Some steps backward but more steps forward
Government Improves Across Africa
According to the 2008 annual index by African telecommunications pioneer Mo Ibrahim, the quality of governance improved between 2005 and 2006 in 31 of 48 African nations surveyed. Liberia showed the biggest leap in government performance in the period, while Mauritania deteriorated the most. AllAfrica.com circulated the information October 6.
by AllAfricaThe Mo Ibrahim Foundation, the organization founded by African telecommunication pioneer Mo Ibrahim to promote better government in the continent, published in Addis Ababa its 2008 survey of African governance.
The area of governance which showed the biggest improvement across the continent was "participation and human rights," where 29 countries showed progress.
In a statement issued with the results, Mo Ibrahim said that despite some of the headlines of recent months, "the real story coming out of Africa is that governance performance across a large majority of African countries is improving... I hope these results will be used as a tool by Africa's citizens to hold their governments to account..."
The survey ranked Mauritius, Seychelles, Cape Verde, Botswana, and South Africa the best-governed countries on the continent -- although South Africa falls near the bottom of the "safety and security" rankings as the seventh most dangerous country.
The five worst-governed countries were Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Sudan, and Angola.
The survey, entitled the "Ibrahim Index of African Governance," is produced by a team from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in the United States, supported by an advisory council of African academics and corporate leaders.
Liberia was the country, after two decades of instability and civil war, which recorded the highest improvement," said Mary Robinson, board member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, former president of Ireland, and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in an interview with allAfrica.com. "That's a good message, because we're seeing a country with good governance and, of course, the first African woman president, [who is] committed to strengthening governance and rule of law and human rights in her country," continued Robinson.
Compared to last year's survey, 31 countries improved their governance scores. The five countries which improved the most were, in order of performance, Liberia, Burundi, Uganda, Guinea-Bissau and Madagascar. Governance deteriorated the most in Mauritania, Chad, Somalia, São Tomé and Príncip, and Gambia.
Although Nigeria registered a slight improvement in score, it slipped one place - from the 38th best-governed country to the 39th. Kenya's score dropped and it slipped two places -- from 15th to 17th.
Mauritania dropped 11 places in the rankings, Gambia seven and Guinea six places. Uganda and Burundi went up by eight places, Guinea-Bissau by seven places and Liberia by six places.
While the results of the Mo Ibrahim Index reveal a positive democratic trend across the continent, the international humanitarian community is concerned that last week's launch of a US military command for Africa may not bode well for peace and development on the continent.
The index ranks African countries using 57 criteria in five categories: safety and security (assessing the effects of conflict and violent crime); the rule of law, transparency and corruption; participation and human rights (which examines the freedom to vote and respect for press freedom and other rights); sustainable economic opportunity; and human development (which considers poverty levels, health and education provision).
JJS: Each of those five categories shows improvement in countries that settle the question of who should receive the benefits from land in a manner satisfactory to the majority of people. Historically in Europe, only after medieval peasants finally won some land rights did that continent advance along these five metrics.
Within the last century and half, five places advanced by reforming ownership of land. Denmark, California, Australia, New Zealand, and Taiwan did not forcibly redistribute land but taxed land value; owners of huge estates felt impelled to sell off their excess at prices that new farmers could afford. Prosperity, security, participation and the rest followed.
This shift of taxes from our efforts to our land is a sure-fire method available to an African or any nation anywhere.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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