African countries need not relax

Monday, 12 February 2018 09:04   |   Written by
African countries need not relax

Former President of Botswana and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation Spokesperson, Sir Ketumile Masire says continuos efforts need to be made to ensure that African governments do not adopt a lax attitude in corporate governance issues. 
The latest Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) shows disturbing results.

Historically strong performers including Botswana, Mauritius, Cabo Verde, South Africa and Seychelles have deteriorated atleast in one category over the past five years.  At country level, the 2014 IIAG highlights the potential of governance underperformers while revealing the weaknesses of current frontrunners. Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Mo Ibrahim said at the launch of the Index in London in September that Africa is progressing but the story is complex and does not fit the stereotypes. Former President Masire, who was also present at the launch, concurs. He told BG Investor in an interview that the greatest challenge lies in celebrating successes and positive outcomes, and at the same time pushing for further growth, rather than relax efforts. The latest IIAG records improvement in overall African governance between 2009 and 2013 but highlights some concerning trends.

Masire says as far as Botswana is concerned some of the disturbing issues arise from among others; the fact that large numbers of children still drop out of the school system. Those that do complete their studies are not absorbed into institutions of higher learning. This according to the statesman, results in discontentment among young people who in turn, look for alternatives in unbecoming behaviours. Masire is of the view that if Botswana is to maintain good rankings going forward, she needs to re-orientate herself and impress upon the general population, law and order.  He believes that the country should be development-orientated; government should play an active facilitative role to allow for the private sector to be the driver of the economy. Masire is also of the view that the government should generate more industries to create opportunities for young people.

He however adds that young people on the other hand need to know that a lot is expected from them and therefore they cannot sit and wait for things to happen. “One of the most important factors is education – because it is education that enlightens people,” he says, adding that with the advent of technologies, young people are presented with opportunities to make something out of their lives. The statesman also admits that new innovation has also brought about new challenges. “But I believe that the new innovation is better placed to deal with the current challenges.”Countries in the bottom half of the rankings registered the largest improvements over the past five years. Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Niger and Zimbabwe have changed course since 2009 from negative trajectories to become the biggest improvers on the continent. This progress has been driven in large part by gains in Participation & Human Rights. Masire adds that this could also be attributed to the regional and international pressure that has been put on these countries to turn their fortunes.

“The 2014 IIAG results show that high ranking countries cannot assume that future achievements will necessarily follow previous accomplishments. More generally, let us make sure that the Africa Rising narrative, that everyone is talking about, truly benefits all African people,” said Jay Naidoo, Board Member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. At category level, the 2014 IIAG also reveals that the main drivers of the overall positive trend in African governance have changed.  For the most recent five years, from 2009 to 2013, progress has been jointly driven by Participation & Human Rights and Human Development, whereas the main driver of gains in the previous period (2005-2009) was Sustainable Economic Opportunity, which has stalled in the most recent period.

Progress in the Participation & Human Rights category has gathered momentum, making it the most improved 2014 IIAG category over the last five years (+2.4). While in Rights and Gender the trends are both positive, it is in the area of Participation, particularly Political Participation, where the strongest gains in score have been achieved for this latest period. “With a growing electorate that has demonstrated a desire to be heard, the results of the 2014 IIAG confirm that Participation & Human Rights is a crucial aspect of governance that governments cannot ignore,” said Mary Robinson, Board Member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. In contrast, after an improvement of +3.4 between 2005 and 2009, the largest of any category in this time period, Sustainable Economic Opportunity has registered the opposite trend over the last five-year period, with a deterioration of -0.2. This is due to a reversal of trends in two of the four sub-categories, Public Management and Business Environment, and a slower pace of improvement in the other two sub-categories, Infrastructure and Rural Sector.

“Perhaps some of the low-hanging fruit of better economic management have been garnered. The challenge grows for the continent to become a fully competitive force in the global market at a time when commodity price trends are becoming less helpful to many countries on the continent,” said Lord Cairns, Board Member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.Meanwhile, the Safety & Rule of Law category continues to expose concerning trends, with 12 countries showing their weakest performance since 2000, in 2013.  Having shown a deterioration of -1.5 between 2005 and 2009, this dimension of governance registers another negative trend in the last five-year period, although to a lesser extent (-0.8). Safety & Rule of Law is the only category in the 2014 IIAG to have demonstrated two consecutive five-year period deteriorations in the last ten years. National Security is the only sub-category within Safety & Rule of Law to have shown progress over the past five years (+0.5), driven in large part by Cross-border Tensions, the most improved indicator in the 2014 IIAG. 

This aspect of improved citizen security is in contrast to the deterioration registered in Personal Safety (-1.1) in the past five years, driven by declines in four of the six underlying indicators. “Even if overall governance trends are positive, contrasting performance in the 2014 IIAG is of concern. The strength and sustainability of Africa’s future prosperity will be defined by the continent’s commitment to all governance dimensions, including safety, security, and the rule of law,” said Salim Ahmed Salim, Chair of the Ibrahim Prize Committee. On the other hand, Human Development has remained a consistent improver, showing positive movement of +2.3 since 2009, after a positive trend of +2.2 between 2005 and 2009.  All sub-categories and 41 out of 52 countries have seen an improvement over the past five years, with a quarter of these having improved by more than +5.0 points.

Health is the most improved sub-category within the 2014 IIAG. In the last five years, all of its underlying indicators, which measure issues such as maternal mortality, immunisation and undernourishment, have registered progress. However, this largely positive picture masks the poor performance of some countries, particularly in Welfare. “The 2014 IIAG underscores the need to focus on building equitable and efficient institutions, such as health systems, accountability mechanisms and statistical offices.
Without these, we will not be able to meet the challenges we face – from strengthening the rule of law to managing shocks such as the Ebola virus,” said Hadeel Ibrahim, Founding Executive Director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

The Ibrahim Index of African Governance is an analysis by Mo Ibrahim Foundation aimed at improving the level of governance of African countries. The annual index provides a framework for citizens hold governments accountable, while helping governments to focus attention on creating prosperous nations by ensuring better delivery of goods and services, and favourable policy outcomes, across every country on the continent.