A project of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, the index was independently developed by a team from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in the US, with the help of an advisory council of African academics.
The index examines each sub-Saharan African country for three years (and hereafter annually), based on 58 individual measures of five “essential political goods”, namely:
- Safety and security
- Rule of law, transparency and corruption
- Participation and human rights
- Sustainable economic development
- Human development
South Africa places fifth on the 2007 Ibrahim Index – based on data for 2005 – with an overall score of 71.2, after Mauritius (86.2), Seychelles (83.1), Botswana (73.0) and Cape Verde (72.9).
At the bottom of the list were Somalia (28.1), Democratic Republic of Congo (38.6), Chad (38.8), Sudan (40.0) and Guinea-Bissau (42.7).
South Africa scored second-highest (81.1) for participation and human rights, third-highest (67.4) for sustainable economic development, and fourth-highest in two categories: rule of law, transparency and corruption (75.2), and human development (70.5).
In the safety and security category, however, South Africa was three places from the bottom of the list with a score of 61.1 – only Sudan (31.1) and Burundi (60.4) fared worse.
South Africa’s poor safety and security ranking was due entirely to its low scores on the individual measures for “levels of violent crime” and “ease of access to small arms and light weapons”.
The complete data set is presented as an interactive tool on the Mo Ibrahim Foundation website, which also features a formal mechanism allowing criticism and feedback to help improve the index.
“We are shining a light on governance in Africa, and in so doing we are making a unique contribution to improving the quality of governance,” Mo Ibrahim, the foundation’s founder and chairman, said in a statement.
“The Ibrahim Index is a tool to hold governments to account and frame the debate about how we are governed. Africans are setting benchmarks not only for their own continent, but for the world.”
Ibrahim, the multi-billionaire founder of Celtel International, launched the foundation in October 2006 with the support of four former heads of state: Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Alpha Konaré of Mali, Bill Clinton of the US and Tony Blair of the UK.
On 22 October, the foundation will announce the winner of the world’s biggest prize, the US$5-million Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, to be awarded to a former African executive head of state or government who has demonstrated exemplary leadership.
Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan will chair the committee that decides on the winner of the prize. Other judges are former UN representative in Namibia Martti Ahtisaari, Unesco’s Aïcha Bah Diallo, former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Irish president Mary Robinson and former Tanzanian prime minister Salim Ahmed Salim.