By Minega Isibo
Rwanda’s image received a boost this year when the country was named the most improved African nation according to the Ibrahim index. The index ranks countries on five key criteria: safety and security, rule of law, transparency and corruption, participation and human rights, sustainable economic development and human development
The comprehensive index, financed by Sudanese millionaire Mo Ibrahim, ranked Rwanda as eighteenth overall out of the forty-eight African nations (all from sub-Saharan Africa) that were assessed. Rwanda’s new position represented a stunning leap of eighteen places from its previous ranking.
The index is the first real attempt to comprehensively study governance in sub-Saharan Africa and it has been welcomed as a constructive effort to address many of the continent’s key problems. There were hardly any surprises in the top ten. Few could argue with Mauritius and Seychelles taking the first and second spots respectively, while the usual suspects like South Africa, Ghana and Senegal all made the top ten. However a few eyebrows will certainly be raised at seeing Zimbabwe outrank Nigeria.
The ranking scores are given out of 100 and the table makes for interesting reading for Rwanda. On a positive note, the country scores highly in two areas- safety and security (76 percent) and participation and human rights (69 percent). These scores reflect Rwanda’s stability and low crime rates and also the extensive grassroots democracy system that has local people picking their representatives at many levels. In the other three areas, Rwanda’s performance is less impressive-47 percent for sustainable economic opportunity, 46 percent for human development and, strangely, only 47 percent for rule of law, transparency and corruption. Rwanda’s overall score comes to 57.5 percent.
Of all the scores from the index, it is the rule of law, transparency and corruption criteria that will most rankle Rwandans. Considering the fact that Rwanda’s aggressive fight against corruption has received media coverage and acclaim, one cannot help wondering what more a country would need to do to be considered effective in the fight against corruption and the quest for transparency. Somewhat less controversial is the Index’s take on development and economic opportunity. The Index’s overview of the development criteria offers a sober outlook of the situation and gives us food for thought, as it does for many other countries on the list. A recent study showed that Rwanda’s Gini co-efficient, the gap between the incomes of the rich and the poor, had grown substantially, even though Rwanda had achieved an impressive growth rate of about 6 percent over the last few years. The Ibrahim index reflects this situation and is a timely warning that economic growth and reducing the income inequality gap are not always synonymous. The challenge is to make sure that the two go hand in hand.
However, even with that dark cloud hanging over Rwanda’s place in the index, the ranking is still good news for Rwanda. Finishing ahead of thirty other countries and making such a huge improvement over the last few years is worthy of praise and the index compilers, to their credit, have recognized this. The rankings’ parsimonious attitude to awarding marks may render Rwanda’s achievements a little bittersweet, but it is very likely that the recent tremendous gains in fighting corruption and impunity will improve our ranking in the next index.
The ranking could prove to be a valuable source of study for Africa’s political and social progress. It will soon be released annually, which will make it more dynamic and up-to date (Much of the current index is based on data from 2005). As Mo Ibrahim himself said “The Ibrahim Index is a tool to hold governments to account and frame the debate about how we are governed.” The Ranking may not have been a complete picture of post-genocide Rwanda, but it highlights the inarguable fact that, in many critical areas, the country is indeed moving forward.