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January 27, 2015

January 27, 2015 | News Releases on

Index: Economic Freedom Expands in Many Parts of Sub-Saharan Africa

WASHINGTON, JAN. 27, 2015—Sub-Saharan Africa’s overall level of economic freedom remains low, yet the region experienced the most widespread improvement over the last year, according to the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom, published by The Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation.

Sub-Saharan Africa lacks a “free” economy, and is home to only one classified as “mostly free” (Mauritius). A majority of the region’s economies are either “mostly unfree” or “repressed.” But six of the world’s 10 biggest score improvements (São Tomé and Príncipe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Togo, Senegal, Burundi and Zimbabwe) occurred there last year, and the region continues to move in the right direction.

Yet despite the “substantial growth momentum” evident in many economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, “the region as a whole continues to underperform in following through on policy changes that will help the emergence of a more dynamic private sector,” the editors write.

Launched in 1995, the Index evaluates countries in four broad policy areas that affect economic freedom: rule of law; limited government; regulatory efficiency; and open markets. There are 10 specific categories: property rights, freedom from corruption, fiscal freedom, government spending, business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom, trade freedom, investment freedom, and financial freedom. Scores in these categories are averaged to create an overall score.

Twenty-seven of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 46 economies posted improved Index scores last year. São Tomé and Príncipe’s 4.5-point gain (the world’s biggest gain) moved it out of the “repressed” category to “mostly unfree”, while the Democratic Republic of Congo’s 4.4-point improvement lifted it out of the world’s bottom 10 economies. Mauritius, despite a slight decline in its score, remains the region’s leader, followed by Botswana, which lost 2.2 points, dropping it into the “moderately free” category.

Swaziland’s 1.3-point loss caused it to slide into the “mostly unfree” category that prevails among the region’s economies. Liberia and Sierra Leone, despite the challenges of Ebola, have moved up from the ranks of the “repressed” to “mostly unfree.” Six others, including Angola, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau and Seychelles, have registered sustained growth in economic freedom over the past five years.

However, Sub-Saharan Africa has nine “repressed” economies, the highest of any region.  “It remains to be seen whether the region’s political leaders have the political will to undertake the fundamental economic reforms that are needed to translate narratives of ‘Africa Rising’ into reality,” the Index editors write.

The world average score of 60.4 is only one-tenth of a point above the 2014 average, but represents a 2.8-point overall improvement since the inception of the Index in 1995. Thirty-seven countries, including Taiwan, Israel, Poland and Colombia, achieved their highest-ever Index scores. Among the 178 countries ranked, scores improved for 101 countries and declined for 73.

The 2015 Index was edited by Ambassador Terry Miller, director of Heritage’s Center for Trade and Economics and Center for Data Analysis; and Anthony B. Kim, senior policy analyst in the Center for Trade and Economics. Copies of the Index (492 pages, $24.95) may be ordered online at or by calling 1-800-975-8625. The full text, including charts and graphs, also is available online.

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