South Africa has led the pack in the southern African economic region in public participation and human rights but scored low in safety and the rule of law in the 2017 Ibrahim Index of African Governance.
Launched in Dakar, Senegal, on Monday, the 2017 Ibrahim Index of African Governance said Africa’s human development initiative reached high growth in the fields of welfare and health tracked over the last ten years, despite some public concerns last year.
“Worryingly, on a continent where 41% of the population is under 15 years old, progress in education has nearly ground to a halt. Africans are particularly dissatisfied with how governments are addressing changing educational needs, as reflected by the accelerated pace of decline in the education provision indicator over the last five years,” the index revealed.
Mo Ibrahim, chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, said: “Without vigilance and sustained efforts, the progress of recent years could be in danger of vanishing.”
South Africa was ranked sixth out of 54 in Africa after it scored 70.1 out of 100.0 in overall governance compared with last year’s 69.5.
Mauritius has taken first place followed by the Seychelles; Botswana is third followed by Cabo Verde (formerly Cape Verde) and Namibia is in the fifth position.
The index also paid attention to the sub-category on infrastructure saying it was a major driver of the continent’s overall performance in sustainable economic opportunity; however electricity infrastructure continued to register an average decline.
“The deterioration in Africa’s rural sector over the last five years, which could threaten recent progress in this key area for the continent’s sustainable growth and wealth-creating potential, is a particular cause for concern,” the index warned.
Abdalla Hamdok, chair of the Ibrahim Index of African governance advisory council, told City Press in a telephonic interview today that the ranking of many countries would improve significantly if they were to vigorously implement their regional economic agreements and vision for economic trade integration, collaboration on infrastructure development such as transport to help facilitate trade and the free flow of people for tourism and business links, as well as reduce trade barriers such as those based on tariffs.
“It is very unfortunate that 55% of African countries continue to demand visas from citizens of this continent… We have to get the balance right between national interests and sustainable regional economic development because the understanding of the bigger developmental picture is very critical,” he said.
He added that it was long proven that intracontinental trade and collaborations on regional infrastructure development played a major role in advancing regional economies and increasing job opportunities for citizens of participating countries.
Despite sustainable economic opportunity being the slowest improving category over the past decade and within the past five years, the index said there was some slight progress since 2014.
While the African average economic improvement has slowed over the last five years, 16 countries, representing 51% of the continent’s population and 54% of its GDP, have managed to record growth rate in this period.
Participation and human rights
On South Africa’s performance in these fields, the index particularly noted that South Africa’s overall governance decline over the decade was driven by three of the four categories: safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, and sustainable economic opportunity.
Participation and human rights is the only category picking up speed in the last five years, with the greatest number of countries (17) improving at an accelerated rate across all four categories.
However, this masks some concerning trends in certain countries and dimensions. 18 countries show either a slower pace (i.e. Congo, Gabon, Nigeria, Rwanda, Togo, Uganda and Egypt).
However, it hailed the fact that a majority of countries showed some improvement in conducting free and fair elections. It added that slow progress was noted in the subcategory field of accountability.
Hamdok said the index also scored countries according to their levels of freedoms for civil society participation.
This was encouraging countries to increasingly enable their citizens to actively participate in holding governments accountable and matters of governance scrutinised through various means by non-governmental organisations or civil society structures.
“This is the beauty of democracy where leadership also starts from the ground up and it enhances the quality of public participation in matters of governance,” he added.
The index said that despite its weaknesses in these categories, South Africa has nonetheless scored higher than the regional average for southern Africa (58.6) and higher than the African average (50.8).
The continent’s overall governance trajectory remained positive on average, but it also noted that in recent years has moved at a slower pace.
“As many countries struggle to build on recent progress or to reverse negative trends, and as concerns emerge in some key sectors, the Foundation is calling for vigilance on the continent’s future,” it said.
This was the 11th edition of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance looking at both country and indicator trends over the last five years (2012-2016), within the context of the last decade (2007-2016).
It said over the past 10 years, about 40 African countries improved slightly in overall governance.
In the last five years, at least 18 of these – a third of the continent’s countries and home to 58% of African citizens – including Cote d’Ivoire, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria and Senegal, managed to accelerate their progress.
“In 2016, the continent achieved its highest overall governance score to date (50.8 out of 100.0),” the index declared, adding that of the 40 African countries improving in overall governance during the last decade, more than half (22) have either done so at a slower pace in the last five years such as Rwanda and Ethiopia or show declines such as Mauritius, Cameroon and Angola.
Eight of the 12 countries that registered the decline in overall governance chart over the past decade showed no signs of turning things around, with scores decreasing at an even faster rate over the second half of the decade.
This group included Botswana (even though it is still ranked third highest), Ghana, Libya and Mozambique.
The index also raised concerns about the pace of deterioration in safety and rule of law.
This was driven by slowing decline in personal safety due to crime and political violence. Another concerning trend showed that national security was also deteriorating at an even faster pace over the second half of the decade, more than doubling its annual average decline.
Over the second half of the decade, 15 African countries, including Burundi, Cameroon, Libya, and Mozambique, were affected while some countries, such as Angola and Mauritius, registered a recent downturn despite improvement over 10 years.