’Quality of Life and Human Well-Being in sub-Saharan Africa: Prospects for Future Happiness Series: Human Well-Being Research and Policy Making

Rhodes>ISER>Latest News

Prospects for Future Happiness Series
Prospects for Future Happiness Series



In these times of great mental health challenges, the ISER presents a newly published and important book resource that discusses issues of quality of life and human well-being in sub-Saharan Africa. Valerie Moller (Professor Emeritus, RU-ISER) and Ben Roberts (Chief Research Specialist, HSRC) teamed up and produced a great book titled ‘’Quality of Life and Human Well-Being in sub-Saharan Africa: Prospects for Future Happiness Series: Human Well-Being Research and Policy Making”. This book:


  1. Presents an overview of the major milestones achieved in the region in political and economic development.
  2. Highlights the significant changes that have affected the health, education and wealth of Sub-Saharan Africans
  3. Introduces happiness as the new buzzword in Africa


This volume presents an account of how people in sub-Saharan Africa have fared under changing life circumstances of the past centuries until the present. By introducing the geography of the region it traces a time line of different historical periods that have shaped livelihoods of ordinary people of the region, and addresses the major milestones in political and economic development. It focuses on social indicators pointing to significant changes that have affected the health, education and wealth of sub-Saharan Africans and their outlook on the future since the wind of change blew through the region. With case studies and vignettes the book highlights how individual citizens across the 44 different countries of sub-Saharan Africa experience well-being and express their aspirations for the future. This book provides relevant material for practitioners and policy makers, including community and development workers, in non-governmental and other organizations in sub-Saharan African countries.



Our volume on the prospects for future happiness in sub-Saharan Africa has taken a long journey in the making. Until recently, our research efforts had focused on documenting life quality on the southern tip of the continent. Here, we widen our lens to include a much broader landscape. In the past few years, we were invited to participate in a number of ambitious global projects on human well-being. Our assignment was to provide an African perspective to these undertakings. Thus, we set about looking at Africa’s past history in order to gain an idea of how the lived experience of African people over time may have shaped contemporary well-being on the continent.


This book is informed by our contributions on African quality of life to these global projects. In this volume, we build on the knowledge and insights we have gained, but we also move on to explore new themes and to add fresh voices to our discussion of African well-being. In rewriting, we have distilled and updated our earlier work, by drawing on case studies and examples to illustrate both the obstacles and rewards experienced by African people seeking to better their life chances. We have deliberately avoided Afropessimism but do not gloss over the many challenges facing the region in the twenty-first century.


We have made liberal use of The Conversation Africa, launched five years ago, that report evidenced-based news and analysis articles authored by expert scholars from universities and research institutions across Africa. Perhaps, most gratifying for us in compiling our report on sub-Saharan Africa has been to discover the many emerging young African scholars who are keen to share their knowledge and insights on how to optimise African prosperity in future. We are delighted to have this opportunity to showcase their work.


Our book is divided into three parts. In Part I, we retrace the largely undocumented untold history of well-being on the oldest continent populated by humans. We speculate on the key values and virtues that have promoted both the survival and well-being of African society over time.

In Part II, we turn to the success story of our age. Never in history have humans experienced greater progress in meeting their basic needs, which are essential for human happiness. Progress made in Africa is no exception. Since ancient times, there has always been something new coming out of Africa. In Part III, we look to the future of well-being of sub-Saharan Africa. We take a longer-term perspective and report on the many positive stories that might possibly foretell a new African century. We examine how Africa’s novel experience with democracy is supporting citizen’s life goals; we look at options for turning the continent’s youthfulness into an asset; and we list steps taken to enhance life chances for minorities in African societies. We also portray Africa’s practical sense of innovation for enhancing everyday well-being as well as innovations that inspire a sense of awe in us humans. In our concluding chapters, we review our discussion of the importance of Africa’s time-honoured virtues and the region’s exceptional optimism as drivers and harbingers of a brighter future for sub-Saharan Africa.


Valerie Møller Rhodes University, Grahamstown (Makhanda), South Africa.

