According to the World Justice Project (WJP), the COVID-19 pandemic has hit at a time of a global rule of law crisis and principles of good governance have eroded in many countries over the past years. WJP identifies four areas of rule of law that have directly been affected by COVID-19:

  • Access to justice for all
  • Accountable governance
  • Anti-corruption and open government
  • Fundamental rights and non-discrimination

As the most comprehensive dataset measuring the whole spectrum of African governance dimensions over the decade 2010-2019, the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) provides insights on the continent’s performance in these four areas of rule of law to understand what weaknesses where already present before the pandemic hit the continent.

Progress in fighting corruption but worrying trends in Rule of Law & Justice, Accountability & Transparency and Rights

By reducing corruption in state institutions as well as in the public sector and by strengthening anti-corruption mechanisms, the continent has made strides in fighting corruption with the IIAG sub-category Anti-Corruption having improved by +1.1 over the past decade (2010-2019) and the rate of improvement accelerating between 2015 and 2019. Nevertheless, it is the second lowest scoring IIAG sub-category in 2019.

Rule of Law & Justice, Accountability & Transparency and Rights scores

Meanwhile, despite a positive trajectory over the decade, both Rule of Law & Justice and Accountability & Transparency have shown warning signs in the latest five years. Progress in Accountability & Transparency has stalled, leading it to become the IIAG’s lowest scoring sub-category in 2019. Rule of Law & Justice has even experienced a downturn between 2015 and 2019.

Driven by a decline in four of its five underlying indicators, Rights is the second most deteriorated sub-category over both the past ten and five years with the pace of deterioration nearly doubling in the latter period.

Five countries have improved in all these sub-categories both over the 10-year as well as over the 5-year period: Angola, Gambia, Morocco, Seychelles and Sierra Leone.

Seven countries have declined in all these sub-categories over both time periods: Comoros, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Namibia and Zambia.

Equal access to justice under threat

Over the past decade, judicial processes on the continent, including access to and enforcement of justice, as well as the fairness and timeliness of processes have deteriorated and equality before the law has also worsened.

Selected Rule of Law & Justice indicators

At the same time, the provision of equal civil liberties has declined for women, low income groups, rural dwellers and different marginalised social groups.

Additionally, discrimination protection mechanisms remain weak despite improvements over the decade. Protection against Discrimination is the IIAG’s lowest scoring indicator (out of 79) in 2019.

Research Spotlight series

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