The Heritage Foundation

News Releases on Economy

January 13, 2009

January 13, 2009 | News Releases on Economy

Lack of Economic Freedom Plagues Sub-Saharan Africa, Index Finds

WASHINGTON, JAN. 13, 2009--Sub-Saharan Africa finished last in eight of the 10 components of economic freedom measured in the 2009 "Index of Economic Freedom," published annually by The Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation.

The new report pegs the region's overall level of economic freedom at 53.1 (on 100-point scale in which a higher score represents greater freedom). That's significantly below the world average of 59.5, making Sub-Saharan Africa the world's lowest-scoring region for economic freedom. This matters because the Index shows a direct correlation between economic freedom and prosperity. Countries with higher levels of freedom tend to have higher GDP per capita.

The Index rated most nations in the region either "mostly unfree" or "repressed." "In Sub-Saharan Africa there are only distinctions among less free economies," the editors wrote.

Still, there are positive signs. Mauritius (18th globally) remains among the world's 20 freest economies, finishing 10 points or more above the global average in eight of the economic freedoms measured by the index. Botswana remains the region's second freest economy, followed by South Africa and Uganda.

At the other end of the spectrum is Zimbabwe. Under the misrule of Robert Mugabe, it suffered the world's greatest loss of economic freedom. The Index now rates that nation below the world average on each of its 10 components of economic freedom. Fifteen other economies in the region are also rated as "repressed," leaving Sub-Saharan Africa's "overall level of economic freedom weaker than that of any other region," the editors wrote.

The 2009 Index has expanded its country coverage significantly to 183 economies, although four of these could not be graded because of insufficient data. Levels of economic freedom in 10 areas were rated on a scale of zero to 100. The higher the score, the lower the level of government interference in the marketplace.

The 10 freedoms measured were: business freedom, trade freedom, fiscal freedom, government size, monetary freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom, property rights, freedom from corruption and labor freedom. Ratings in each category were averaged, then totaled to produce the overall Index score.

Worldwide, the average rating for economic freedom held essentially steady this year. However, "there is a real possibility that the economic freedom scores in this edition might represent the historical high point for economic freedom in the world," the authors warned. As governments attempt to stave off a global recession, their meddling could well threaten economic freedom and long-term economic prosperity.

Of the 179 countries ranked (the most ever), only seven were classified as "free" (a score of 80 or higher). Another 23 were "mostly free" (70-79.9). The bulk of countries--120 economies--are either "moderately free" (60-60.9) or "mostly unfree" (50-50.9). Another 29 countries had "repressed" economies, with total freedom scores below 50.

The 2009 Index was edited by Ambassador Terry Miller, director of Heritage's Center for International Trade and Economics, and Dr. Kim Holmes, Heritage's vice president for foreign affairs. Copies of the 2009 Index (455 pp., US $24.95) can be ordered at or by calling 1-800-975-8625 and are available in English and Spanish. Additionally the full text, charts and graphs are available at

About The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal, the flagship publication of Dow Jones & Company is the world's leading business publication. Founded in 1889, The Wall Street Journal has a print and online circulation of more than 2 million, reaching the nation's top business and political leaders, as well as investors across the country. Holding 33 Pulitzer Prizes for outstanding journalism, The Wall Street Journal provides readers with trusted information and knowledge to make better decisions. The Wall Street franchise has more than 760 journalists world-wide, part of the Dow Jones network of nearly 1,900 business and financial news staff. Other publications that are part of The Wall Street Journal franchise, with a global audience of 3.8 million, include The Wall Street Journal Asia and The Wall Street Journal Europe. The Wall Street Journal Online at is the largest paid subscription news site on the Web with 10.9 million users each month. In 2008, the Journal was ranked No. 1 in BtoB's Media Power 50 for the ninth consecutive year. The Wall Street Journal Radio Network services news and information to more than 310 radio stations in the U.S.

About The Heritage Foundation

The Heritage Foundation is the nation's most broadly supported public policy research institute, with more than 390,000 individual, foundation and corporate donors. Founded in 1973, Heritage now has a staff of 244 and an expense budget of $61 million.

About the Author

Related Issues: Economy