Governance in Africa: The Relevance of the Ibrahim Index

The Mo Ibrahim Index for Good Governance in Africa released its annual report compiling the progress countries have made over the past year. The index has gained great popularity in the countries it deems to be doing best, but has drawn criticism from those who are ranked low out of the 53 countries assessed. The index focuses on four main categories: safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity, and human development. These categories are all broken down into sub-categories, and each is ranked according to its performance in the past year.

The index demonstrates the commitment that Africa’s problems should be solved by Africans, and already many countries have been noted as having made significant strides. Angola, which in 2001 ranked among the bottom five for good governance, has seen great improvements overall and in particular in the participation and human rights category where there was a jump from 26% to 42%. Liberia has also seen significant improvement, especially being a recent post-conflict society. It has seen dramatic increases in both safety and rule of law from 20% in 2001 to 50% in 2009. Civic participation and respect for human rights rose from 30% to 51%. Typically, the areas which have seen the most improvement in all of Africa are sustainable economic opportunity and human development, with over 40 states improving in both of these categories.

However, thirty five states have seen a decrease in their safety and rule of law. As put by Mo Ibrahim, “While many African citizens are becoming healthier and have greater access to economic opportunities than five years ago, many of them are less physically secure and less politically enfranchised.” The countries which have seen the worst downturn in the safety of their citizens in the past year are the Central African Republic, Rwanda, and Madagascar. Madagascar in particular has witnessed a 13% decrease in safety and rule of law in just one year.

So what can be done with these numbers? Mr. Ibrahim did not choose to honor a specific leader for good governance for the second year in a row, demonstrating that his foundation believes that although some progress has been made, there has not been enough of a concerted effort by any one person to facilitate this. This move, along with the release of the index, shows his foundation’s solidarity to their ideal that only through developing good governance can Africa’s problems be solved. This index should be employed as a guide by governments to determine their weakest points. The governments must then work to strengthen these points in particular in order to improve civil society and the well-being of all their citizens. Understandably, countries that have been shown to do well on the index are very complimentary of it, and are pleased that the attention towards improving their governance has been recognized. Liberia in particular has registered the highest increase in better governance.

Many of the leaders of those countries cited as improving the least criticize the index as being a flawed measure. Sierra Leone’s Deputy Minister of Information and Communication claims that her country should not be ranked 33rd out of the 53 states surveyed. Perhaps the index is somewhat flawed, but the fact of the matter remains that there is certainly room for improvement. The Mo Ibrahim Index ought to be employed to aid governments in channeling their funding and efforts where they are most needed to improve their own infrastructure. Without taking a critical internal look, after all, how will the issues of poor governance and dwindling safety be addressed? Mr. Ibrahim’s index is a critical component in the push for Africans to help make Africa as prosperous as it should be.

Two years ago, Mo Ibrahim granted the Prize for Achievement in African Leadership to former President of Mozam-bique, Joaquim Chissano, who stepped down from his position in 2005 when it was well within his constitutional rights to run for a third term. This, along with his commitment to peace and transparency while in office, surely influenced Mr. Ibrahim’s decision. By contrast, Zimbabwe ranks in the bottom three in the index, showing the blatant corruption and lack of transparency in the Zimbabwean system. Mugabe has held power for 23 years, and shows no sign of relinquishing his position. It seems that until Mr. Ibrahim identifies another leader as committed to fighting corruption and legitimizing democracy, there may not be another Prize for Achievement in African Leadership given. You can find this Mo Ibrahim Index at http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/iiag/.

By Julie Albert, Intern

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