I stumbled on a Wikipedia page with the following graphic

life expectancy graphic

What I find interesting is that the life expectancy of the countries in the north of Africa rose so much faster compared to the countries in the south.

Are there political reasons for this development?

  • 1
    Comments deleted. Please don't use comments to write speculative low-quality answers. If you would like to answer, write a proper answer which measures up to our quality standards.
    – Philipp
    Commented May 14, 2020 at 18:53
  • What is meant here by "life expectancy"? Is that life expectancy at birth (i.e. the 1950 chart is for someone born in 1950)? Life expectancy after successfully surviving birth, early childhood, teen years? The Wikipedia page possibly clarifies, but the question should stand on its own.
    – shoover
    Commented May 19, 2020 at 7:03

2 Answers 2


I'm not sure how "political" this is, but the northern tier of countries in Africa are effectively "Mediterranean" countries rather than "African" countries. Geographers might draw the line between "Europe" and "Africa" through the Mediterranean Sea, but for political and sociological purposes, it's more useful to draw it through the Sahara Desert. Countries like Tunisia and Morocco are far more closely tied to ones like Spain and Italy than they are to countries like Nigeria and Senegal.

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    Do you have any data to support your hypothesis that access to the Mediterranian Sea is indeed the reasons for the lower life expectancy in sub-saharan Africa?
    – Philipp
    Commented May 14, 2020 at 9:39

If I had to make a guess, a big part of this is that sub-Sahara Africa has a lot of tropical diseases and a generally more challenging environment, health-wise.

While North Africa is really operating under mostly the same environmental circumstances as Europe, but less wealth and water.

Of course, government competence and general country wealth do certainly come into play as well and most countries in Africa aren't so far known for good governance. So it probably is a mix of environment and policies. But you may want to compare to other tropical locations with similar wealth and disease burdens.

Estimates for malaria elimination alone range at 6 yrs (old paper)

Looking at your map, "Southern-end of Africa" countries, which are more temperate in climate, show a fair bit of green and aren't that far off say India. And that's not only limited to South Africa which is the most developed country in the area.

  • 3
    Do you have any data to support your hypothesis that these are indeed the reasons for the lower life expectancy in sub-saharan Africa?
    – Philipp
    Commented May 14, 2020 at 9:38
  • @Philipp you're kidding, right? only a layman's 30-40 years of passing interest, which any knowledgeable person can duplicate, in diseases in poor countries. It is not difficult to find articles concerning lower life expectancy/high death rates from diseases and often diseases that are specific/more widely distributed to Africa - sleeping sickness for example. I'd guess AIDS is one diseases that kills lots of people there but is also a problem elsewhere and whose death rates are more fairly comparable to other locations. Commented May 14, 2020 at 19:34
  • And some personal anecdotal experience from years living in the tropics too - you are much more likely to get infected from small scratches and wounds. Commented May 14, 2020 at 19:38

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