Good news on governance from Sub-Saharan Africa

31 of 48 sub-Saharan African states show improved governance, Ibrahim Index finds

The 2008 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, a comprehensive ranking of sub-Saharan Africa’s 48 countries released Oct. 6 in Addis Ababa, shows improved governance performance in many African countries. The Index assesses national progress in five key areas – safety and security; rule of law, transparency and corruption; participation and human rights; sustainable economic development; and human development – that together constitute a holistic definition of good governance. The 2008 Index is based on data from 2006.

“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,” said Foundation chair Mo Ibrahim. “According to this comprehensive analysis, progress is being made across the continent against a range of key governance indicators. 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.”

For the second year running, Mauritius tops the Ibrahim Index, scoring 85.1 this year. Membership of the top five remains unchanged and is comprised of Seychelles, Cape Verde, Botswana and South Africa, all of which score over 71.0. Specifically, the Index shows that:

  • Almost two thirds of sub-Saharan African countries – 31 out of 48 – have improved governance performance. Liberia improved the most with a 10.4 point improvement to rank 38th with a final score of 48.7 out of 100.
  • In Participation and Human Rights; Rule of Law, Transparency and Corruption; Human Development; and Sustainable Economic Opportunity, most countries in sub-Saharan Africa improved their scores between 2005 and 2006.
  • Participation and Human Rights shows the greatest improvement, with 29 countries showing progress. Many have demonstrated improved participation in elections generally deemed free and fair by international observers. However, many issues remain across Africa in this area, particularly with regard to women’s rights.
  • 30 countries improved their scores in the sub-category of Macroeconomic Stability and Financial Integrity.
  • In the Educational Opportunity sub-category (within Human Development), 32 countries improved their scores between 2005 and 2006. Only five countries regressed in this area over this period.
  • Nearly all countries have recorded progress in generating greater access to technology, with 40 countries improving their scores for internet usage and 44 for phone subscribers.
  • On average the regional groupings of the Southern African Development Community, the Economic Community of Central African States, the Economic Community of West African States, and the East African Community all improved governance performance between 2005 and 2006. The Horn of Africa was the only region to see an average decrease in score during this period.
  • Only two of the countries in the bottom ten places improved their overall scores compared to last year.

“It is particularly fitting that during the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights we are seeing the most notable improvement in governance take place within the category of participation and human rights,” said Foundation board member Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “More sub-Saharan African countries than ever are holding democratic elections, and I am hopeful that this will help form the platform for continued progress across the continent.”

The Ibrahim Index assesses governance performance against 57 criteria divided into five categories which together make up the core obligations which governments have to their citizens. The Index, created to meet the need for a comprehensive and quantifiable method of measuring governance performance in sub-Saharan Africa, is produced by Professor Robert Rotberg, Dr. Rachel Gisselquist and their team at the Program on Intrastate Conflict and Conflict Resolution at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, supported by an advisory council of African academics and corporate leaders.

See The Economist for a great chart illustrating the findings.