The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.
Good governance plays a critical role in socio and economic development. In the spirit of pursuing this objective on the African continent, institutions such as ours work towards improving governance in Africa.
At the beginning of this month, we collaborated with the Mo Ibrahim Foundation (MIF) on the launch of the IIAG in Pretoria, to reflect on governance on the African continent and in South Africa.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation is one of the key African organisations that assesses the state and the progress of governance in 54 African countries through the IIAG, and supports governance and leadership through its other initiatives such as the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership and the Ibrahim Leadership Fellowships.
For its part, the APRM, an African owned and led self-assessment initiative, promotes good governance and socio-economic development through the adoption of policies, standards and practices that lead to political stability, shared economic growth and sustainable development. Launched in 2003 as a voluntary instrument, APRM uses a holistic review process using inclusive dialogue, independent and objective reviews, peer learning and compliance monitoring.
The two organisations, thus, share common values, approaches and commitment with regard to promoting good governance in Africa. MIF and APRM developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2017 to become strategic partners in advancing good governance on the African continent. The MoU signed between the two organisations identified the following different priority focus areas for collaboration:
- Knowledge and data sharing.
- Harmonisation and integration of the IIAG into APRM processes.
- Capacity building support to the Continental Secretariat.
- Support of MIF to the continental drive for universal accession to the APRM.
- Participation of MIF in APRM Country Review Missions.
It is under the spirit of this strategic partnership that we came together to launch the 2018 IIAG in Pretoria and use the results to have a conversation around the state of governance in Africa and in South Africa. We brought together representatives from government, private sector, diplomats and civil society, and were very grateful to have our Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Minister Zweli Mkhize, who gave a keynote address encouraging public service institutions to provide leadership based on integrity, selflessness and loyalty in order to improve public governance.
The discussions on the key findings of the 2018 IIAG were supported by presentations of both the IIAG and APRM and I was pleased to see the debate grounded in the findings of both these tools. Both the IIAG and APRM’s tools to assess governance are very complementary and what was clear from the panel discussions and the audience participation is that the results resonate. The key drivers for the decline in South Africa for example: accountability, public safety, economic opportunities.
I think people really agree that the state of governance in South Africa is something we have to look at, and that the youth are incredibly important. Other participants cited studies that they came across and the conclusions are similar: what comes out of the IIAG in terms of the continent and in terms of South Africa is quite compatible with what is coming out from other studies and indices.
The messages coming out from the panels and the conversations were clear—we need leadership. As one of the panellists described, if we have institutions without leaders, they can become anything.
People want to talk about governance on the continent and in South Africa outside political interests of political parties. The event really exceeded my expectations. I think for me the most important takeaway is that the event managed to get the South African conversation going about the state of governance in the country. People are quite concerned, they want to talk more, and we agreed that we must take a look at how we can take this conversation forward. The energy was there, the commitment was present.
We now have 37 member countries here at the APRM. We have just done the second review of Uganda, which was received by the President. We have also done a first review of Sudan; we are sending a team to do a second review of Mozambique as well as sending a team to Senegal to do a targeted review of natural resources governance, and in Djibouti, they are doing a review on decentralisation. This is what we do, we send teams, we review countries, we write country review reports, make recommendations, design National Program of Actions (NPoAs) and monitor progress countries make while implementing NPoAs. African countries are not afraid of governance performance reviews.