The data comes from over 47,000 face-to-face interviews conducted in 32 African countries about the biggest concerns and priorities, and job security was mentioned in 37% of them.
Researchers also noticed that the better off people were, the more they considered joblessness a pressing national issue.
“Wealthy people are much more likely than poor people to see unemployment as their country’s number one problem — about twice as likely as the very poorest,” says Brian Howard, Afrobarometer’s publications’ manager.
“But even among the poor, unemployment outranks education,” he adds.
Water before work
The organization found that just under of quarter of the continent’s residents were out of work, but there were ample regional differences. Half of Lesotho’s citizens said they were unemployed, whereas in Burundi the figure was only 6%.
Africa’s poorest, however, are more worried about health and water supply than unemployment or education.
Howard says that this difference in mindset is shaped by circumstances — the poorest in society focus on basic necessities for survival like having enough water, which was a top priority for four times as many poor people as wealthy ones.
Researchers found that almost half of all people they spoke to struggled, at least on occasion, to meet their most basic needs for food, clean water, and medical care, and more than one in 10 face these hardships frequently or all the time.
“In our surveys, when our local partners are actually sitting in people’s homes or courtyards all across Africa and talking to them face to face in their own language, we try to get at their lived experience, the daily challenges they face,” says Howard.
“We collect information on what kind of roof they have over their heads, whether they have access to basic infrastructure like toilets, water, and electricity, and other services such as police and cellphones.”
Guiding the government
When it comes to what Africans think their governments should be spending more money on, education and health stand out. However, in nations where food shortage can be an issue, such as Malawi, Mali and Burundi, developing agriculture was seen as top priority.
Unsurprisingly, for people in Kenya, Nigeria and Tunisia which have recently suffered terrorist attacks, security ranked higher.
Howard says that the purpose of Afrobarometer’s research is to give people on the continent a voice, so that governments across the region can see clearly what challenges they face and address them.
“Let’s say you want to know what people in Kenya think about their government’s performance — with half a dozen clicks of your mouse, you can find out. Our data is a public good — we want people to use it — that’s the whole point of doing the surveys,” he says.