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Rwanda is “most improved” African country

The inaugural Ibrahim Index of African Governance was released today. The survey, financed by the Sudanese mobile-phone entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim, ranks sub-Saharan African countries according to security, rule of law, human rights, and development. Two tiny island nations, Mauritius and the Seychelles, came out on top. Botswana, Cape Verde, and South Africa are the best-governed ...

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The inaugural Ibrahim Index of African Governance was released today. The survey, financed by the Sudanese mobile-phone entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim, ranks sub-Saharan African countries according to security, rule of law, human rights, and development. Two tiny island nations, Mauritius and the Seychelles, came out on top. Botswana, Cape Verde, and South Africa are the best-governed countries on the mainland, while unsurprisingly, Sudan, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Somalia were the worst. Ibrahim is also planning to give a $5 million prize next month to a former African head of state who exemplified good governance. The BBC examines some of the top candidates here.

One of the strengths of the index is that it includes retroactive data dating back to 2000, which allows readers to examine trends over time. Rwanda was the most improved nation, jumping 18 spots to 18th place. In fact, one American businessman has called the country “the most undervalued ‘stock’ on the continent and maybe in the world.” Rwanda, however, is still categorized as “not free” in the most recent Freedom House Freedom in the World survey, which criticizes President Paul Kagame’s government for its crackdowns on the press and opposition groups. This should raise some interesting questions about the role of democratization in good governance and whether it is even possible or advisable to fully democratize a country that still has the ethnic and recent historical baggage of Rwanda.

One of the index’s weaknesses is that it only includes data as recent as 2005. Two years can be a lifetime in African politics, which partially explains Liberia’s abysmal showing at 43 out of 48. In 2005, Liberia was still under the transitional government that followed the country’s civil war and Charles Taylor’s removal from power. It will be interesting to see what effect the presidency of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who took over at the end of that year, will have on the country’s future ranking. Liberia was the most improved country in the 2007 FP Failed States Index.

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