Following the launch of the 2020 IIAG, the Foundation’s Now Generation Network (NGN) reflect on the new revised Index framework and key findings.
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.
What are some of the main challenges faced by African countries when it comes to Inclusion & Equality?
With only ten more years to go, there is a renewed global momentum towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially goal 10 and all other inclusion and equality targets, given their catalytic effect on accelerating human capital development and economic growth outcomes.
As Africa strives to achieve the SDGs alongside implementing COVID-19 containment and recovery plans at a time of shrinking fiscal space for many countries in the region, the continent must, now more than ever, prioritise inclusion and equality of the most marginalised and vulnerable groups in an intersectional approach. Such an approach recognises the overlaps and interlinkages between these social groups which include women, young people, persons with disabilities, and the ‘silent inequalities’ within ethnic minorities and among LGBTI persons.
Prioritisation requires data, the first challenge. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation has consistently flagged the data deficit and its link to achieving the SDGs, Agenda 2063 and national development plans. UNDP’s 2019 Human Development Report which focusses on the issue of inequalities finds that the fundamental question of whether African countries are characterised by low or high inequality “is difficult to answer due to the dissimilarity of data sources.” It asserts, however, that new estimates suggest that “inequality remains very high in most African countries.” This latter point is endorsed by the World Bank’s 2019 Inclusion Matters in Africa Report which, nonetheless, acknowledges the ‘significant progress’ Africa has made towards social inclusion in the past few decades. The emergence in recent years of a data revolution in Africa driven by growing national data ecosystems creates an opportunity for ensuring targeted policies, regulations and laws that identify and address the needs of those trailing behind across the political, social, economic, and digital sectors.
The second challenge lies in targeting marginalised social groups. Addressing gender inequalities by empowering 50% of Africa’s workforce, remains a game-changer in spurring inclusive economic growth.McKinsey has found that “in a realistic “best-in-region” scenario in which the progress of each country in Africa matches the country in the region that has shown most progress toward gender parity, the continent could add $316 billion or 10 percent to GDP in the period to 2025.” Here, Africa can build on the progress it has made on political participation, for instance.
To consolidate gains and drive further progress, there is need to expeditiously tackle persisting and new risks to women and girls, especially the worrying scourge of gender-based violence which has exacerbated during the pandemic. Organisations like the Commonwealth Secretariat are shining a light on this issue through the Commonwealth Says No More Campaign.
In recent years, the challenges associated with minimal progress on youth issues – youth unemployment as well as marginalisation from decision making processes in particular - have been brought to the fore by young people themselves in various campaigns and protests such as the #ENDSARS. Given that half of the population in the region is under 25 years of age, and by 2050, the continent will have 362 million young people between 15 and 24 years of age (World Bank 2014), governments are right to sit up. Addressing youth challenges in partnership with young people is as important for inclusive socio-economic development as it is for peace and security at a time where vulnerable young people remain susceptible to extremist and other harmful narratives on and offline.
It is also time for Africa to pay closer attention to persons with disabilities. The World Report on Disability estimates that 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability, with a higher prevalence in developing countries. African countries who have not yet ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities (CRPD) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa, should be urged to do so.
All the above groups, and in particular, the most marginalised within them, must be supported to participate fully in the digital economic transformation accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic – the third challenge. Here too, COVID-19 has exposed threats that could further widen the digital divide if not intentionally addressed. For example, COVID-19 school closures have impacted long-term education outcomes for the poorest children with no access to remote learning.
What do African citizens expect of their governments when it comes to Inclusion & Equality?
Having monitored political developments across Commonwealth African countries over the past decade, including over a dozen democratic transitions, I have been struck by the growing confidence of African citizens in demanding accountable, transparent, and inclusive governments. Additionally, citizens want access to information and data that empowers them to assess the inclusivity and effectiveness of government policies and actions in delivering public goods for all (see the Special Prosecutor’s report on the Ghana Agyapa Gold Royalties deal). The wave of citizen protests across the continent over the past few years, significantly enabled by social media, are a manifestation of this trend. Malawi offers a telling example. Following protests by social groups including vendors in April 2020, a coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) successfully sought a judicial review and an injunction against the implementation of COVID-19 lockdown measures. The claimants asserted that the measures did not adequately provide “for social security interventions to marginalised groups in our society which groups are in the majority.”
A patent takeaway from this example is the need to ring fence adequate resources alongside special measures to address Inclusion and Equality.
How can African governments and citizens work towards more inclusive societies?
A starting point is civil liberties and the safeguarding of fundamental freedoms including freedom of expression and media. The space must be created for citizens to engage with government in an atmosphere of mutual trust, respect, and tolerance.
The second is partnerships. The scale of the gaps within and among social groups necessitate a collective effort by political leaders, civil society, media, and community and faith-based leaders who are often closest to marginalised groups.
Thirdly, addressing inclusion and equality requires a ‘whole of government approach’ with local government playing a pivotal role.
Finally, there is growing capacity within and across the continent to monitor and evaluate progress on regional and national inclusion and equality targets. Governments must take advantage of this.
Why are you excited to see the addition of the Inclusion & Equality sub-category to the IIAG?
The IIAG is an authoritative source on Africa’s performance in the area of governance by the continent and for the continent – it illustrates Africa’s own capacity to self-assess. The addition of the Inclusion & Equality sub-category completes the ‘state-of-governance story’ in Africa as we head towards 2030, and the Africa we want by 2063.