Africa: human development is on a high, while security takes a nosedive

Molly Ravenscroft

Arena Governance

The Ibrahim Index of African Governance ranks countries according to the effectiveness of their governance. The 2014 report contains a mixture of good and bad news

Mo Ibrahim

© Mo Ibrahim Foundation

new report has shed light on inadequate security and rule-of-law procedures in several African countries, which otherwise rank highly for good governance.

Revelations about the state of South African security came just weeks before the fatal shooting of South African football team captain Senzo Meyiwa. Meyiwa – described by his agent as a “hero in everyone’s eyes” – was killed during a confrontation with burglars who forced entry into his girlfriend’s house. And the high profile shooting was hardly a one-off – the eyes of the world have been trained on South Africa’s court rooms for Oscar Pistorius’ trial and the trial of British tourist Shrien Dewani, found not guilty of paying a gunman to kill his wife, who was shot during a carjacking in a township near Cape Town.

The results of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) 2014 suggest that these concerns are not limited just to South Africa – moving north to Namibia presents just as bleak a picture. This year the country’s media has been kept busy reporting on several high profile cases, including the fatal shooting of ‘struggle kid’ Frieda Ndatipo a month before the release of the IIAG report.

It’s not all doom and gloom for African security though, as a number of countries were found to have made significant improvements in this respect. Lesotho and Cabo Verde, both rated in the top ten highest scorers in the IIAG report, were seen to have significantly improved in terms of security and rule-of-law within the last five years.

Since 2006 the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has committed to supporting progress in leadership and governance in the African continent. IIAG, which is published each autumn, provides an overall assessment of the quality of governance in African countries. Progress is assessed under four key areas: safety and rule of law; participation and human rights; sustainable economic opportunity, and human development.

Speaking at the launch of the 2013 IIAG, foundation chair Mo Ibrahim emphasised the significance of carrying out a yearly analysis of good governance. “This is the most accurate picture of what is going on in Africa, based on data, not personal views or political bias,” he said. “This is reality, a mirror put in front of Africa.”

The 2014 report has shown an overall increase in government performance across the continent. However, a changing growth trajectory suggests that these results should not be viewed in isolation, as the main drivers of this positive change have altered, pointing to the need for continued development. A positive result that does not fit former perceptions could become easily nullified should citizens and governments become complacent.

In the period 2009-13 overall progress in the continent was found to be driven by improvement in two categories: participation and human rights, and human development. Sustainable economic opportunity, the main driver of gains in the previous timeframe, has shown a change in trend over the last ten years from moving a positive direction to moving in a negative one.

Speaking at the launch of the 2014 IIAG, Ibrahim emphasised the importance of continued improvement – while the results of the report may be positive, he warned, they are by no means conducive to continued improvement alone. “The results of the 2014 IIAG challenge our perceptions about the state of African governance. Africa is progressing but the story is complex and doesn’t fit the stereotypes,” said Ibrahim, adding: “Even if the overall picture looks good, we must all remain vigilant.”

At a country level, this year’s report saw historically high-ranking countries showing some deterioration across the board, despite remaining on an overall upward trend. The top five countries – Mauritius, Cabo Verde, Botswana, South Africa and Seychelles – all fell short in at least one category over the past five years. Mauritius (first place) saw an overall reduction of 2.8 in security and rule of law since 2005-09, while South Africa (fourth place), the only one of the top five to fall short in two categories, saw a decrease of 1.2 in security and rule of law, and 2.2 in participation and human rights. Every country is given a score out of 100 for each of the four categories, using data from more than 30 independent sources.

Meanwhile, countries in the bottom half of the rankings have seen the greatest improvements over the past five years. The report shows former low-ranking countries Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Niger and Zimbabwe demonstrating the greatest improvement overall, having completely turned around their previous negative trajectories. Côte d’Ivoire showed the most significant improvement, with an overall score change of +7.8 from the period 2005-09, with Guinea, Niger and Zimbabwe improving by 6.5, 5.5 and 5.4, respectively.

These results problematic for countries with historically high rankings, which may face issues in the future if they don’t sustain their improvement. “High ranking countries cannot assume that future achievements will necessarily follow previous accomplishments,” says Mo Ibrahim Foundation board member Jay Naidoo.

In terms of category-level improvement, participation and human rights has shown substantial progress, having experienced the most significant improvement over the last five years, with an overall rating increase of 2.4. Within this category, the most significant gains have been in the area of participation, particularly in the political sphere. Mo Ibrahim Foundation board member Mary Robinson suggested that such improvements in political participation are the result of a growing electorate with an increasing desire to have their voices heard. “The results of the 2014 IIAG confirm that participation and human rights is a crucial aspect of governance that governments cannot ignore,” she said.

At the other end of the spectrum, the sustainable economic opportunity category has experienced a decline. Having shown an improvement of 3.4 between 2005 and 2009, the category has registered a drop of 0.2 over the last five-year period. This category has suffered predominantly due to the deterioration of public management and the business environment, which make up two of its four sub-categories. Speaking about the downward trend of sustainable economic opportunity, board member Lord Cairns suggests that such a pattern presents a challenge for Africa during a time of inhospitable commodity price trends. “Perhaps some of the low-hanging fruit of better economic management have been garnered,” he says. “The challenge grows for the continent to become a fully competitive force in the global market.”

Perhaps most concerning is the continued deterioration within the safety and rule of law category of the report. This year’s index has emerged with 12 countries showing their weakest performance since 2000 within this category – the only section within the IIAG to have shown two consecutive five-year periods of deterioration in the last ten years. The category registered a negative trend of 0.8 in this year’s report. More favourable results have been seen in the improvement of human development throughout the continent. This category has shown significant and continual improvement over the past ten years having experienced a positive change of 2.3 and 2.2 in the periods 2009-13 and 2005-09, respectively.

Continued improvement in human development is imperative to providing good governance, board member Hadeel Ibrahim suggests, stating that the IIAG results emphasise the need to focus on building equitable and efficient institutions. “Without these, we will not be able to meet the challenges we face – from strengthening the rule of law to managing shocks such as the Ebola virus,” he says.

While the results of the IIAG may appear to be a bit of a mixed bag, the overall picture is a positive one. Governance in Africa as a whole is improving, albeit at a slow pace, and with economic improvements contributing significantly less than in previous time periods.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Amnesty International