Africa: Continent’s Best, Worst-Governed Nations

Monday, October 05, 2009 

MoIbrahimCape Town — Southern Africa is the continent’s best-governed and Central Africa its worst-governed region, according to a new ranking of Africa’s quality of governance published today.

If you are an African who ranks health, education and freedom from poverty as your top priority, you are best off in the Seychelles, and worst off in the Central African Republic.

But if you value human rights and participation in government highest, you are best off in Mauritius. You’re worst off in Somalia, but Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Libya and Sudan are not much better.

These are among a host of findings revealed in the 2009 Ibrahim Index of Governance, which was launched at the Centre for African Studies at the University of Cape Town on Monday. The index is named after Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese-born cellphone entrepreneur who has launched the foundation of the same name to improve the quality of leadership in Africa.

This year’s index differs from the first two – published in 2007 and 2008 – by including North Africa for the first time, boosting the number of countries surveyed from 48 to 53. One North African country enters the ranks of the 10 best-governed in the continent: Tunisia, which comes in at 8th place. Eqypt is ranked 11 of 53, Algeria 14, Morocco 16 and Libya 23.

Also for the first time, the index groups countries by region. On an index ranging from 1 to 100, Southern Africa scores 58.1, North Africa 57.7, West Africa 51.7, East Africa 46.9 and Central Africa 40.2. Regional groupings are those used by the African Development Bank, and Central Africa comprises Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and  Gabon.

Overall, this year’s index shows that "about 26 or 27 countries have improved in general," Mo Ibrahim told AllAfrica in an interview a week ahead of the publication of the findings.

The 2009 survey shows that Southern Africa includes five of the 10 best-governed countries on the continent – Mauritius, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Lesotho – but its score is dragged down by Zimbabwe, which is categorized as the third-worst governed country in Africa, after Somalia and Chad.

West Africa includes two of the 10 best-governed countries – Cape Verde and Ghana – but is pulled down by Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire in the bottom 10. In East Africa, the Seychelles and Tanzania are in the top 10, but Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia in the bottom 10.

As in previous surveys, Somalia is the worst-governed country in Africa, scoring the lowest ranking in three of four indicators of the quality of government which the index employs.

The four indicators of quality of governance are safety and rule of law; participation and human rights; sustainable economic opportunity; and human development, which examines poverty levels, health and education provision. More than 80 measurements are used to rank quality in these four areas.

On the safety and rule of law index, Somalia is Africa’s least-safe country, while Cape Verde is its safest. Mauritius offers the best sustainable economic opportunities, and Somalia the fewest – its ranking in this category – 0.9 – is by far the worst of any ranking on the index.

Also as in past years, some small countries perform far better than the continent’s giants – little Lesotho comes in at 9th place, while Nigeria is in the bottom half of the index, with a placing of 35. Senegal is placed 17th, Kenya 22nd and Ethiopia 37th.

Of countries which have been in the news in recent months, Guinea’s ranking is 44, Madagascar’s is 13, Mauritania’s 28 and Niger’s 34.