Better government across Africa

Mo Ibrahim at the 6 October launch of
the 2008 Ibrahim Index of African
Governance, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
(Image: Mo Ibrahim Foundation)

Mary Alexander

Nearly two-thirds of sub-Saharan African countries are enjoying better governance, according to a new report by the Mo Ibrahim foundation. The 2008 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, published in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia yesterday, has given 31 of the region’s 48 countries a better score than that of the 2007 index.

The index, produced by a team from Harvard University, assesses government performance in five broad categories: participation and human rights; rule of law; transparency and corruption; human development; and sustainable economic opportunity.

Coming out top of the overall ranking was the island nation of Mauritius, with a score of 85.1 out of 100. Second was the Seychelles with 79.8, third Cape Verde with 74.7, fourth Botswana with 74, and South Africa came in fifth with 71.5.

The country with the worst governance was Somalia, with an overall score of only 18.9 out of 100. It was joined at the bottom of the ranking by the Democratic Republic of Congo with 29.8, Chad (33.9), Sudan (34.2) and Angola (43.3).

‘The real story coming out of Africa’

The foundation was set up by Sudan-born entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim in 2006 to support great African leadership.

“Obscured by many of the headlines of the past few months, the real story coming out of Africa is that governance performance across a large majority of African countries is improving,” Ibrahim said at yesterday’s launch.

“I hope that these results will be used as a tool by Africa’s citizens to hold their governments to account, and stimulate debate about the performance of those who govern in their name.”

Apart from producing the index, which was first published in September 2007, the Ibrahim Foundation also confers the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, which at US5-million is the largest annual prize in the world.

A selection panel headed by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan awards the prize to a retired African head of state who demonstrated excellence in leadership during their time in office. In October 2007 the inaugural prize went to former Mozambique president Joaquim Chissano.

The 2008 Ibrahim Index is based on data from 2006, the last year with reasonably complete data available for sub-Saharan countries.

“A time lag in indices of this nature is standard practice,” the foundation said in a statement. “This is mainly due to problems with data collection and availability. The Ibrahim Index, with its two-year time lag, is more up-to-date than many other indices.” The 2007 index was produced from 2005 data.

Human rights and development

In the participation and human rights category, which assesses participation in elections and respect for civil and political rights, 28 sub-Saharan countries improved their scores from 2005 to 2006.

“Many of these have demonstrated improved participation in elections generally deemed free and fair by international observers,” the foundation said. “However, many issues remain across the continent in this area, particularly with regard to women’s rights.”

Eighteen countries regressed, while only two remained the same. The countries showing the greatest respect for democracy and freedom were Mauritius, with a score of 92.2, Liberia (87.9), Botswana (87.4), South Africa (86.3) and Sao Tome and Principe (83.4).

Liberia also saw the greatest improvement, jumping 48.9 points from its 2005 score of 39. Mauritania lost the most ground in participation and human rights, falling 29.6 points from 60.4 in 2005 to 30.8 in 2006.

The category which saw the greatest improvement overall was human development, which looks at rates of poverty, health, sanitation and education. Here 35 countries improved from 2005 to 2006, while only six worsened and seven remained the same.

Mauritius again came out at the top, with a human development score of 89.9. It was followed by the Seychelles (88.4), South Africa (68.7), Botswana (68) and Gabon (67.8).

Economic opportunity

Sub-Saharan Africa’s next best performance was in the sustainable economic opportunity category, in which 34 countries improved their scores and 11 lost ground. The category looks at economic growth in the context of environmental sustainability, and includes the subcategories of wealth creation, macroeconomic stability and financial integrity, the arteries of commerce, and environmental sensitivity.

In the arteries of commerce section, the foundation found that, “Nearly all countries have recorded progress in generating access to technology, with 40 countries improving their scores for internet usage and 44 countries improving their scores for phone subscribers.”

The top scorers for economic opportunity were Mauritius (71.4), the Seychelles (70), South Africa (63.5), Gabon (61.6) and Botswana (58.2).

Rule of law and safety

Twenty-four countries improved their scores in the rule of law, transparency and corruption category, while 19 regressed and only three remained unchanged. This category looks at the ratification of critical legal norms, judicial independence and efficiency, and corruption.

The countries best upholding the rule of law were Cape Verde (86.1), Botswana (81.6), Mauritius (80.5), the Seychelles (80.4) and South Africa (78.1).

South Africa’s worst performance was in the category of safety and security, coming in at 42nd out of 48 countries. This category, which looks at national security and public safety, also saw the slowest progress overall, with only 13 countries showing improvement from 2005 to 2006, 10 regressing, and 25 remaining the same.

The safest and most secure sub-Saharan African countries in 2006 were Cape Verde (100), Gabon (100), Sao Tome and Principe (100), Rwanda (98.4) and the Comoros (94.4).

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