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Ibrahim Index of African Governance

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The Ibrahim Index of African Governance is an attempt to statistically monitor African governance levels throughout all the countries of Africa. Funded and led by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, it uses a number of different indicators to compile an overall ranking of countries, which is designed to be used as a tool for civil society in African countries to hold their governments to account. Before 2009, the index was limited to Sub-Saharan Africa, omitting Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.

The index was designed to reflect accurately the nature of governance in Africa. The idea of the Ibrahim Index is to measure this statistically, and be able to compare increases or declines in governance year on year. This serves two purposes - firstly, to show that Africa is not always badly governed, and should not be judged by only those countries experiencing severe problems. Secondly, to allow citizens of individual countries, and civil society institutions, to accurately monitor how well their government is doing.


The Ibrahim Index of African Governance is the brainchild of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. The first iteration was produced in 2007, and the second in 2008. The third edition was published in Cape Town on October 5, 2009. The fourth edition was published on 4 October 2010 and launch events were held in Cairo, Accra, Nairobi, Dakar and Johannesburg.

The Index was initially produced in association with Harvard University; academic and technical assistance has subsequently been provided by a range of African academics and research bodies.

The Ibrahim Index has been used by civil society and government bodies across the continent to monitor governance. One example is in South Africa, where the party in opposition, the Democratic Alliance, used the Ibrahim Index to challenge the government's record on safety and security.


The Ibrahim Index assesses national governance against 57 criteria. The criteria capture the quality of services provided to citizens by governments. The focus is on the results that the people of a country experience, rather than stated policies and intentions. Each criterion is weighted and scaled to provide standardisation and proportional influence on the overall results of the Index.

The criteria are divided into four over-arching categories which the Index defines as the cornerstone of a government’s obligations to its citizens:

    Safety and Rule of Law,
    Participation and Human Rights
    Sustainable Economic Opportunity
    Human Development

Data is collected from all over the continent, and a particular year's index reflects data from 2 years previously, to ensure the greatest possible accuracy. This time-lag is more up to date than many other indices.


The report uses 84 indicators, grouped into four broad categories: safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity, and human development.

Safety and rule of law

The 24 indicators in the safety and rule of law category are divided into four subcategories: personal safety, rule of law, accountability and corruption, and national security. Scores in this category range from 9.06 for Somalia to 89.94 for Cape Verde.

The personal safety subcategory includes five indicators measuring personal safety in general, levels of violent crime and social unrest, human trafficking, and the degree of domestic political persecution.

The rule of law subcategory includes six indicators measuring the strength of the judicial process and independence of the judiciary, property rights, the time taken to settle contractual disputes, the orderly transfer of power following a change of government, and whether the country is under UN sanctions.

The accountability and corruption subcategory includes six indicators measuring corruption in general, transparency and the accountability of public officials, corruption among government and public officials, accountability, transparency, and corruption in rural areas, and prosecution of abuse of office.

The national security subcategory includes seven indicators measuring domestic armed conflict, numbers of internally displaced persons and refugees from the country, government involvement in armed conflict, death due to war (both military and civilian), deaths resulting from targeted attacks on civilians, and levels of international tensions.

Participation and human rights

The 18 indicators in the participation and human rights category are divided into three subcategories: participation, rights, and gender. Scores in this category range from 12.53 for Somalia to 80.71 for Mauritius.

The participation subcategory includes five indicators measuring political participation in general, the strength of democracy and level of electoral self-determination, and the extent to which elections are free and fair, both in general and for the most recent executive elections.

The rights subcategory includes eight indicators measuring human rights in general, civil liberties, political and collective rights, freedom of expression and association, freedom of the press, and the implementation of international human rights conventions.

The gender subcategory includes five indicators measuring gender equality, the ratio of girls to boys in primary and secondary education, the primary school completion rate for girls, the proportion of women who are economically active, and the proportion of parliamentary seats held by women.

Sustainable economic opportunity

The 30 indicators in the sustainable economic opportunity category are divided into four subcategories: economic management, the private sector, infrastructure, and the environmental and rural sector. Scores in this category range from 0.89 for Somalia to 80.47 for Mauritius.

The economic management subcategory includes nine indicators measuring the quality of public administration and budget management, management of public debt, the rate of inflation, the proportion of currency held in banks, the proportion of imports covered by foreign exchange reserves, and the ratios of budget deficit or surplus to GDP, revenue to expenditure, and external debt service to exports.

The private sector subcategory includes eight indicators measuring the competitive environment and investment climate (both in general and specifically for rural businesses), access to credit, the costs of importing and exporting goods, the time taken to start a business and deal with licences, and the extent of bureaucracy.

The infrastructure subcategory includes five indicators measuring the general quality of infrastructure, the reliability of the electricity supply, the number of computers, and the number of mobile telephone and internet subscribers.

The environment and rural sector subcategory includes eight indicators measuring environmental policies and the role of the environment in policy formulation, access to agricultural markets and agricultural land and water, the extent of rural financial services, the ease of forming rural organisations, the extent of government support for rural development, and the level of consultation between the government and the rural poor.

Human development

The 12 indicators in the human development category are divided into two subcategories: poverty and health, and education. Scores in this category range from 28.26 for the Central African Republic to 97.91 for Seychelles.

The poverty and health subcategory includes seven indicators measuring child mortality, levels of immunisation, incidence of HIV and tuberculosis, the welfare system and policies to help the poor, and levels of social exclusion.

The education subcategory includes five indicators measuring the general quality of education, the ratio of pupils to teachers in primary schools, the proportion of pupils completing primary school, the proportion of pupils progressing to secondary school, and the proportion of the population entering higher education.


The Ibrahim Index, even though it is only in its second iteration, is designed to be a tool for civil society to use to hold their governments to account - this includes non-governmental organizations, businesses, trade unions, and citizens themselves. Its annual publication receives massive media attention from across the African continent and in the international media.

It is also a way to measure a government's governance performance in a manner that is as impartial as possible. This allows for the challenging of perceptions and stereotypes. The 2008 Index results showed that, contrary to perceptions, the continent of Africa had improved in nearly two-thirds of Sub-Saharan African countries from the previous edition of the Index.


While no one questions the worthiness of the Index's ambitions, some scholars have questioned the effectiveness of the Index and particularly the need for civil society to engage with its results - the point is that there does not often exist in Africa a strong and effective civil society. Others maintain that such perspective ignores the important role that civil society is now beginning to play in African politics.

While the Index is certainly comprehensive, there are a few notable anomalies thrown up by the results. One example is the extremely high placing of Gabon (8 out of 48 Sub-Saharan African countries) however, while Gabon's political participation and human rights record may be poor, it does have relatively high human development indicators

Previous critique suggested that the Index was limited to the 48 Sub-Saharan African countries, ignoring Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. To be a fully representative Index of African Governance, as it claimed, it needed to expand its coverage to include North Africa. The 2009 index included these countries.

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