the rich and the poor, and about half of South Africans say there have been times they have been unable to afford food in the past year (49%); comparable numbers say they have lacked the means to pay for clothing (49%) and health care (48%).

The survey also underscores the dilemma that many Africans confront in paying for food and education for their families. Even in countries like Uganda and Kenya, where majorities say they have been unable to afford food in the past year, most people say it is harder for them to provide an education than food for their family. In Uganda, 64% say providing an education for their children is more difficult than providing food. More than half of Kenyans (53%) also say it is harder to provide an education than food for their families. By contrast, Senegalese are more than twice as likely to say food (44%) than education (21%) is harder. In Mali, residents also report that food is the bigger challenge.

Mixed Views of Financial Progress

Despite the widespread deprivations in Africa, majorities in four countries say their financial situation is better than it was five years ago. In Senegal, 56% say their finances are better, while somewhat fewer (44%) say they are worse off financially or about the same as they were five years ago. Most respondents in Kenya (54%), Nigeria (53%), and Mali (53%) say they are better off than they were five years ago.

In the six other African countries surveyed, majorities say their personal finances are about the same, or worse, than they were five years ago. Roughly two-thirds of Tanzanians (65%) say they are either worse off (38%) or about the same (27%) as they were five years ago. About six-in-ten in Ivory Coast (62%), Uganda (61%), and South Africa (60%) also say that their finances are no better than they were five years ago.

Most Say Wealthy Nations Want to Help

Substantial majorities of the publics in eight of the 10 countries surveyed believe wealthier nations want to help Africa develop. Only in Ethiopia do evaluations tilt negative (43% believe they want to help, 50% disagree) while views are about evenly divided in the Ivory Coast.

Uganda is the most positive about the intentions of wealthier nations. By greater than three-to-one (71%-19%), Ugandans say developed nations want to assist less-advanced African states. Other African publics are somewhat less positive, though solid majorities in each (except for Ethiopia and Ivory Coast) say that affluent nations truly want to help.

Darfur Crisis: Who’s Helping Most?

There is no clear agreement among African publics about which organization or country is doing the most to end the violence in Darfur. More than twice as many Kenyans say the U.N. is doing most to stem the violence than name either the African Union or the United States (43% say Kenya vs. 20% for the AU and the U.S.). More Tanzanians and Ugandans – about a third in each country – also rate the U.N. over the AU or the U.S.

At the same time, substantial proportions of Ethiopians (40%) and Senegalese (31%) believe the African Union has done the most of any of the countries and organizations tested (including the European Union, Nigeria and South Africa). In Ghana and Mali roughly equal portions of the publics say the U.N. and the AU have done the most. In contrast, just 8% of South Africans say the AU is doing the most to bring peace, by far the smallest percentage of any country in the region; a relatively large proportion of South Africans (39%) declined to express an opinion.

In Nigeria, the United States stands above other countries or organizations for its efforts in Darfur. About three-in-ten Nigerians (31%) cite U.S. efforts in Darfur while 21% say the U.N. is doing the most.

In every African country surveyed, less than 10% say the European Union is doing the most to halt the bloodshed in Darfur. In addition, very few credit the efforts of Nigeria or South Africa, outside of those two countries; 11% of Nigerians say their county is doing the most on Darfur, while 11% of South Africans say the same about their country.

U.S. Effort in Darfur

Fewer than half of those in nearly every African country surveyed – with Nigeria the lone exception – say that the United States is making a major effort to stop the violence in Darfur. In five countries, a quarter or fewer say that the U.S. is making a major effort to quell the violence.

In Ethiopia, where a plurality believes the African Union is doing most to halt violence in Darfur, just 13% say the United States is making a major effort; more than twice as many (28%) say the U.S. is making no effort, and 47% say it is putting forth just a minor effort. In Senegal, 16% say the U.S. is making a major effort in Darfur.

In Nigeria, where a plurality cites the U.S. as doing the most to help in Darfur, a narrow majority (51%) say the U.S. is making a major effort there. In both Ivory Coast and Kenya, 43% say the U.S. is making a major effort to stop the violence in Darfur.

Divided Opinion on Arab, Black Hostility

The Pew Global Attitudes survey finds that publics in several African countries are optimistic that Arabs and blacks in northern Africa can live together in peace – an issue that lies at the heart of the crisis in Darfur.

