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Governing well in Africa: progress slows in 2019

The progress in the governance of the African countries in the last decade was a line that grew or remained stable. Until 2019. Last year, this trend lost a couple of tenths according to the index prepared by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation (IIAG, for its acronym in English), a consolidated thermometer of the African reality that from this year will be biennial instead of annual. The report published this Monday shows an average drop of 0.2 in the 54 African countries that the meter evaluates. The decrease is mainly noticeable in three of the four indicators: rights and inclusion, security, justice and human development, and citizen participation. This last scale, with special weight in the study, puts on the table a growing popular discontent towards political leaders, which has begun to be more noticeable since 2015.

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In the latest report from the Foundation, published in 2018, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of all African countries increased although it was not enough to create new economic opportunities that benefited citizens, which showed that progress was still lagging behind the needs and expectations of a population in constant growth, composed mainly of young people.

“Compared to ten years ago, we see that on the continent there is less freedom of association, less political plurality and that the space of civil society is increasingly shrinking.” The one speaking is Nathalie Delapalme, Executive Director of the Foundation, led by Sudanese billionaire Mohammed Ibrahim. The engineer, born in 1946, is one of the most influential people on the continent and the one who brought mobile telephony to it in the late 90s. Ibrahim started Mobile Systems International and Celtel and planted towers everywhere, becoming the first operator to offer roaming free in Africa. Believing in the potential of the 54 countries has been his personal brand. And with that vocation to undertake in their land, the foundation was born, which since 2007 has closely monitored governments.

The researcher Delapalme puts the magnifying glass on 2015; that was the turning point at which the evaluated parameters stagnated and later began to decline. Delapalme points out that citizens rate the questions related to political participation and rights worse: “This is a clear reflection of the attack on personal and press freedom. Furthermore, we must not forget that African governments are also restricting rights in virtual space ”. This is the photograph of Africa just before the pandemic hit to turn the world upside down.

While it is true that the continent has controlled the pandemic better than other regions of the globe, there is no doubt that it will upset the indicators of the next report. Delapalme warns: “Covid-19 will only worsen a deteriorating continent long before the coronavirus. Stronger restrictions on freedom, postponed elections and a huge economic blow from which it will take a lot to recover are already beginning to be noticed ”. On the continent, more than 47,000 people have died and about 270,000 remain infected. The social and political cost, the report’s experts predict, will be devastating and will have consequences on global security and stability.

Nathalie Delapalme, executive director of the Foundation, puts the magnifying glass on 2015; that was the turning point at which the evaluated parameters stagnated and later began to decline.

Although there is a country ranking, in which Mauritius is at the top and Somalia at the bottom, the researchers insist on focusing on accumulated progress rather than on the podium position. Somalia, for example, despite occupying the bottom rung, is the seventh country that has improved the most in the last ten years. Zimbabwe (33) and Gambia (16) are two of the five that have evolved the most. According to the study’s conclusions, 38 countries are moving forward in the economic and job opportunities market and 34 are advancing, albeit more slowly, in human development. Human rights and inclusion and security are the most devastated areas: 29 and 22 countries show increasing deterioration, respectively.

This year, the index has been modified and expanded to faithfully collect the data and government scenarios that have changed so much since 2007, the year the meter was released. Camilla Rocca, responsible for the investigation, described it in the presentation on-line of the report as “an adaptation to the XXI century and its needs”. Starting this year, the thermometer includes: environment, digital rights and mitigation of inequality, as well as the exclusive creation of a new section dedicated to African citizenship. “For the Foundation,” Delapalme explains, “governing is not just political commitments or fattening budgets; leading a country has to do with delivering public services to its citizens ”. And that is what they have begun to measure. In collaboration with the Afrobarometer, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has immersed itself fully in the data on the perspectives and failures reported by citizens.

Eight countries improve on everything

In the last decade (2010-2019), only eight countries have improved in the four categories of the index. These are: Angola, Chad, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Madagascar, the Seychelles Islands, Sudan and Togo. All have taken steps forward with respect to security, rights and inclusion, economic and human development. “All of this shows that balanced progress is built with these pillars in mind and care,” says Delapalme. Three of these countries, the Seychelles, Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast, have been the ones that have grown the most.

These last two nations are especially striking given the latest news: Ivory Coast experienced turbulent elections last week and a brutal civil war recently broke out in Ethiopia in the north of its territory. Delapalme insists that the barometer is adjusted to the reality of the last ten years and hopes that “political leaders will find a way to solve both crises, which does not end the progress that has been so hard to achieve.”

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