Students, The Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance wants to be used

Many of us have heard of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s ‘Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership’, awarded to democratically elected African leaders, who have shown good governance and leadership, and stepped down from office after completing their mandated term.

This large annual prize of US$5 million over ten years and US$200,000 per year for life thereafter, has only been awarded three times since it was established in 2007. But despite the publicity the prize receives, as Hadeel Ibrahim, Executive Director of the foundation, explained in an Aljazeera interview last year, the ‘Ibrahim Index of African Governance’ (IIAG), which came about as a tool to implement the prize, has become much more important.

With the realisation that there was a complete lack of data on governance indicators in Africa, the foundation set about building its own collection. Today the IIAG is the most comprehensive collection of quantitative data measuring governance in Africa.

On Monday 24th February, the foundation gave a presentation on the index at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), hosted by the Centre for African Studies (CAS). Gateway for Africa was amongst the audience, which mainly comprised of students and academics, listening intently and referring to copies of the Summary 2013 Ibrahim Index of African Governance.

Relevance to Students

This presentation, which shed some light on the 2013 index and its relevance for students and academics, was given by Salmana Ahmed and Christina Nelson, Senior Programme Managers within the Research Team at the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and both former students of SOAS.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation defines governance as ‘the provision of the political, social and economic public goods and services that a citizen has the right to expect from his or her state, and that a state has the responsibility to deliver to its citizens’.

The index has four main categories; Safety and Rule of Law, Participation and Human Rights, Sustainable Economic Opportunity and Human Development. Each of these have further subcategories, under which appear a wide range of indicators which are measured using a diverse number of data-types, including expert assessment, official statistics and opinion surveys.

Salmana and Christina explained that the index focuses on outcomes and outputs of policies where possible; de jure measurements are used where de facto measurements are not available and the issue is also too important to be excluded entirely. The full methodology is available online enabling students to use the same data and calculations to get the same statistics for a chosen country or indicator.

This index will be of great use to researchers who will be able to compare data for chosen indicators by country, region or time period, to name just a few possibilities.

The use of the index by the private sector will add credibility for some, Ernst and Young’s ‘Africa by numbers’ report which contains the risk profiles for 17 popular investment destinations in Africa, use the IIAG as one of their 10 key risk indicators.

Data Confusion

There was a small ripple of confusion in the room when we heard that one of the key findings of the index was that 94% of people in Africa have seen an improvement in governance since 2000. However, we were reassured that this statistic was used to show that researchers using the index must delve deeper into the category and sub-category level of indicators to understand the nuances and complexities of the African landscape.

An important finding is that the gap between the best and worst performing countries is widening, with Mauritius scoring 82.9 and Somalia scoring 8.0. In view of this, Mo Ibrahim’s call for ‘Afro-realism’ seems especially pertinent.

Eloquent Numbers

During the introductions Dr Jennings, Chair of CAS, reminded us that many indices that attempt to quantify governance are contested, some of these emerged during the Q&A. Members of the audience expressed queries such as the credibility of the data used, as the foundation does not collect the data itself but use secondary sources so as to remain independent. Some believe the 1 year time lag means that this index may not be useful for journalists writing pieces on current affairs on the continent, nevertheless its contribution to research cannot be under-played.

As the presenters stressed, the numbers do speak for themselves, the index is a useful, down-loadable tool for students and researchers attempting to understand governance performance in Africa.
Three things students should do with the IIAG
1. Download the Excel Workbook of the 2013 IIAG (
2. Use the filters to generate and compare performance indicators as desired, for e.g. by country or region or time period.
3. Use this data to compliment other research methods, such as qualitative research.
Shushan Terwolde-Berhan is a recent graduate from the University of York, with an MA in Post War Recovery Studies. She’s currently an intern at the Royal African Society.