Optimism about Arab-black relations is particularly strong in Ethiopia, which borders Sudan. By about four-to-one (70% vs. 18%), most Ethiopians say Arabs and Africans can live together peacefully. Notably, there are no differences in views on this issue among Muslims and non-Muslims in Ethiopia.

Majorities in five other countries – ranging from 69% in Senegal to 52% in Ghana – also say blacks and Arabs can coexist peacefully in North Africa. But most people in Tanzania and Uganda say Arabs and blacks in North Africa cannot live peacefully. And while Ethiopia’s Muslims and non-Muslims agree that peaceful coexistence is possible, there are significant differences in the opinions of Muslims and non-Muslims in two other religiously diverse countries, Nigeria and Tanzania. In both countries, Muslims are far more likely than non-Muslims to say that blacks and Arabs can live peacefully in North Africa.

Sudan Viewed Negatively

The tensions reflected in the divergent opinions of Muslims and non-Muslims about the situation in North Africa also are evident in opinions about Sudan. In general, Sudan is viewed negatively by African publics. Majorities or pluralities in every country surveyed express unfavorable opinions of Sudan.

But there are substantial differences in the way that Muslims and non-Muslims in Ethiopia and Nigeria view Sudan. Majorities of Muslims in both countries say they have a favorable opinion of Sudan (55% Ethiopia, 53% Nigeria). By contrast, most non-Muslims in Ethiopia (64%) and Nigeria (55%) have unfavorable impressions of Sudan. In Tanzania, pluralities of Muslims and non-Muslims express negative opinions of Sudan; relatively large proportions of both groups express no opinion.

Who Can Solve Africa’s Problems?

The publics of sub-Saharan Africa look with the most confidence to the African Union, the United Nations or the United States to help solve the biggest problems facing the continent. By comparison, much smaller percentages say they have the most confidence in the European Union to show the way in addressing regional concerns. In addition, relatively few people say they look to Nigeria or South Africa to deal with the continent’s problems.

While China’s economic presence is welcomed throughout the region, the Asian giant does not rank as one of the top three choices to take the lead on addressing African problems in any country surveyed.

In Ethiopia, where the African Union is headquartered (in Addis Ababa), nearly half (48%) say they most trust the AU to help solve Africa’s problems, the strongest vote of confidence given by an African public to any single organization or country. Smaller pluralities in two countries – Mali and Senegal – express confidence in the African Union to deal with the continent’s problems.

By contrast, South Africans express the least trust in the African Union: 12% say they have the most confidence in it among the seven organizations or countries tested in the survey. Fully a quarter (25%) of South Africans say they look first to their own country for leadership on African issues, or about as many as named the U.N. (23%) or the United States (21%).

Attitudes toward the United Nations are particularly positive in Tanzania, where 42% express the most confidence in the world body to solve Africa’s problems. In addition, a plurality of Ugandans (31%) expresses most confidence in the U.N.

The United States ranks among the top three organizations or countries in every country surveyed. But Ivory Coast is the only country where a plurality (29%) expresses the greatest confidence in the U.S. to address Africa’s problems.

Favorability: AU, U.N.

The African Union is held in high regard in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In every African country surveyed, majorities of 60% or greater have a favorable view of the AU. In Kenya, fully 90% have a positive opinion, while nearly as many in Mali (87%) and Senegal (86%) hold it in high regard. Attitudes are broadly approving but more tempered in South Africa, where 60% say they have a positive opinion of the African Union and 27% see it unfavorably.

The United Nations is held in equally high esteem throughout sub-Saharan Africa. For example, 88% of all Kenyans favorably view the United Nations, which is virtually identical to support for the African Union. In Mali, 76% have a positive opinion of the U.N., only somewhat less favorable than views on the AU, while Ghanaians have a more favorable opinion of the U.N. than the African Union.

South Africa, Nigeria

South Africa, the most economically developed country on the continent and the center of business and commerce in Africa, is viewed positively by large majorities in each of the 10 countries surveyed.

In the Ivory Coast and Kenya, favorable impressions of South Africa outnumber unfavorable ones by roughly ten-to-one. And in both countries, large percentages say they have a very favorable impression of South Africa (54% in Kenya, 50% in Ivory Coast).

By contrast, African publics express more mixed opinions of Nigeria. Majorities in six countries have an overall favorable view of the country, including Kenya (69%), Mali (60%) and the Ivory Coast (59%). But in Ethiopia, opinions of Nigeria are divided (48% favorable/42% unfavorable), and only about half of Nigerians (48%) have a favorable opinion of their own country.

