Island Nations Top African Governance Index; Somalia Ranks Last
A newly-released list that ranks the effectiveness of governments in sub-Saharan Africa shows small island nations such as Mauritius, the Seychelles and Cape Verde at the top, and conflict-ridden countries such as Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia at the bottom. The rankings were released in Addis Ababa.
The rankings indicate two thirds of African governments are getting better year-by-year. Liberia is perhaps making the biggest strides toward good governance.
On the other end of the scale, a few countries, particularly those where wars are being waged,are failing. Somalia, ungovernable for more than a decade, ranked last of the 48 countries surveyed.
Those are the findings of the, an annual ranking of sub-Saharan African nations according to quality of governance. They are based on data for 2006, compiled and analyzed by experts from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
The Index is the idea of Sudanese businessman Mo Ibrahim, who made a fortune bringing mobile-phone technology to much of Africa during the past decade. He is now devoting his time and a substantial portion of his fortune to addressing what many consider Africa's biggest failing, bad governance.
Ibrahim unveiled his second annual index at a news conference in Addis Ababa. He was joined by several board members of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Among them were Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and U.N. Human Rights chief, as well as Salim Ahmed Salim, the former head of the Organization of African Unity and former prime minister of Tanzania.
One of the most disturbing findings is that the quality of governance deteriorated between 2005 and 2006 in the Horn of Africa and the surrounding region, including Sudan. Salim Salim says regional conflicts are undermining all progress.
"You talk about conflicts. You talk of Somalia. You talk of the situation right now in Somalia which affects Ethiopia," he said. "You talk of the Ethiopia-Eritrea situation. You talk of Sudan, [this all] is involved in deterioration of the situation in Sudan, so the number-one problem that has affected this region has been the issue of conflict."
Ibrahim admits the Governance Index is not perfect for two important reasons. First, the data is often provided by the rated governments themselves, and he says governments lie. Second, the picture is already dated, since the most recent data is from 2006, the last year for which statistics are available.
But he says the index is a valuable tool, giving governments an assessment of the quality of services provided to their citizens. He says when he began looking at ways of re-investing the millions he made from his African company Celltel, he recognized good governance as the top priority.
"We could have given this money to the people in the camps in Darfur, to the vaccine for AIDS," Ibrahim said. "These are all pain killers, what we need is to define the root for conflict. Why Darfur happened. Why Somalia happened. Why DRC happened. What we need is to deal with the root of the disease, not to give aspirins. That is why I decided to give the money to this foundation."
This year's index ranked Mauritius as the best governed sub-Saharan African nation for the second year. Next came Seychelles, Cape Verde, Botswana and South Africa, in that order. Liberia showed the most progress, jumping more than 10 points on the index, to move up to 38th place among the 48 countries surveyed.
After Somalia, Africa's worst governed countries are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Sudan, Angola and the Central African Republic.
Zimbabwe ranked 33rd among African nations in 2006, though analysts say recent developments will push it further down in future surveys.
The index measures governance based on five criteria: safety and security; rule of law; transparency and corruption; participation and human rights; economic opportunity and human development.