…despite improvements in human development, economic opportunities

Overall governance in Africa has flatlined in the three years since 2019, posing a serious threat to the marginal improvement the continent has made over the past decade (2012-2021), according to the 2022 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG).

The 2022 IIAG, launched Wednesday by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, an African organisation promoting sound leadership and governance to transform the lives of Africa’s citizens, finds that improvements made by Africa in human development and economic opportunities are being undermined as the continent struggles to manage the combined impacts of COVID-19, climate change, conflict and coups, as well as food and energy insecurity.

Governance progress is being hindered by diverging trajectories, with progress in Human Development and Foundations for Economic Opportunity being offset by a deterioration in both Security & Rule of Law and Participation, Rights & Inclusion, holding back Overall Governance.

“The 2022 Ibrahim Index of African Governance highlights that African governance has flatlined since 2019. Unless we quickly address this concerning trend, the years of progress we have witnessed could be lost, and Africa unable to reach in due time the SDGs or Agenda 2063,” Mo Ibrahim, Founder and Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, commented on the data.

Ibrahim said the African continent “is uniquely exposed to the converging impacts of climate change, more recently Covid-19, and now the indirect impact of Russia-Ukraine war”.

He urged governments to address at once ongoing lack of prospects for the continent’s growing youth population, worsening food insecurity, lack of access to energy for almost half of the continent’s population, heavier debt burden, and growing domestic unrest.

“Coups are back, and democratic backsliding spreading,” Ibrahim said. “These are challenging times. More than ever, commitment to strengthen governance must be renewed, unless we lose all progress achieved.”

According to the results of the 2022 IIAG, even though the average continental level of Overall Governance is better in 2021 than in 2012 (+1.1), progress has flatlined since 2019.

This stagnation is being driven by the deterioration of both the Security & Rule of Law and Participation, Rights & Inclusion index categories, due to an increase in armed conflicts, violence against civilians, and democratic backsliding across growing parts of the continent.

Although these concerning trends predate the pandemic, according to the IIAG, they have been exacerbated by introduction of restrictive measures and emergency provisions to address COVID-19 and its fallout which accelerated a decline in democratic practices, clamping down on dissent, shrinking the civic space, and avoiding democratic scrutiny.

Notwithstanding, the IIAG’s other two categories – Human Development and Foundations for Economic Opportunity – have both progressed over 2012-2021, offering cause for cautious optimism. Human Development, in particular, has improved year-on-year across the decade, with more than 90 percent of Africa’s population living in a country where progress has been made since 2012. Foundations for Economic Opportunity, the only category that continued to make progress since 2019 mostly due to considerable improvements in the Infrastructure sub-category, reached a higher level in 2021 than in 2012.

The 2022 IIAG Report also provides insights into key remaining data gaps on governance priorities in Africa, such as employment, health, rural areas, and climate challenges. For example, the Health sub-category is still unable to include data on health structures and capacities – a critical element of the continent’s response to any pandemic – due to a lack of data. Data is essential for effective policymaking and strengthening data production and uptake in Africa remains a priority of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.