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Building the Ibrahim Index of African Governance

September is a busy month at the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Building up to the launch of the annual Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) on 5 October, the Foundation is busy compiling the findings of the IIAG and preparing communications. It’s the final month in what is essentially a nine month process that usually starts in January each year.

What is the IIAG?

The IIAG is an annual statistical measure of governance performance in every African country since 2000. As a composite index it is an amalgamation of several different measurements (or indicators), combined in a standardised way, to provide a useful statistical measure over time. The broad aim of the IIAG is to inform and sustain the debate on African governance by providing a user-friendly tool, for all interested parties to use.

The 2015 IIAG consists of 93 indicators that are formed by 137 measurements, from 33 independent, external data sources. It covers every African country, every year, since 2000.

The Foundation defines governance as: the provision of the political, social and economic public goods and services that every citizen has the right to expect from his or her state, and that a state has the responsibility to deliver to its citizens. The IIAG structure is based on this, consisting of four categories which represent this definition of governance:

  • Safety & Rule of Law
  • Participation & Human Rights
  • Sustainable Economic Opportunity
  • Human Development.

These categories are made up of 14 sub-categories which consist of underlying indicators. The IIAG is constructed by the Foundation’s research team, which is guided by the IIAG Advisory Council and the Foundation’s Board.

How is the IIAG constructed?

The first task is to select data that measure governance performance.

Governance is not as easily measurable as, say, time or distance and for this reason, we look for indicators that are proxies of governance. For example, an indicator measuring the extent to which there is media censorship in a country can be used as a proxy for the level of freedom of expression within a country, which in turn can be used a measurement of human rights. The Foundation does not collect primary data, but rather collates data provided by respected external sources.

Once indicators have been selected as suitable proxies for governance performance, we apply ‘inclusion criteria’. In order to guarantee the robustness of the IIAG, indicators can only be included if they cover at least 35 of the 54 African countries, and provide at least two years’ worth of data between 2000 and the latest data year, with the latest available data being no more than three years old.

Indicators that are consistent with the Foundation’s definition of governance and meet the inclusion criteria are then selected and positioned within the IIAG structure:

Tree diagram

Some indicators have missing data points for countries or years. Where possible, the research team estimates missing data using the most suitable statistical methods, to provide a more comprehensive picture of governance performance.

Data comparison

Collecting indicators that come from several different institutions means that different indicators come on different scoring scales. An indicator measuring maternal mortality, for example, comes on a scale of 0-100,000 (a ratio of maternal mortality per 100,000 births, higher value is worse), whilst an indicator measuring judicial independence comes on a scale of 1-10, where the higher value is better (1 = no independence, 10 = total independence). Before being included in the IIAG, therefore, the research team transforms all indicators to the same scale of 0-100, where 100 is always the best possible score. This is done through a statistical process called normalisation, and means all scores, for all indicators and all countries, are comparable.

Once the indicators are on a common scale, a simple method of data aggregation is applied to calculate the scores. The overall score is the average of the underlying category scores; the category scores the average of their underlying sub-categories, and the sub-categories the average of their constituent indicators.

indicator structure graphic

The benefit of this calculation method is that one can use the overall governance score or the category, sub-category or indicator scores in isolation. Someone who is interested in gender issues for example, can find out how well a country has been performing in the Gender sub-category of the IIAG, within the Participation & Human Rights category. The IIAG can therefore be used in many different ways, from country analysis to group analysis, such as regional economic community performance, and trends over time. You can explore the data yourself online or by downloading the data portal when launched.

The 2015 IIAG consists of 93 indicators that are formed by 137 measurements, from 33 independent, external data sources. It covers every African country, every year, since 2000.

It’s a long, rigorous process and requires great attention to detail, but it means the IIAG is refined and improved every year, and this makes it the most comprehensive, robust and user-friendly tool to measure African governance.