Africa in democratic recession

2010-10-04 12:43

Johannesburg - Many countries in Africa are enjoying a period of economic growth, but the continent's progress has been undermined by declines in the rule of law, a political-performance survey said on Monday.

The Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance, a survey designed to encourage good government and name and shame Africa's worst regimes, gave the continent a mixed report card, saying recent economic growth and development has been offset by declines in political rights and security.

The index, launched in 2007, is published annually by a foundation created by Mo Ibrahim, a wealthy Sudanese businessman who founded Celtel International telecommunications.

"The 2010 Ibrahim Index gives us a mixed picture about recent progress on governance across the continent," Ibrahim said in a statement.

"While many African citizens are becoming healthier and have greater access to economic opportunities than five years ago, many of them are less physically secure and less politically enfranchised."

Highest and lowest

The index examines 88 indicators and ranks African countries in five areas: overall governance, safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity, and human development.

The study's authors said Africa's overall governance, scored on a scale of zero to 100, remained largely unchanged from previous years with a continent-wide average of 49.

Mauritius (82) topped the overall ranking, followed by Seychelles (75), Botswana (74), Cape Verde (74) and South Africa (70).

Somalia (8) scored lowest. Eritrea (33), Zimbabwe (32), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (32) and Chad (31) rounded out the bottom five.

Of the 53 countries surveyed, 41 have seen improvement over the past five years in the area of sustainable economic opportunity, the foundation said.

But the gains have been offset by declines in 35 countries in the area of safety and the rule of law, and almost two-thirds of countries declined in the areas of participation and human rights.

Pay attention to rights

The study's authors said Africa's economic growth is being undermined by a "democratic recession", and urged the continent's leaders not to neglect the political side of development.

"We have seen from evidence and experience across the world that discrepancies between political governance and economic management are unsustainable in the long term," said a statement from Salim Ahmed Salim, former head of the Organisation of African Unity and a foundation board member.

"If Africa is going to continue to make progress we need to pay attention to the rights and safety of citizens."

Ibrahim is also the creator of the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, the world's largest annual prize, created to reward former leaders for good governance.

Winners get a $5m prize split over 10 years, plus $200 000 annually for the rest of their lives and $200 000 a year for charitable causes of their choice.

The prize far exceeds the $1.5m given to recipients of the Nobel Prize.