Egyptian and African economists, policy-makers, and members of civil society were given a run-down of the 2018 Ibrahim Index for African Governance (IIAG) produced by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation at a seminar organised by the Egyptian Centre for Economic Studies (ECES), a think-tank, in Cairo this week.
According to Yannick Vuylsteke, head of the IIAG, governance is defined by the foundation as the “provision of goods and services that a citizen has the right to expect from the state and that a state has the responsibility to deliver to its citizens.”
Governance, he said, encompassed the delivery of many services, from the rule of law and access to justice, to personal safety and security, economic opportunity, the right to equality and to participate in the political process, and human development issues such as welfare, education and health.
“Without good governance, these political, social, and economic goods and services cannot be properly delivered,” Vuylsteke told Al-Ahram Weekly.
The IIAG measures countries’ performances in delivering these services. They are measured across four key components that act as indicators of a country’s overall governance performance, allowing stakeholders such as government, policy-makers, civil society, and academia to assess performance and progress in these areas and identify areas for improvement and highlight areas of success.
“It means policy-making and debates can be based on sound data and evidence,” he said.
Egypt came in 29th position among the 54 countries looked at in terms of its overall governance. It did not do well on safety and the rule of law, an area where 33 countries also showed deterioration. It did not do well in the area of participation and human rights either.
According to the index, the participation and human rights category measures civil and political rights and freedoms by assessing citizen participation in the political and electoral process, respect for basic rights, and the absence of gender discrimination.
However, Egypt was among the top 10 countries looked at in delivering sustainable economic opportunity, which according to the Index measures the extent to which governments enable their citizens to pursue economic goals and provide the opportunity to prosper.
Egypt’s position was also high at 14th in human development, which looks at whether governments provide poverty mitigation and alleviation, educational advancement, healthcare and medical and sanitary services.
In the rest of Africa, performances varied. Mauritius, the Seychelles, Cabo Verde, Namibia and Botswana were in the top five in overall performance, while the Central African Republic, Eritrea, Libya, South Sudan and Somalia were the lowest scoring. But, as Vuylsteke noted, these low performers have also struggled with conflicts.
As for the areas that saw the most improvement, Vuylsteke said that on average health was the most improved sub-category, particularly indicators relating to issues such as child mortality and anti-retroviral treatment provision for HIV.
He added that some data show that many citizens are still unhappy with the provision of some basic health services, however, suggesting that better data is needed to measure issues such as health infrastructure or affordability.
Vuylsteke said during the seminar that data was one of the challenges facing the computing of the Index.
He also said gender equality in Africa had improved a lot over the last 10 years, politically, socially and economically, although wide disparities existed between regions.
Although “infrastructure has really improved, and many countries show large gains in physical infrastructure and also digital and information technology,” scores remain low across many African countries, and a reliable electricity supply is still a major problem across Africa, he added.
Vuylsteke stressed that the foundation works with governments all year round as much as possible and is very receptive to opening debates on governance based on the index. “The index is not meant to criticise or praise anyone; it is just one tool so we can all improve governance together. We are all invested in this,” he said.
The 2018 Index is the 12th to appear thus far, with Vuylsteke saying that at the beginning it only covered Sub-Saharan Africa, and there was not much comparable data available.
The index has grown since it was created, however, and it now has a decade’s worth of data, meaning that important trends can be assessed. However, African sources are still lacking, he said.
At first, there was only one African source of data, but today almost 30 per cent of the data comes from African sources and institutions, Vuylsteke said, adding that there was a need for more African institutions to produce data.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, set up by the Sudanese-British billionaire, is an African foundation established in 2006 with a focus on governance and leadership in Africa.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 24 October, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.