Governance in Africa has worsened for the first time in nearly a decade as a commitment to democracy and civil rights lose strength, according to the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance. It said in a report that governance on the continent fell in 2019 by a -0.2 score since 2010.
The report, produced every two years, is the most comprehensive assessment of governance in Africa. It attributed the fall in governance to the deterioration in the areas of security, human rights and rule of law. It surveyed the 54 nation continent against criteria such as participation, rights and inclusion, security and rule of law and human development.
The report said progress had already been slowing down since 2015. However, over the decade, overall governance performance has slightly progressed, and in 2019, more than 60% of Africans lived in a country where overall governance was better than in 2010.
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It further noted that progress achieved over the last decade has mainly been driven by improvements in economic opportunities and human development. This is threatened, however, by an increasingly precarious security situation and concerning erosion in rights as well as civic and democratic space.
The report emphasized that over the last decade, both Participation, Rights & Inclusion (-1.4) and Security & Rule of Law (-0.7) have registered worrying declines. Per the ranking, the top performers include Mauritius, Cape Verde, Seychelles, Tunisia, Ghana, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe and Senegal. DR Congo, Congo Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea and Equatorial Guinea were among the low performers.
According to the report, only one country, Ethiopia, has made progress across all areas measured over a decade.
“Sixty percent of Africans live in countries where governance is better in 2019 than it was in 2010,” according to Nathalie Delapalme, Executive Director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation (MIF). “However, since 2015, this progress has been slowing, which is a bit worrying,” Delapalme told DW in an interview.
The report acknowledged the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the performance of most African governments. Nonetheless, it said the continent showed a decline in security matters long before COVID-19.
It said COVID-19 worsened an already alarming situation in terms of election interference, shrinking space for civil society, increased repression, and political unrest.
“Furthermore, it has contributed to a declining democratic environment, increasing food insecurity, as well as instability and violence, including gender-based,” it said.
Since the spread of coronavirus in Africa, some presidents have engineered constitutional changes to run for a third term. In Ivory Coast and Guinea, the incumbents changed the constitution to stand for a third term while in Uganda, opposition rallies have been banned under the pretext of COVID-19. In Ghana, the police have cited COVID-19 as a reason to prevent demonstrations or vigils.