AFRICAN countries may hold regular elections and their leaders speak loftily about the rule of law, but progress on governance on the continent over the past 10 years has deteriorated, with governments failing to protect citizens and to adhere to the rule of law.
In all, two out of three Africans live in countries where safety and the rule of law have worsened in the last decade.
This is the conclusion of the 2016 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) launched early October by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.
The 10th edition of the IIAG, the most comprehensive analysis of African governance undertaken to date, brings together a decade of data to assess each of Africa’s 54 countries against 95 indicators drawn from 34 independent sources.
Although there were some improvements in Human Development and Participation and Human Rights as well as a slight upward movement in Sustainable Economic Opportunity also registered an improvement, there was a pronounced drop in Safety and Rule of Law, for which 33 out of the 54 African countries – home to almost two-thirds of the continent’s population – have experienced a decline since 2006, 15 of them quite substantially.
This worrying trend has worsened recently, with almost half of the countries on the continent recording their worst score ever in this category within the last three years, according to the IIAG. It says this is driven by large deteriorations in the sub-categories of Personal Safety and National Security. Notably, Accountability is now the lowest scoring sub-category of the whole Index. Without exception, all countries that have deteriorated at the Overall Governance level have also deteriorated in Safety and Rule of Law, says the IIAG.
The improvement in the Participation & Human Rights category, found in 37 countries across the continent, has been driven by progress in Gender and in Participation. However, a marginal deterioration appears in the sub-category Rights, with some worrying trends in indicators relating to the civil society space, the IIAG notes
Two-thirds of the countries on the continent, representing 67 percent of the African population, have shown deterioration in Freedom of Expression over the past 10 years. Eleven countries, covering over a quarter (27 percent) of the continent’s population, have declined across all three civil society measures – Civil Society Participation, Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Association & Assembly – over the decade.
Sustainable Economic Opportunity is the IIAG’s lowest scoring and slowest improving category. However, 38 countries – together accounting for 73 percent of continental GDP – have recorded an improvement over the last decade. The largest progress has been achieved in the sub-category Infrastructure, driven by a massive improvement in the indicator Digital and IT Infrastructure, the most improved of all 95 indicators. However, the average score for Infrastructure still remains low, with the indicator Electricity Infrastructure registering a particularly worrying decline in 19 countries, home to 40 percent of Africa’s population. Progress has also been achieved in Rural Sector sub-category.
Human Development is the best performing category over the last decade, with 43 countries – home to 87 percent of African citizens – registering progress. All dimensions – Education, Health and Welfare – have improved, although progress in the sub-category Welfare has been affected by declines in Social Exclusion and Poverty Reduction Priorities indicators.
Mo Ibrahim, Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, says, ‘The improvement in overall governance in Africa over the last decade reflects a positive trend in a majority of countries and for over two-thirds of the continent’s citizens.
‘No success, no progress can be sustained without constant commitment and effort. As our Index reveals, the decline in safety and rule of law is the biggest issue facing the continent today. Sound governance and wise leadership are fundamental to tackling this challenge, sustaining recent progress and ensuring that Africa’s future is bright.’