News & Media / African governance progress is lagging behind demographic growth and expectations of youth population

African governance progress is lagging behind demographic growth and expectations of youth population

12 December, 2018

At the beginning of November, I spoke at the launch of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), co-hosted by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation (MIF) and the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). This event provided an opportunity for a reflection on governance in our continent. The IIAG shows that the African average Overall Governance score in 2017 (49.9 out of 100.0) is the highest of the past decade (2008-2017), +1.0 point higher than in 2008. Overall Governance has progressed on average, but the improvement has been slow.

One of the main findings of the 2018 Index is that progress has not kept up with population growth, and in particular the growing youth demographic and the expectations that come with it. Africa’s population has increased by +26% over the last ten years and 60% of Africa’s 1.25 billion people were under the age of 25 in 2017.

Africa's youth population alone increased by just over 20% since 2008. This means there are just over 140 million more young people on the continent now than a decade ago. Projections suggest there will be close to the same amount added over the next ten years. By 2028, the African continent will be hosting almost 1 billion people under the age of 25. It's the fastest growing youth population in the world. Whilst it is positive to see the average Overall Governance score in the IIAG improve, it is not improving fast enough, and some key areas are showing concerning decline.

There has been an improvement in the category measuring Human Development, and widespread progress in particular in Health, with African average scores in indicators measuring Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) Provision (+36.3), Absence of Child Mortality (+15.5) and Absence of Communicable Diseases (+7.3) among the most improved in the IIAG. This is part of the reason Africa’s population is booming, but this growing population will also put more stress on providing Health services. There is a noticeable decline in the indicator measuring Satisfaction with Basic Health Services (-6.7), which shows that on average African citizens are dissatisfied with how governments are improving basic health services.

What stands out in the Human Development category however is the recent decline in government provision of education. The average score in this area of the IIAG is up by +2.0 over a decade, but the average Education sub-category score in 2017 is only 44.5 (out of 100.0), a decline of -0.7 from its peak five years ago. Enrolment levels are higher, but recent downturn is driven by average decline in the indicators Satisfaction with Education Provision (-9.0) and Education Quality (-3.3) over the last ten years, and a recent downturn in Alignment of Education with Market Needs, which has deteriorated by -0.8 over the last five years. Half the continent’s countries (27) register deteriorated Education scores in the last five years, meaning that for over half of Africa’s citizens (51.5%), and of Africa’s youth population (52.8%), education outcomes are deteriorating. The quality of education is currently not high enough to meet a growing demand, and the data suggests it is not meeting the needs of a competitive economy, so does not satisfactorily provide for jobs, or opportunity.

In a continent where the working age population (15-64) is expected to grow by +27.9% over the next ten years, the lack of enough progress in the average score for the IIAG category measuring Sustainable Economic Opportunity is striking, reaching only 44.8 (out of 100.0). It is the lowest scoring of the four Index categories, and the least improved (only +0.1 since 2008). Within this category, Africa’s declining Business Environment is worrying. The African average score of 41.1 is the lowest for this sub-category in ten years and underscores the weak foundations for a large number of African countries to be able to provide decent jobs to their ever-growing working-age populations. Africa’s lack of progress in the Satisfaction with Employment Creation indicator, which assesses the extent to which the public are satisfied with how the government is handling creating jobs, means it is one of the lowest scoring indicators in the category measuring Sustainable Economic Opportunity. It has (on average) declined by -3.1 points since 2008, underlining the poor job-creating performance of African governments.

The IIAG provides evidence that governments must do more to increase the socio-economic integration of the growing youth population, as the majority of countries have failed to improve or deteriorated in the indicator Promotion of Socio-economic Integration of Youth, resulting in an African average decline of -2.3 in the last ten years.

Of the four categories in the IIAG, declining Safety & Rule of Law is holding back progress the most. In particular, large declines in African average scores for Personal Safety, and National Security, and while average scores in Participation & Human Rights (+2.9) are improved over the last ten years, progress has been limited by a shrinking civil society space. The African average score for the indicator Civil Society Participation (-0.4) has declined and, in the Rights sub-category, the slight progress made over the last ten years (+0.6) is under threat by worsening trends in Freedom of Association & Assembly (-5.5), Civil Rights & Liberties (-4.0) and Freedom of Expression (-3.4). These are worrying trends for an increasingly connected youth population.

In my opinion, central to achieving thriving and sustainable democracy in the continent is the inclusion of young people in democratic processes. We must also ensure that democracy works for all without leaving some behind. In other words, participation and social justice are crucial for democracy, the rule of law and ultimately, peace and stability in the continent. This year, I was honoured to deliver the 2018 Unisa Founders Lecture. This presented an opportunity to directly engage young people on the state of democracy and ethics in government in South Africa. It is clear to me that the youth in South Africa are disillusioned with democracy.

These are all areas where in Africa progress has either been made and it is not enough, or there is some decline. These trends run counter to the demographic trends, which are increasing, and increasing faster than anywhere in the world. Many of these are interconnected, and governments must act now.

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