Valerie Møller is Professor Emeritus of Quality of Life Studies at Rhodes University, South Africa. She studied sociology, earning her Licentiate and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Zürich, Switzerland. She has lived and worked in sub-Saharan Africa since 1972. In 1971, she arrived in North Africa from southern Europe in a Volkswagen Kombi. She and her husband, an architect, had converted the Kombi into a camper for their African adventure. Their intended destination was Dakar, Senegal, where they planned to undertake a joint urban studies project. When their vehicle proved to be no match for the sand pistes of the Algerian Sahara, they rerouted back to Europe, shipped themselves and their VW on a Portuguese immigrant boat to Angola, and travelled along the southern coast of Africa to present-day

Since that time, Valerie has held positions in social research institutes at the now University of Zimbabwe (1972–5), the University of KwaZulu-Natal (1996– 1997), and as Director of Rhodes University’s Institute of Social and Economic Research (1998–2006). Valerie pioneered the first quality-of-life and social indicators studies that have tracked South African life satisfaction and happiness from apartheid to the country’s transition to democracy. Her original research has employed both conventional and less conventional measures and approaches to study a wide range of life domains and issues that impact on quality of life. She has published numerous journal articles and chapters in books, including two articles awarded the Social Indicators Research annual best-paper reward. She has edited a number of Springer volumes devoted to the South African and international experience of quality of life. She is a lifetime member of the International Society for Quality of Life Studies (ISQOLS), hosted its 7th conference at Rhodes University in 2006—the only one to be held in Africa to date and served as its president from 2007 to 2008. Her endowed ISQOLS track for the Advancement of Quality of Life and Well-being in sub-Saharan Africa aims to showcase local scholars’ contributions to well-being research in the region. In 2016, she received the society’s lifetime award for her contribution to a better understanding of quality-of-life issues. e-mail: v.moller@ru.ac.za https://www.ru.ac.za/iser/people/staff/profvaleriemoller/

Benjamin J. Roberts Developmental, Capable and Ethical State (DCES) Research Division, Human Sciences Research Council, Durban, South Africa.

Benjamin J. Roberts is Chief Research Specialist in the Developmental, Capable and Ethical State (DCES) research division at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), South Africa, and coordinator of the South African Social Attitudes Survey (SASAS). He helped develop the SASAS series in 2002 with the assistance of the late Prof. Roger Jowell and has coordinated each annual round of surveying since its inception in 2003. He received his Ph.D. in social policy and labour studies from Rhodes University, South Africa, based on a thesis on the topic on inequality beliefs and preferences for government-led redistribution.

His research interests and areas of expertise include attitudinal measurement and social change, subjective well-being and quality of life, poverty and inequality, and social cohesion. Select recent publications include: “Family Matters: Family cohesion, values and well-being” (2019, co-edited with Mokomane, Struwig and Gordon, Cape Town: HSRC Press); “Waiting for Happiness in Africa” (2017, with Møller) (in Helliwell et al. (Eds.) World Happiness Report 2017); “New Beginnings in an Ancient Region: Well-being in Sub-Saharan Africa” (2017, with Møller) (in Estes and Sirgy (Eds.) The Pursuit of Global Well-Being, Dordrecht, NL: Springer); “Shadow of the Sun: The Distribution of Well-being in Sub-Saharan Africa” (2015, with Gordon, Møller, and Struwig) (in Glatzer et al. (Eds.), The Global Handbook of Quality of Life, Dordrecht, NL: Springer); and “Beliefs About Inequality and Redress Preferences in South Africa” (2014) (Social Indicators Research, 118, 1167–1190).

While pursuing postgraduate studies in the mid1990s, Ben came across Valerie’s research on quality of life in South Africa and was struck by the critical relevance of this field of study for the young democracy —and indeed the continent. In establishing the SASAS series, quality of life was deemed a core thematic priority, with an emphasis on continuing the South African Quality of Life (SAQoL) series that Valerie established in the early 1980s. As South Africa draws close to its milestone of four decades of quality-of-life research, Ben wishes to express his heartfelt thanks to Valerie for her generosity, enthusiasm, committed mentorship and abiding support. Through her pioneering efforts, research in this field of study is flourishing in the country. e-mail: broberts@hsrc.ac.za

http://www.hsrc.ac.za/en/staff/view/?i=BJ&f=Benjamin &l=Roberts

Please see link to ebook : 2021 Moller Roberts_ QoL& Well-Being subSaharan Africa_ Prospects happiness.pdf