Governance across Africa has failed to progress over the past decade due in large part to the deterioration in safety and rule of law, according to a survey released by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. The 2016 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) was launched in London on Monday under the theme: A Decade of African Governance. According to the survey, almost two-thirds of African citizens live in a country in which safety and rule of law deteriorated in the last ten years.
The IIAG – the most comprehensive analysis of its kind on the continent – rates 54 countries against 95 indicators drawn from 34 independent sources. These indicators include official data, expert assessments, and citizen surveys, provided by more than 30 independent global data institutions, which represents the most comprehensive collection of data on African governance. Issues such as such as free elections, education, health, poverty, corruption, security, economic stability, just laws, and human rights are tallied up and scored out of 100.
The safety and rule of law category measures personal safety, national security, accountability, and the judicial system. According to the survey, 33 out of Africa’s 54 countries, which is almost two-thirds of the continent’s population, have experienced a decline in their safety and rule of law since 2006; with 15 nations experiencing substantial deterioration.
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The study revealed that almost half of the countries in Africa recorded their worst score ever in the safety and law category, driven largely by deterioration in the subcategories of personal safety and national security. Meanwhile, accountability received the lowest score of any subcategory in the whole index.
In an interview with Reuters, Sudanese born telecommunications magnate and chairman of the foundation that carried out the research Mo Ibrahim said, “I am a little bit disappointed because governance moved quite fast between 2000 and 2006, it improved considerably, but over the last ten years on average it only increased by 1 point, and we need to do better, and we really need to look at the areas that are holding us back.”
“We moved forward in education and health, in rural sectors, in infrastructure and gender issues – some good progress has been made, but we need to safeguard that by behaving better,” he added.
Winners and Losers
Countries that saw noticeable improvement in their governance ratings included Mauritius, Seychelles, Namibia, Botswana, and Cape Verde, which all have small populations.
The biggest gainers in terms of overall governance score were Côte d’Ivoire (+13.1), followed by Togo (+9.7), Zimbabwe (+9.7), Liberia (+8.7) and Rwanda (+8.4).
Economic powerhouses like South Africa and Ghana saw a dip in their ratings, while countries that have experienced conflict over the past 10 years, such as South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, and Libya were ranked near the bottom of the index.
According to the survey, both Ghana and South Africa were featured in the top 10 performing countries in overall governance in 2015, but they are also the 8th and 10th most deteriorated over the decade.
Out of the 10 top rated countries, 6 had fallen over the past decade, with South Africa registering the sharpest decline, prompting some researchers to say the country is spiraling down a “concerning negative trend”.
Ibrahim told Reuters that, “We look at South Africa as the locomotive, which we’re hoping will pull the whole of Southern Africa region forward.”
He added that political issues are tearing the country apart, while tumbling commodity prices continue to drive wedges in the economy.
“It is in trouble, it needs mending and some soul searching – the ANC needs to really look closely at itself and how it’s conducting itself in power,” he said.
One of the positives takeaways from the survey is that 78 percent of African citizens live in a country that has improved in participation and human rights over the past decade. Progress has been driven by increased ratings in gender and participation.
In other good news, 70 percent of African’s live in countries where sustainable economic opportunity has improved in the last 10 years. This is due to the improvement of the continent’s IT and digital infrastructure, which is the most improved indicator across the whole index, in addition to the increased quality of roads and transport.
Unfortunately, the index also reveals that Africa is not quite out of the dark yet. Electricity has actually gotten worse in the past 10 years, with South Africa leading the charge with a decline of more than 30 points. Chronic power shortages often paralyze African economies and hinder any semblance of growth.
The report found that, “40 percent of Africans live in a country which has registered deterioration in electricity infrastructure over the decade, with over half of Africa’s economy affected by this issue.”
Despite the downward trend in governance highlighted by the survey, Ibrahim remains optimistic that the minor improvements in health infrastructure, gender equality, and education are all indicators that the next generation can improve on.
“We are really looking for a more inclusive type of government, which offers a better space for civil society and realizes that civil society is there to help government, not to fight government,” he said.
“I wish to see less violence in Africa; we need peace.”