John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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African Governance: 2012 Ibrahim Index

by John Campbell
October 17, 2012

African flags blow in the wind as leaders arrive in Rwanda’s capital Kigali 13/02/2004. (Antony Njuguna/Courtesy Reuters)


Yesterday, I wrote about the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. Today, I am writing about the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), published October 15 by the same foundation. Using eighty-eight indicators, it scores each country in Africa from one hundred (best) to one (worst) with respect to governance. This year, the IIAG included for the first time the north African states of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. Overall, the IIAG finds that African governance has improved since 2000. But, since 2006, it concludes that governance in certain areas has declined for the continent’s “regional powerhouses,” Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa.

This year, the “top ten” countries are Mauritius (ranked eighty-three), Cape Verde (seventy-eight), Botswana (seventy-seven), Seychelles (seventy-three), South Africa (seventy-one), Namibia (seventy), Ghana (sixty-six), Tunisia (sixty-three), Lesotho (sixty-one) and Tanzania (fifty-nine). The “worst ten” are Somalia (seven), Democratic Republic of Congo (thirty-three), Chad (thirty-three), Eritrea (thirty-three), Central African Republic (thirty-four), Zimbabwe (thirty-four), Cote d’Ivoire (thirty-nine), Guinea-Bissau (forty), Equatorial Guinea (forty-one), and Nigeria (forty-two). Neither Sudan nor South Sudan were ranked this year for lack of comprehensive data.

Because the country rankings are determined by aggregate scores, South Africa is ranked high over all, even though it has declined in certain categories.

It is striking that the successful states tend to be small in population–Mauritius (1,313,095), Cape Verde (523,568), Botswana (2,098,018), Seychelles (90,024), Namibia (2,165,828), and Lesotho (1,930,493). Three of these are islands: Mauritius, Cape Verde, and Seychelles. Of the “top ten”, only South Africa (48,810,427), Tanzania (46,912,768), and Ghana (24,652,402) have large populations. The population of Tunisia, the only North African state in the “top ten,” is 10,732,900.

Africa’s largest states by population outside north Africa fare poorly. Nigeria (170,123,740) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (73,599,190) are in the bottom ten, while Ethiopia (91,195,675) is in the bottom half, bracketed by Mauritania and Liberia. Egypt (83,688,164) scores relatively well in comparison with its rank of fourteen.

The bracketing together by composite score of countries as different as Mauritania, Ethiopia, and Liberia highlights the shortcomings of rankings of this sort. Nevertheless, like the Fund for Peace’s Failed State Index, the IIAG provides categories and vocabularies to talk about rates of progress (as defined by the IIAG) among all states on the African continent. It is a helpful analytical tool, not a prediction of the future. And few would quarrel with the conclusion that Mauritius, Cape Verde, and Botswana are successful, while Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Chad struggle.

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