The 2017 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), released on 20 November in its 11th iteration, is the most comprehensive Index ever produced by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.
The 2017 IIAG contains 100 indicators sourced from 36 independent African and international institutions. These are organised into 14 sub-categories, that form the four categories which make up the Overall Governance score. The 2017 IIAG covers all 54 African countries over a period of 17 years (2000-2016).
Last year was the 10th anniversary of the Foundation and the 2016 IIAG looked back at a decade of African governance data. This year we wanted to build on that. Setting a base year for analysis can lead to different countries showing a variety of trends depending on the chosen year. However, while trends over the last decade only reveal so much, examining a shorter period of time within the same decade can give a greater insight into the direction and evolution of governance trends in a country.
We retrospectively revise the IIAG every year: we collect all the data all over again, add the latest data year, include new data sources to improve our measurement of governance and take into account any updates to older data. However, new data only has minor implications on results year-on-year. As a consequence, when we looked back over the last ten years we were not surprised to see the same trends as the ones shown in last year’s Index. Instead, when we analysed the last five years of that decade, we noticed some interesting results in the data. Some countries which showed large improvements over a decade had been in decline in the last five years. This recent decline is not obvious when only assessing the ten-year trend. At the same time, some countries were improving even faster in the second part of the last ten years, or declining faster. Others had declined over ten years, but looking at the most recent five, were improving and looking like bouncing back to progress.
After many iterations of the IIAG, it is clear that governance performance is not linear. Countries improve and decline all the time. In fact, Rwanda is the only country on the continent that has managed to improve its Overall Governance score year-on-year from 2000 onwards. With a view to capturing the complexity of country trends, we chose to measure performance by comparing the trajectory of a country over two periods of time, such as the past ten and five years. This can be done through assessing the total increase or decrease in score, or assessing how much a country improves or deteriorates on average per year, over each of the two time periods. As a result, we created six trend classifications to categorise country and group trends.
Bearing in mind the analysis approach of this year, what are the key findings and the main conclusions that we have drawn from the 2017 IIAG?
[su_highlight]Governance in Africa has reached its highest ever point. However, over the last five years Africa’s improvement has slowed down.[/su_highlight]
In 2016 the African average score for Overall Governance is 50.8 out of 100.0, the highest ever score reached, improving on average by +0.16 points per year over the last ten years (2007-2016). 40 countries have improved over this decade. 18 of these countries, home to 58% of Africa’s citizens, have even managed to accelerate their progress over the last five years (2012-2016).
In this last five-year period, however, Africa’s average yearly progress has fallen to +0.10. This is due to the fact that of the 40 countries showing an improvement over the decade, for 13 of those progress has slowed (Slowing Improvement) over the past five years, and nine countries are even sliding back into decline (Warning Signs). This means that for over half of the countries that have shown governance improvement over a decade, more recently progress is either slowing or reversing.
Concerningly, eight of the 12 countries that show Overall Governance decline over the last decade show no signs of turning things around. The speed with which they are deteriorating has increased over the last five years (2012-2016).
Even though the overall results constitute a positive outlook, the slight slowdown in annual average progress means that there is no time for complacency. In all of the categories in the IIAG except Safety & Rule of Law, there are fewer countries improving over the last five years than over the last ten.
To understand a bit more in detail what is happening in certain sectors, let’s take a look at the 2017 IIAG category results.
Africa’s progress in Human Development over the last decade is very positive. This is Africa’s highest scoring (56.1) and most improved category in the IIAG over the last ten years (+4.4), driven by all of its underlying components: Health (+8.0), Education (+3.6) and Welfare (+1.8).
However, all three sub-categories register a slowing progress over the latter half of the decade, and therefore Human Development also progresses at a slower rate. The vast majority (46) of countries show improvement over a decade but 20 of these see Slowing Improvement, and 12 countries register Warning Signs.
[su_highlight]Worryingly, in a continent where 41% of the population are under 15 years old, Education registers the largest annual average slow-down.[/su_highlight]
Africans are particularly dissatisfied with how governments are handling addressing educational needs, a perception that is reflected by the accelerated pace of decline in the Education Provision indicator over the last five years. Moreover, we are seeing Warning Signs for Africa’s progress in Education Quality.
The slowing rate of progress in the three components of Human Development does however mask some positive stories. In Welfare, for example, Africa’s average progress in the indicators Poverty and Narrowing Income Gaps has picked up speed over the last few years, even if the average score for these remains low. In Health, Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) Provision is Africa’s most improved indicator over the decade, and every single country improves its Child Mortality score.
Sustainable Economic Opportunity
At the continental level, Sustainable Economic Opportunity appears to be the IIAG’s slowest improving category, both over the decade and over the last five years. However, progress looks back on track since 2014 and whilst the African annual average improvement has slowed over the most recent five years, there are 16 countries, representing 51% of the continent’s population and 54% of its GDP, that do manage to accelerate their rate of improvement in the second part of the decade.