And in South Africa, opinions of Nigeria are sharply negative. Two-thirds of South Africans (67%) say they have an unfavorable view of Nigeria, three times greater than the proportion with a positive view. Moreover, 41% of South Africans say they have a very unfavorable opinion of Nigeria.

Nigerians give their own country an extraordinarily low positive rating (48% favorable); as a point of comparison, nearly twice as many South Africans give their country a positive rating (94%). The Nigerian public also is very gloomy about national conditions. Despite the country’s recent economic growth, just 11% of Nigerians express satisfaction with the country’s course – the lowest among African countries surveyed.

In addition, an overwhelming majority of Nigerians believe that the country’s most valuable economic asset – its energy resources – is not helping average people. Fully 82% of Nigerians say that Nigeria’s oil wealth is not benefiting average people; just 16% say that average people are benefiting.

Strong Support for Mbeki

Majorities in every African nation surveyed express confidence in Thabo Mbeki, the two-term South African president whose controversial views on AIDS have drawn criticism internationally.

Mbeki, who succeeded Nelson Mandela as president in 1999, remains broadly popular. Fully three-in-four South Africans (76%) today say they have confidence in Mbeki to make the right decisions in world affairs, slightly larger than his party’s share of the vote in the 2004 national elections.

The South African leader is even more positively viewed in some other African countries. In the Ivory Coast, nine-in-ten say they are confident in Mbeki’s abilities as a world leader while 83% of those interviewed in Kenya and nearly as many in Tanzania (78%), Mali (73%), Senegal (71%) and Ghana (69%) hold him in high regard.

More than seven-in-ten adults in each of the 10 African countries surveyed say they have not taken a test for HIV. And while majorities in nearly every country say they would be willing to take an HIV test, there are some signs of reluctance. In Ghana, 30% say they are unwilling to take an HIV test. In South Africa, which continues to be devastated by the AIDS epidemic, 12% are unwilling to be tested.

Throughout the region, relatively few adults say they already have been tested for the HIV virus. Roughly a quarter of those in Ethiopia (27%), Mali (27%) and Uganda (26%) say they have been tested – the highest proportions of any African countries surveyed. In Ghana, just 4% say they have been tested – the lowest level measured – while in Senegal 10% say they have been tested for HIV.

Divided Opinions on Democracy

With some notable exceptions, most African publics believe democracy is working in their countries. In seven of the 10 countries surveyed, substantial majorities say they are very or somewhat satisfied with the way democracy is working in their countries.

In sharp contrast, just 36% of Nigerians and 34% of Ethiopians express positive views of democracy in their countries. Nigeria held national and state elections in April, as the survey was being conducted. The election was criticized as unfair by numerous international observers, including the European Union. Ethiopia has yet to recover fully from its 2005 national election that produced a contested outcome and violent mass protests.

In Uganda, which until two years ago banned political parties, opinions about the country’s democracy also are on balance negative, with 46% of Ugandans saying they are satisfied with the way democracy is working but 51% saying they are dissatisfied.

Predictions about the fairness of upcoming national elections generally mirror overall attitudes toward democracy. In most countries where majorities are satisfied with the way democracy is working in their countries, there also is widespread belief that the next presidential election will be conducted fairly.

And where publics take a dim view of the state of democracy, most people express negative views about elections in their countries. Two-thirds of Nigerians say that the recent presidential election in their country was conducted unfairly. More than six-in-ten Ethiopians (62%) say the next round of parliamentary voting will be unfair; a 56% majority in Uganda also predicts a tainted election.

In another politically troubled African country, positive judgments of residents about the performance of democracy are at odds with the nation’s recent political history. About six-in-ten Ivory Coast residents (61%) say democracy is performing satisfactorily in their country and 83% expect fair elections, despite the fact that Ivory Coast remains in chaos following the 2002 armed rebellion.

Mostly Positive Views of International Coverage

African publics on balance offer mixed evaluations of how the international news media covers their countries. In half of the countries surveyed, majorities say the coverage by foreign media has been generally fair. Favorable evaluations outnumber negative by roughly two-to-one in South Africa (59% vs. 26%) and Senegal (59% vs. 29%); clear majorities in Kenya (55%) and Tanzania (54%) are similarly positive. Opinions are, on balance, also favorable in Mali and Uganda.

But attitudes toward the international media are largely negative in the Ivory Coast and Ethiopia, where 75% and 71%, respectively, say foreign coverage of their countries is unfair. A majority of Nigerians also say their country has been covered unfairly by international news organizations.