Monday, October 08, 2007

Mo Ibrahim releases African governance ranking

Somalia has been ranked as the worst governed nation in 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa ahead of Congo and Chad in a survey of political performance, released this week. The study by the British-based Mo Ibrahim Foundation showed that Mauritius was the best governed in the continent and many of its fellow island nations filled the top places. Recovering from its 1994 genocide, Rwanda has made the greatest recent improvements. The index ranked the countries on five factors: safety and security; rule of law, transparency and corruption; participation and human rights; sustainable economic opportunity; and human development.

The man who gave his name to the ranking is Mo Ibrahim; a London businessman, born in Sudan. Ibrahim made his millions in telecommunications and he owns the fastest-growing mobile phone group in sub-Saharan African. The 61 year old Ibrahim began his stellar career by having a brainwave in a taxi cab in 1965. Because he couldn’t figure out how a signal reached the cab radio, he spent several degrees trying to find the answer. He then graduated from British Telecom to his own consultancy firm. Africa remains his passion. He established the foundation in his own name to stimulate debate on governance, provide criteria to judge it, and recognise achievement to those that made it.

As well as the index, later this month (22 October) Ibrahim will announce the first winner of a prize for achievement in African leadership. The prize will land one former head of state or government leader $5 million over 10 years and a further $200,000 a year annually. A further $200,000 will be made available for good causes chosen by the winner. It far exceeds the $1.5 million dollars given to recipients of a Nobel Prize and will be chosen by a committee of Kofi Annan (former UN gen-sec) , Martti Ahtisaari (former Finnish President), Aïcha Bah Diallo (former Guinean politician and UN advisor), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigerian politician), Mary Robinson (ex UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) and Salim Ahmed Salim, (ex PM of Tanzania).

In the meantime, Ibrahim’s comprehensive publication of a ranking of governance quality in sub-Saharan Africa will cause much debate within the community about its accuracy. The top ten ranked in order (pdf) are Mauritius, the Seychelles, Botswana, Cape Verde, South Africa, Gabon, Namibia, Ghana, Senegal, and São Tomé and Príncipe. Four of these are island nations including the top two, as well as Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe. Of surprising interest perhaps is that Zimbabwe was ranked 31st, still ahead of 16 other countries.

The terms of the study were developed under the direction of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard with the help of African academics. The 48 nation states were assessed against a comprehensive new index of governance indicators measured against clear, objective outcomes. Ibrahim himself believes they are improving the quality of governance in Africa and offering a model for the rest of the world. "(The) Index is a tool to hold governments to account and frame the debate about how we are governed,” he said. “Africans are setting benchmarks not only for their own continent, but for the world."

Mauritius is judged the best overall with a combined score of 86.2, scoring best on safety and security (91.7), 90 on human development, 88.7 on participation on human rights; 85.2 on rule of law, transparency and corruption, and 75.5 on sustainable economic opportunity. The result follows an International Finance Corp report last month for the World Bank that judged the island the easiest African nation to do business with.

Despite the success in the islands along the fringes, doing business in much of continental Africa remains fraught due to bureaucracy, a fragile investment climate and inadequate infrastructure. The bottom five on Ibrahim’s report were Guinea-Bissau (42.7), Sudan (40.0), Chad (38.8), the Democratic Republic of Congo (38.6) and government-free Somalia was rock bottom with just 28.1. The entire Horn of Africa emerged as the most crisis ridden part of the continent with neighbours Eritrea and Ethiopia both scoring badly.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation was launched in 2004, has the backing of Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, among others. Director of the foundation and Kennedy School Professor Robert Rotberg, lauded a trend that saw African businessmen take on the challenges and try to do something about governance. "Good governance is responsible for bringing peace, stability and prosperity,” he said. “Bad governance is responsible for conflict and poverty."

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