Thanks to my excellent colleague Moussa Blimpo (@mpblimpo) for letting me know about a really interesting 2013 Gallup survey asking Africans from 31 countries what factors matter most to be successful in life. The results are heartening in that people from most countries listed education as the number one factor. There is a lot of interesting regional variation though.
For instance, the percentage choosing education as the most important factor was highest in Botswana (73%) and lowest in Cote d’Ivoire (13%). Here is a table of the results:
Apparently the results don’t vary much across demographic factors such as age and gender, but they do vary considerably according to income, political stability, and colonial heritage. It’s clear from just looking at the table that some of the more prosperous and stable countries also have citizenry that think education is more important than personal connections for getting ahead. Likewise, the countries at the bottom of the table are poorer and less stable.
There also seems to be a split between countries of French and British colonial heritage; that is, countries of British heritage are more likely to rank education higher than personal connections in the survey. The article notes that “Overall, across English-speaking countries in Africa, 51% of residents say education is most important to success; among residents in French-speaking countries, the figure drops to 28%.” Gallup created a nice map to illustrate the differences: