“Governance in Africa will improve if governments embrace meritocracy.”
The recently launched Ibrahim Index on African Governance (IIAG) indicates a stall in the progress of governance in Africa: it shows a recorded weakening performance in 21 countries with the average overall governance score increasing only by an addition of 0.2 points to 50.1. The IIAG is an annual assessment of the state of governance in African countries, within four distinct categories – Safety & Rule of Law, Participation & Human Rights, Sustainable Economic Opportunity and Human Development. These countries are scored on a scale of 0 to 100 – with the highest score showing the best performance – and ranked from 1 to 54.
The top three ranking countries on the index are Mauritius (70.9), Cabo Verde (74.5), and Botswana (74.2), all of which exhibit a decline in overall governance and in at least two of the four components over the last four years. The bottom three countries – Central African Republic (24.9), South Sudan (19.9) and Somalia (8.5) – have one thing in common, which is war and crisis. South Sudan and Central African Republic also recorded the most extreme deteriorations, along with Mali, -9.6, -8.4, and -8.1 respectively.
Following the launch of the IIAG on Monday the 5th of October, Ventures Africa interviewed Sir Ketumile Masire, a board member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Sir Masire was the second president of Botswana. He served the country for 18 years – 1980 to 1998 – and was a leading figure in the independence movement and the new government. He also played a crucial role in facilitating and protecting Botswana’s steady financial growth and development.
Ventures Africa (VA): What is the significance of this index?
Sir Ketumile Masire (SKM): The significance is very great because it does show those who are running the country what the shortcomings are in running the country. And also where they perform well to see where they can continue to improve that or make sure they keep at that and don’t fall down. But at the same time, it is also helpful to members of society who may not know precisely where to put the blame, to have the performance articulated and to come out in figures, to ensure that they can squarely meet the government and those that are running the country, where their shortcomings are. And this is not in just absolute terms but is also in relative terms, and relative terms to that past performance as against current performance in relative to how other countries are doing in the same sector in various parts of the 54 countries in Africa;
V.A: The recent index indicates a stall in good governance in Africa, despite improved living conditions, what do you think is the reason for this?
SKM: As conditions improve, there must also be getting accustomed to how to practice in the new development. Some people find it doesn’t quite happen the way they think it was going to happen and therefore don’t perform in keeping with how the development … it’s expected they should behave that way.
V.A: How do we get out of this state? What can be done to improve governance in Africa?
SKM: I think as they say, the best approach to any problem is to try a new angle, we must keep on trying to improve. And if we try to find how to improve, we are more likely to find a way than if we merely just sit satisfied saying we are doing well, and this is where the statistic can also come to – shifting the target because that is what all life is, to know whether you are moving to the right or to the left, and therefore make your efforts accordingly.
VA: How is the trend in governance over the years different from your time as the Head of state of Botswana?
SKM: Well I am afraid it’s difficult for me to judge now that I’m outside. I don’t know what sectors are now affecting it, but it is a pity that in some areas it seems to be going down, we have not held our position consistently, we are beginning to slip on quite a number of ways in the governance scheme of things.
V.A: Botswana is one of the countries that registered a decline in the progress of governance in the four categories of assessment. Though you’ve been out of office for quite a while, what has changed? What do you think is the cause for the deterioration in governance?
SKM: I think it’s because of the style of leadership. It’s also because people are becoming more critical, more educated, the press is more lively and the factors are changing and therefore the product changes in accordance to the changes that take place. Primarily, I’ll say it’s the style of leadership … I think there was a general realization in the country that we are coming from virtually nowhere, and we are in pursuit of an objective and everybody got geared to that. We were looking at the merits. In our leadership of meritocracy, there was not a question of my cousin or my friend, it was just a question of who can do the best. And whoever could do it the best out of all of us was the right person to do it at that time; sometimes in assessing ourselves and finding that we can’t find among ourselves the right people and looking outside to see if we can get somebody to do the job.
VA: So what you are saying is that God-fatherism – which is what we call it in Nigeria – is a responsible factor for the stalled progress of governance in the continent?
SKM: Yes, that can be devastating wherever it happens.
V.A: Have there been direct reactions to this index over the last 15 years of its existence? Has any country reached out to the Mo Ibrahim foundation in response to the index?
SKM: So far, I’m not aware of anybody who has challenged the foundation on issues of the index. There have only been congratulations all around.
VA: I bet it’s for those countries who are improving. There certainly won’t be congratulations for those who are not doing so well. So what is the process of getting this index ready?
SKM: There are about 36 or more institutions from whom information is drawn. And also the statistics in the countries are also looked at. It’s not just looking to the skies and hoping for inspiration, but the technical data is placed on the table and weighed; it is from these information that the index derives conclusions.
V.A: What’s your opinion on the crisis in Burundi and Burkina Faso? you know it has to do with leadership and governance as well, so I just want to get your opinion on that.
SKM: Well I can only say yes indeed I think it has something to do with the leadership.