The latest Mo Ibrahim governance index: Villains, winners and other things you probably didn't notice

It is probably time for a rethink , but have no doubt, it remains one of the better indicators of things on the ground in Africa.

THE latest release of the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance may spark debate over whether it is time to rethink the listing beyond the standard fare of a ranking.

There is probably a growing sense of a straitjacket about the annual release of the list, while it is as yet unclear if it meets its stated goals of helping nuance the public discourse over government performance in a continent where often given style (read placing) trumps substance.

But behind the headline rankings are some nuggets of information that continue to be revelatory about the continent. Mail and Guardian Africa takes a closer look at the data behind the four constituent pillars of the index: Safety and Rule of Law, Participation and Human Rights, Sustainable Economic Opportunity and Human Development and finds some not too obvious things:

Safety and Rule of Law

—Seven of the first 10, and nine of the top 15 countries in this category are in southern Africa. The sub-region outranks all other regions in three of the main pillars. It has an average 62.8 points of a feasible 100 in this order, well above the 51.7 overall African average. Of the other sub-regions, only West Africa comes in above the continental average, at 53.4. There is also a fair amount of diversity, Botswana has the highest average at 85.3, while Somalia has the least at only 5.9 from a possible 100 maximum score. (Read: Don’t want terrorists to kill you? Then live in southern Africa)

—The island countries dominate the upper echelons of this category, with an average score of 57.4,  which improves to 71.1 if you take out recovering Madagascar, and reaches 74.8 if you also omit Comoros, which has since independence experienced at least 20 coups and coup attempts. Landlocked countries score an average 52.87, ahead of the 31 countries that have a coastline which score 48 points on average.

—The biggest improvers in this category over the last five years are among some of the most criticised countries, or are recovering from conflict, suggesting they are coming from a weak starting point.  Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea saw a ten-point jump, while Sierra Leone had a 9.5 point change. Niger, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Swaziland, Gabon and Zambia round out the biggest 10 improvers. Central Africa Republic (CAR), Guinea-Bissau and Mali were the bottom three countries.

—The five North African countries of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco all over the last five years experienced steep declines, suggesting that the Arab Spring is yet to fulfill its promise, if any. Egypt and Libya particularly saw a 21.3 and 18.2 points negative swing respectively.

—An interesting sub-category was that of national security, capturing snapshots of internal and regional conflicts, and refugee situations, where Cape Verde and Mauritius had a perfect score of 100. The biggest positive changes over the last five years were countries with a history of internal conflict or being in hotspot areas, headed by Angola, Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia and Zimbabwe. 

Participation and Human Rights

—Somalia, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Chad and CAR prop up this category, with an average score of 23. 14, against a continental mean of 49.9. Libya, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau have experienced the biggest drop over the last five years, all having had a brush with conflict in recent years.

—The biggest improvement over the period came from Tunisia with a 24.9 point gain, while southern Africa continues to lead other sub-regions with a 59.1 mean. The three island countries of Cape Verde, Mauritius and Seychelles are miles away with a 78.2 average. The impact of high Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is mixed—the three islands are among the top five richest countries per capita, while the other two are Libya and Equatorial Guinea, with among the lowest scores.

Sustainable Economic Opportunity

—The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has, despite a raft of negative headlines. over the last five years made the biggest gain in creating an environment where sustainable business can be carried out, with a 7.8 point positive change. Morocco, Rwanda (a regular star business climate reformer), Djibouti and Seychelles round out the top five.  Libya, Egypt and Madagascar are ranked in the bottom three, following periods of instability.

—The DRC is also surprisingly a real star in a measure of how well its authorities are running its economy, measuring indicators such as public administration, budget management and fiscal policy. It has over the last five years gained 18.3 points, albeit from a weak base, beating out usual suspects Mauritius and Seychelles. Burundi is also a notable improver. However it ranks near last under infrastructure.

—Overall Somalia, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, CAR and Guinea-Bissau are the least likely to give you an environment to do business sustainably, with an average score of 19.8, against Africa’s average of 45.6. You are best off investing in Mauritius, South Africa, Morocco and Botswana.

Human Development

—Zimbabwe is the unlikely star in this category over the last five years, having seen a positive 10.6 point swing in its favour over the last five years. Togo, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe and Liberia are also in the top five. (See: The ‘good’ UN list where Eritrea, Zimbabwe are the stars and Nigeria pulls everyone else down).

—Morocco has over the last five years made the most gains in improving education, while Sao Tome and Principe, Ghana, Rwanda and Congo have also made big progress. The overall average score is 58.7 of 100 points, but North Africa for once beats out southern Africa, at 69.7 points to 62.9 points.

—Africa’s giants are however doing extremely poor in this area: Nigeria props up all the 52 countries on the list, while South Africa, Kenya, Botswana and Tanzania are all in the bottom 10. (Read: In these parts of Africa, the girls are running away with the big school prizes)

—-Libya, after a civil war that has decimated almost all gains, manages to claw back some respectability in meeting health needs with the highest score of 98.7, a legacy of fallen strongman Muammar Gaddafi who provided free health care. North Africa is well represented in the top eight, with five countries.

—However having high per capital GDP does not always translate to brisk human development—Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Angola and Nigeria are in the bottom half, meaning citizens should question their governments’ accountabilities and priorities.

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