The slow rate of progress is largely due to very mixed results in the sub-categories of Sustainable Economic Opportunity. Infrastructure is driving overall improvement in Sustainable Economic Opportunity for Africa, picking up momentum over the last five years. African average scores here are still low but every indicator shows improvement over recent years except Electricity Infrastructure, which concerningly registers an average decline.
Calling for attention is also the deterioration in Africa’s Rural Sector over the last five years, which could threaten the progress made over the last decade in a key area for the continent’s sustainable growth and wealth-creating potential. The recent decline in Rural Sector is largely due to quickening deterioration in the Agricultural Policy Costs indicator, which assesses the nature of agricultural policy, ranging from whether it is burdensome for the economy or balances the interests of taxpayers, consumers and producers.
The Business Environment in Africa has also shown increasing decline over the last five years. There seems to be recovery in the last couple of years, but substantial declines in the indicators measuring Business Bureaucracy & Red Tape and Soundness of Banks are dragging down Africa’s scores over the longer term. In opposition to this, Investment Climate, Employment Creation and Regional Integration show Increasing Improvement over the last five years, preventing further decline at the sub-category level.
Participation & Human Rights
Participation & Human Rights is the only category where progress marginally picks up speed in the last five years, with the largest number of countries (17), out of all four categories of the IIAG, increasing their improvement. This however masks concerning trends in some countries and dimensions, as 18 countries adopt either a slower pace or even display warning signs, reversing to decline in the latter part of the decade.
The average positive trend is mainly driven by the accelerated progress in Participation, led by a majority of countries improving in the indicator Free & Fair Elections. However, the Political Participation indicator concerningly shows a slight average decline over the last five years, which could threaten the progress made over the decade, while average deterioration in Civil Society Participation appears to worsen over the last five years.
Africa has also made progress in Gender and in Rights. Gender is one of Africa’s highest scoring sub-categories in the IIAG, on average, and there are some indicators which show that progress is accelerating, specifically Women’s Labour Force Participation, Workplace Gender Equality and Women’s Political Empowerment. Progress in Gender overall, however, has slowed over the last five years largely due to increasing decline in Gender Equality and Women in the Judiciary, as well as to a substantial drop in Africa’s score for Laws on Violence Against Women in the most recent years.
Rights also shows a slight slowing progress, yet with some concerning results. Both Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Association & Assembly have declined over the last ten years and the speed of decline has got worse over the last five.
Safety & Rule of Law
Decline in Safety & Rule of Law over the last decade has held back further progress for African governance. Specifically, Personal Safety and National Security show large deteriorations, and Accountability is very low scoring and not very high improving.
The pace of deterioration in Safety & Rule of Law has, however, slowed in the last five years with 12 countries Bouncing Back. Despite this, many countries remain on concerning trajectories. Deterioration worsens over the second half of the decade for 15 countries, such as Burundi and Libya, but also, more worryingly, Cameroon and Mozambique. Other countries, such as Angola and Mauritius, register a recent downturn despite improvement over ten years.
Nevertheless, if we are to focus on the positive, it is important to emphasise that continental decline at the category level is slowing. This is mainly driven by progress appearing over the last five years in Rule of Law and by slowing decline in Personal Safety – although indicators show that issues such as Crime and Political Violence remain on negative trajectories.
Contrary to this, Accountability, already the lowest scoring sub-category in the IIAG, is lately registering slower progress. More alarmingly, National Security is deteriorating at a faster pace over the latter part of the decade, more than doubling its annual average decline in the last five years. This trajectory is mostly driven by increasing deterioration in the indicator Government Involvement in Armed Conflict over the last five years, as well as recent warning signs in Cross-border Tensions. In the former, ten years ago 43 countries scored 100.0, the best possible score, and in 2016 only 18 do so.
The 2017 IIAG results show that there is a positive outlook for African governance, yet there are some early warning signs. The IIAG is an excellent tool, based on sound data, to measure and monitor African governance performance. As our founder and chair Mo Ibrahim stated:
We welcome progress in overall governance, but there is no time for complacency. The slowing, and in some cases, even reversing progress in a large number of countries, or in some key dimensions of governance, is worrying for the future of the continent. African countries urgently need to sustain and increase their efforts if they want to avoid sliding back on the positive progress they have achieved.
2017 IIAG Resources
These are just the highlights and continental findings. The IIAG is incredibly rich, and we encourage all users to explore the data via the resources we have produced.
Our Index Report covers the main findings of the 2017 IIAG, and our online and offline data portals allow for users to interrogate the data according to their own preferences.
The Foundation’s Research Team is also available at firstname.lastname@example.org, should you wish to speak to us about the IIAG.