Maintaining Gains in African Governance in 2016

Launched last October, the 2015 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) reveals that overall governance progress in Africa is stalling. Even though the Participation & Human Rights and Human Development categories continue to improve, these advances are outweighed by deterioration in Safety & Rule of Law and Sustainable Economic Opportunity.

Over the last four years, only six countries out of 54 were able to achieve progress in all four components of the index—Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. If we drill down a little further, to the subcategory level, gains achieved in Participation, Infrastructure, or Health are of course heartening, and do indeed register the commitment of all stakeholders—Africans and partners alike. However, the drops registered by National Security, Rural Sector, and, most of all, Business Environment, are cause for concern.

We also need to acknowledge that Africa is not a country. The scores and trends seen in the 54 individual countries on the continent are diverse, with now more than a 70-point gap between the top-ranking country, Mauritius, and the bottom ranking one, Somalia. Moreover, the 2015 IIAG results also point to a shifting landscape, with diverging results. Over the last four years, half of the top 10 performing countries since 2000 have registered a decline of their governance performance (Mauritius, Cabo Verde, Botswana, Seychelles, and Ghana). Meanwhile, half of the 10 largest improvers during these last four years are countries that already rank in the upper rungs of the index. If they manage to sustain this trend, they may well become the next leading performers of the continent—Tunisia (8th in 2015 IIAG), Senegal (9th), Rwanda (11th), Kenya (14th), and Morocco (16th).

2015 was a milestone year for Africa. The new Sustainable Development Goals are meant to guide the African development agenda for the next 15 years, and the decisions from COP21 will of course contribute to shaping the African continent’s response to climate change. But this will not be enough. More crucial will be our shared ability to manage what represents the four key challenges of 2016 that are so closely related to good governance and strong leadership: the commodity crisis, for a continent whose economic growth still remains far too much export-led and job-poor; the migration surge, which only reveals the worsening demographic divide and imbalance between youth’s expectations and prospects both at the economic and political levels; the growing threat of religious and ethnic divides; and the ability to integrate a 54-country patchy continent, which for me is the only cross-cutting response that can sustainably address these interconnected issues.