Released on 25 January, just days before this week’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) gives further insight into why sub-Saharan Africa is consistently the worst performing region in the CPI.

Launched in 2007 by Sudanese-British businessman Mo Ibrahim, the IIAG is published every two years, and is described as “the most comprehensive dataset measuring African governance performance”. The Ibrahim Foundation defines governance as the provision of the political, social, economic and environmental goods and services that every citizen has the right to expect from their state, and that a state has the responsibility to deliver to its citizens.

This year’s edition, the 14th, draws its information from 47 independent, external data sources, including the World Justice Project, Enact, Afrobarometer, Freedom House, the World Bank, the World Inequality Database, and Open Data Watch. Results are tabled under four categories: Security & Rule of Law, Participation, Rights & Inclusion, Foundations for Economic Opportunity, and Human Development. These categories are further divided into 16 sub-categories, four in each category, making a total of 81 indicators.

The index scores quantify a country’s performance for each governance measure each data year, expressed out of 100.0 (with 100.0 being the best score). Ranks are calculated based on the respective scores and are expressed out of 54. When two or more countries have the same score, they share the same place in the ranking table.

Download the Ibrahim Index of African Governance.

Governance at a standstill

The assessment of 54 countries provides a framework for citizens, governments, institutions, academics, and business to assess the delivery of public goods and services, and policy outcomes, across Africa.

Economic opportunities and human development has improved “quite a lot” across Africa over the past decade, says Ibrahim. “But on the other hand, we see other forces pulling us back. The security and safety of our people is deteriorating.

“Unless we quickly address this concerning trend, the years of progress we have witnessed could be lost, and Africa will be unable to reach in due time the SDGs or Agenda 2063 … These are challenging times. More than ever, commitment to strengthen governance must be renewed, lest we lose all progress achieved.”

Improvements were noted since 2012 in both Foundations for Economic Opportunity and Human Development. However, for most African countries huge challenges remain in areas such as employment, as well as transport and energy infrastructure.

The report notes that for 53.3% of the continent’s population, overall governance performance is better in 2021 than in 2012. However, despite a marginal improvement over the past decade, the same overall governance on the continent has flatlined since 2019.

“Improvements in human development and economic foundations are undermined by an increasingly perilous security situation and widespread democratic backsliding – as the continent struggles to manage the combined impacts of global, non-African born challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis.”

Security & Rule of Law, with a drop of -1.3, is the category with the largest decline over the decade, notes the IIAG. Furthermore, in the past five years there has been “a substantial increase of the pace of deterioration”. This edition of the index reflects that almost 70% of the continent’s population live in a country where the level of Security & Rule of Law is worse than in 2012.

According to the IIAG, the main driver of this downward trend is the Security & Safety sub-category, which has experienced the largest sub-category decline (-5.8) in the past 10 years. The sub-categories Rule of Law & Justice and Anti-Corruption have for the last five years also contributed to the decline in the category of Security & Rule of Law.

“Even though both have reached in 2021 a better level than in 2012, progress has stopped for Anti-Corruption since 2017 and Rule of Law & Justice has worryingly reverted to decline.”

This echoes the findings of the CPI, which is published this year under the theme of Conflict, peace and security. The 2022 CPI highlights the link between corruption and conflict globally, and the threat that corruption poses to peace and security.

In terms of the 81 indicators, notes the IIAG, the two most improved over the decade sit in the Infrastructure sub-category: Mobile Communications (+21.8) and Internet & Computers (+16.9). This was the case for South Africa, along with Access to Banking Services.

At the same time, Freedom of Association & Assembly has deteriorated the most (-11.3) since 2012. “Freeness and fairness of elections have declined, space for civil society has shrunk, and political pluralism is on the decline.”

South Africa

The average overall score for governance this year is 48.9, with an overall increase of +1.1. Thirty-five countries improved overall, while 19 declined. South Africa is one of the former, though the 10-year trend is a mere +0.9 – worse than the entire continent-wide trend. The lack of movement is seen in the CPI, too, where South Africa’s score this year slipped back to the same level of 10 years ago.

The country’s overall governance score for 2022 is 67.7 out of 100, placing it at number 6 on the ranking table.

It is outperformed by Mauritius in the top place, followed by Seychelles, Tunisia, Cabo Verde, and Botswana – of which all but Tunisia ranked higher than South Africa on the CPI, though Tunisia was not far behind. The North African country, with Mauritius and Seychelles, was found to have the most effective government on the continent, while those of South Sudan, Guinea-Bissau and Somalia were the worst.

Readers will not be surprised to learn that the category of Security & Rule of Law is where South Africa has declined the most in the past decade, down -1.5 from its 2012 score. They will further not be surprised to learn that South Africa’s second lowest indicator is Anti-Corruption Mechanisms with a decline of -20.3 – this was the biggest drop of all indicators – and the fourth lowest is Absence of Corruption in the Private Sector, down -13.4 since 2012.

Under the sub-category Anti-corruption, the country has dropped -6.5 points since 2012. Interestingly, South Africa registered its biggest gain in this sub-section with Public Procurement Procedures – +6.5 up overall since 2012. This can partly be attributed to the efforts of Corruption Watch and other NGOs, who have pushed relentlessly for greater transparency in the public procurement space.

The efforts of civil society will have also played a role in the 3.5-point increase in the sub-category Accountability and Transparency. Here South Africa fared better overall in four of the five indicators – Institutional Checks & Balances, Absence of Undue Influence on Government, Civic Checks & Balances, and Disclosure of Public Records – with the only decrease coming in Accessibility of Public Records (-2.6).