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If corruption in Africa is to be fought successfully, the latest data from the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) – released recently by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation – should be taken very seriously by governments that wish to end the scourge. The foundation developed the index 10 years ago, and through it, evaluates the quality of governance across the continent. The theme for this year’s report is A Decade of African Governance and it was launched earlier in October.

As the theme implies, this year’s IIAG took a decade-long look back at Africa’s 54 countries individually in terms of several aspects of governance. A clear message that comes out of it is that lack of accountability by governments and the decreasing scores in corruption and bureaucracy characterise the degree to which good governance is taken for granted.

How it works

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The IIAG assesses progress under four main conceptual categories: Safety & Rule of Law, Participation & Human Rights, Sustainable Economic Opportunity, and Human Development.

These four categories are divided into 14 sub-categories, incorporating 95 indicators, across which each country is ranked.

“These indicators include official data, expert assessments and citizen surveys, provided by more than 30 independent global data institutions. This represents the most comprehensive collection of data on African governance,” explains the foundation’s website.

“The IIAG provides a framework for citizens, governments, institutions and the private sector to assess accurately the delivery of public goods and services, and policy outcomes, across the continent and for each of the 54 African countries.”

Throughout the 10 years of the index, there have been good performers who show a consistent will to improve across as many as possible of the 14 sub-categories, while other countries have performed dismally without signs of progress. The worst case scenario in 2015 is Libya, which deteriorated in ranking across all sub-categories.

Overall Governance a mixed bag

The 95 indicators, 14 sub-categories and four categories are used to arrive at one Overall Governance score.

As with other categories, countries are ranked within five bands of high; medium-high; medium; medium-low and low, with “high” reflecting a score of 70 points and above, while “low” indicates a score of less than 23 points. Although there were no countries in the “low” band, several of the continent’s most influential contenders moved down a band. Libya was the worst transgressor, having moved down from “medium” to “medium-low”, while South Africa was the only country to have lost its place in the “high” band, moving to “medium-high”.

Seychelles, on the other hand, moved in the opposite direction by improving its “medium-high” score enough to move into the “high” band.

“In 2015, 70% of African citizens live in the 37 countries that have shown improvement in Overall Governance over the last 10 years,” reads the report.

Over the past decade, the continental average score in Overall Governance has improved by one point. The greatest improver over the decade is Côte d’Ivoire (+13.1), followed by Togo (+9.7), Zimbabwe (+9.7), Liberia (+8.7) and Rwanda (+8.4). Libya (-18), Madagascar (-7.6) and Eritrea (-5.6) are the countries that declined the most over the last 10 years.

South Africa features in the top 10 performing countries in Overall Governance in 2015, but it is worth remembering that Ghana and South Africa are also the ninth and 10th most deteriorated over the decade. South Africa does show a slight decline in Overall Governance in 2015, making it only to number six after Mauritius, Botswana, Cabo Verde, Seychelles and Namibia.

Botswana and Mozambique also registered declines in rankings for the Southern African region. Bucking the regional trend were Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho, Zambia, Malawi and Swaziland, which raised their rankings. Zimbabwe showed the highest improved score in this category for the region, while South Africa showed the most deteriorated score.

“Reaching a regional score of 58.3 in 2015, Southern Africa remains the highest scoring region in Overall Governance, hosting four of the top ten scoring countries. Over the decade, it has improved on average by +1.3 points. It is also the best performing region with the highest average regional score in all categories but Human Development.”

Corruption still a worrying trend

The average score for the Corruption & Bureaucracy indicator has declined by -8.7 points over the last decade, with 33 countries deteriorating, 24 of them falling to their worst ever score in 2015, according to the index.

Fifteen countries have declined by more than -20.0 score points in this indicator over the last decade.

The issue of corruption cuts across all dimensions of the index. Indicators such as Judicial Independence and Property Rights, both in the Rule of Law sub-category for example, partly assess the impact of corruption while measures in other categories such as Transparency of State-owned Companies in Sustainable Economic Opportunity touch upon the subject.

Measuring aspects of corruption is, however, a main focus in the sub-category of Accountability. Accountability shows, on average, some negative trends over the decade in the state of corruption on the continent. The regional average score of 44.7 in 2015 is the worst ever score Southern Africa has received for Accountability over the past decade.

Even if it remains the second highest scoring category in the IIAG (with a score of 52.1), the decline seen in the majority of African countries in this governance dimension is concerning, reads the index.

Accountability is the lowest scoring sub-category, on average, of the 2015 IIAG, and has registered a slight deterioration over the last 10 years. A total of 29 countries have deteriorated in Accountability since 2006, while 24 have improved. South Africa ranks among the poorest performers, with a score of -13.1. Libya, Eritrea and Mozambique were the only countries in a worse off position than South Africa, scoring -15.3; -15.1; and -13.5 respectively. Côte d’Ivoire has shown the largest improvement in Accountability on the continent with +25.0, and is the only country to have improved its score every year since 2006.

Ethiopia, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Togo and Morocco have also shown notably positive trends in this sub-category over the past 10 years, according to the report. Driving the decline in accountability numbers is the deterioration in indicators that feed the data, such as Corruption & Bureaucracy; Corruption in Government & Public Officials; Corruption Investigation; Accountability of Public Officials; and Diversion of Public Funds. It is data obtained across these sections that determines the Accountability score.

Although South Africa is ranked among the top ten countries in the Safety & Rule of Law category, it is one of those that have deteriorated.

“The deteriorating continental performance in Safety & Rule of Law could be holding back governance progress in general; without exception, all countries that have deteriorated in Overall Governance have also deteriorated in this category.”

In closing his foreword for the report foundation chair Mo Ibrahim said: “Data on Africa and data on governance have improved, enabling us to strengthen our Index and assessment of governance. Between the first and the tenth IIAGs, the number of indicators has almost doubled, from 58 indicators to 95, but more investment is required.”