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.
As the former Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity and former Prime Minister of Tanzania, I have observed the diversity of the African continent and the uniqueness of each country. The 2018 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), which is an annual assessment of the quality of governance in 54 African countries, shows that governance performance is increasingly diverging between countries.
Compared to ten years ago, the range of scores between the best scoring country (Mauritius) in the IIAG, and the lowest performing (Somalia), has shrunk. In 2008 there were 72.6 points separating the top performer and the lowest scoring country; in 2017 this was 65.9.
This is because Mauritius has declined since 2008 and Somalia improved, even if there is still a large gap in terms of Overall Governance performance. Whilst the range of scores is smaller, there is increased variety in country performance. The standard deviation of scores has increased (from 12.9 to 13.7). What this means is that country scores lie further away from the average score now when compared to ten years ago. Africa is a diverse continent, and countries are increasingly taking diverging paths.
Whilst there are some common factors driving country performance (for example, the vast majority of countries improve in Health), overall, all 54 countries show differing trends. The 2018 IIAG shows that simultaneous improvement in all areas is not easy – Côte d'Ivoire is the only country that has improved in all categories and sub-categories of the IIAG.
The average governance score on the continent is improving, but it is doing so slowly, and that is precisely because this score is the average of 54 unique countries that show many different trends, both overall and within different dimensions of governance.
Whilst 34 countries improved their governance scores in the last ten years, these all show different characteristics. 15 of the 34 countries that have improved their Overall Governance score since 2008 gained momentum over the last five years. The speed of progression in some of these countries is notable: Kenya (ranking 19th out of 54 countries in 2008 to 11th in 2017), Morocco (25th to 15th), and Côte d'Ivoire (41st to 22nd) have shown particularly large moves in terms of ranking between 2008 and 2017, driven by an increased rate of progression over the last five years. Kenya’s improvement is largely driven by progress in Human Development but is seeing some warning signs in performance for Participation & Human Rights, whilst Morocco’s is driven by large gains in all categories, particularly Sustainable Economic Opportunity, despite some decline in its National Security score. Côte d'Ivoire improved evenly in all dimensions and its most improved area is Participation & Human Rights, but even the most improved country in the IIAG has experienced some decline – in the last five years – in Personal Safety.
At the same time, over half (19) of the 34 countries that have improved their Overall Governance level over the last decade are either losing momentum, with the rate of progress slowing over the last five years or have even begun to register a recent downturn. Reasons for these trends again, differ between countries. Tunisia for example, has failed to keep up the momentum in Participation & Human Rights, whilst Ethiopia’s sharp declines in Sustainable Economic Opportunity and Safety & Rule of Law are the main driving factors of the country’s recent downturn in Overall Governance over the last five years, which threatens to reverse the progress made over the decade.
With 18 countries declining, one out of three countries on the continent has a worse governance score than ten years ago. Whilst some of these countries have begun to turn things around, the majority (12) have not yet succeeded do to so.
These diverging trends illustrate that we should be careful when talking about African averages when aiming to solve complex governance challenges. It is useful to make comparisons and learn from our fellow African countries where success is made, and this is one of the key benefits of the IIAG, but we must remember that context is important. This is why the IIAG has always provided an objective dataset using indicators measuring outcomes of policy, so we can assess progress in governance on our continent. We need to use this great tool to the maximum by applying our contextual knowledge.
[su_highlight]It is up to us working on strengthening African governance to use this tool to debate and identify areas to improve, recognising that the continent is diverse, as the results reveal, and the data must be seen within that context.[/su_highlight]
There are definitely areas which appear to have relationships with better governance. The data shows that Rule of Law and Transparency & Accountability are common factors among high scoring countries, and we must learn from that. Every country must also look at their results and interpret them as best they can, using the knowledge of their country – but with willingness to improve.
The whole purpose of the IIAG is to provide tools for our governments and civil society to look and determine how we can improve the state of governance in our continent. Our belief is that principles of good governance, when observed and implemented, contribute effectively to the process of democratisation which is an essential pre-requisite for the success in the improvement of economic opportunities for shared prosperity. Thus, we need to take up the challenge on how best to improve our respective situations by inter alia; learning to avoid the mistakes of those who have not succeeded as well as to learn from the experiences of those who have been successful. In the final analysis, Africa is one and has a common destiny. We need to observe and celebrate the achievements where good governance has continued to be consolidated and to overcome the challenges where this process is either at stagnation or retrogression.