Kenyans happiest people in Eastern Africa, report

Best friends take a selfie on their phone. [Getty Images]

Kenya is a happier country in 2023, climbing up the rankings to position 111 from position 119 in 2022 in the World Happiness Report, a publication of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network. With this leap, it has surpassed Uganda (113) as Eastern Africa’s happiest country.

The report also indicates that global average life evaluations in the last three years (2020–2022), with rankings based on the Gallup World Poll, have been resilient despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Global benevolence remains 25 per cent higher than it was pre-pandemic.

Finland is, for the sixth year running, the happiest country in the world. Snuggled next to the Nordic country are European neighbours which have been a mainstay in the top 10 since the report was launched ten years ago. The ten happiest nations are Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Israel, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and New Zealand.

The happiest African country is Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar. It has been ranked 59th.

An improved Kenya, however, ranks worse in the list of the happiness gap between the top (happier) and bottom (sadder, or less happy) halves of the population, at 118th. A higher ranking means lower happiness inequality.

Afghanistan and Netherlands, and then the dominant Finland, make the podium with the smallest gaps in happiness between the happier and sadder halves of their populations.

The five countries with the biggest gaps were all African: Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia, in that order.

In determining the happiness scores, the factors considered were GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, perception of corruption, and dystopia.

A total of 137 countries were ranked, with data spanning three years evaluated for the majority. For a few, whose data for 2022 was unavailable, a mean for 2020 and 2021 was used. 

Kenya’s next-door neighbours Uganda (113) and Tanzania (129) both improved in rankings but were behind the region’s largest economy.

"War-torn Afghanistan and Lebanon remain the two unhappiest countries in the survey, with average life evaluations more than five points lower (on a scale running from 0 to 10) than in the ten happiest countries," the report indicated.

And for warring Russia and Ukraine, benevolence increased in spite of tough conditions the populations, especially in Ukraine, have had to endure in all of 2022.

"Both countries shared the global increases in benevolence during 2020 and 2021. During 2022, benevolence grew sharply in Ukraine but fell in Russia. Despite the magnitude of suffering and damage in Ukraine, life evaluations in September 2022 remained higher than in the aftermath of the 2014 annexation, supported now by a stronger sense of common purpose, benevolence, and trust in Ukrainian leadership," the report indicated.

March 20, the day Kenya and three other African countries took to the streets for anti-government protests, is, ironically, the International Day of Happiness. This holiday was introduced ten years ago and ratified by the United Nations General Assembly.

The protests in Africa could hurt their future rankings as costs of living soar and inflation remains high. In Kenya, a dollar shortage, drought, perception of government profligacy, and protests over the outcome of last year’s general election could gnaw at gains in the rankings.

The well-being and effectiveness of states are measured by their fiscal capacity (ability to raise money), collective capacity (ability to deliver services), legal capacity (rule of law), avoidance of civil war, and avoidance of repression, the report indicates.