BBC Africa runs a weekly feature that I often browse called "Africa Have Your Say." The idea is to pose a question and solicit responses from Africans and readers interested in African affairs like myself. This past week's question was about "governance. Inspired by a $5 million dollar African leadership prize to be given to the best African leader proposed by Sudanese businessman Mo Ibrahim, the "Have Your Say" feature asked people how their country ranks and what qualities define good governance. The Ibrahim Index which rates Sub Saharan African states on their governance was released this week and Nelson Mandela has said that he supports this initiative to celebrate Africa's new leaders.
The responses as usual were quite diverse and intriguing. With some solid debate having been stimulated. Some people were happy to see a new source of motivation for African leaders to improve the standards of living for their constituents while other were pessimistic saying that African leaders cansteal much more money than 5 million if they want to. The following is a taste of some of the answers.
First the positive responses:
"With the exception of places like Zimbabwe and Sudan, most of the African nations seem to be pulling themselves up to embrace and demonstrate good governance principles. In my estimation, leaders like Paul Kagame of Rwanda deserve credit for ensuring his country is up and running just a few years after the genocide. It still remains to be seen how much democratic space Mr. Kagame allows."
Sammy Wanyonyi, Minneapolis
"The Mo Ibrahim award is a good initiative. In future, I believe, it will focus well-meaning African leaders on selfless service to their countries, banking on the 'good leadership insurance', which they can access while in office or when they leave office. I call on other African philanthropists to also consider extra-ordinarily gifted African youths for higher education and training, e.g. in science and technology."
John Odey Okache, Abija, Nigeria
Now the negative:
"Surely none of the current African "leaders" will qualify for this. The great majority of them, from west to east, are corrupt.
God save Africa."
Walelign, New York
"I don't think many of the leaders of the countries in question will care. Why would they make an effort to come top of this index when they already receive similar sums in 'Aid' from the West.It will take more than this to root out the endemic corruption in African governments."
Huge Canoe, Up a creek, without a paddle, United Kingdom
Nigeria is a country of blind guides masquerading as lords over helpless non violent people; overburdened and overwhelmed by the frauds of many years, resisting with cautions of the oppressors barrels in view. A nation of imposed lords bereft of political understanding, renowned academic misnomer juggling seats rejected by dons
Our leaders are imposed and the world is aware. May God help Nigeria
Macaulay Akinbami, Lagos-Nigeria
There are those that love their countries:
"I love my country, Zambia and its people but I'd rank my government very low over where its loyalty lies; China suspended investment in the copper mines to send a message about the diplomatic & economic consequences of Sata winning last years presidential election just because he said that he'd recognise the independence of Taiwan; seems my government puts China's interests before Zambias. China's looking after China and my government allows it to do so; my people's interest need to come first."
Samantha Phiri, Zambia
"I actually love my country Nigeria. But my problem with it is there is no law and order."
Kabeer Abdul, Gusau
Others found problems with the Ibrahim Index:
I believe the Republic of Somaliland aka Africa's best kept secret and one of Africa's few success stories, should rank somewhere in the top half if only it wasn't lumped with Somalia. Somaliland is independent although yet to be recognised as a sovereign state. In terms of democracy, good governance, security and human rights, the criteria on which this is based on, the contrast between Somaliand and Somalia couldn't be greater. The two countries are on opposite sides of the scale.
Not actually being from Africa myself I offered what I thought represented qualities of a good government (within the space requirements):
"Part of good governance is allowing for healthy criticism which would come from a free press. Allowing the formation of opposition parties is also essential as is ensuring their political rights, including the right to demonstrate. Corruption is a force that plagues even the most stable countries, yet a country governed well will see progress in the fight for corruption's demise. A good leader takes action, but makes decisions thoughtfully after weighing all perspectives."
An interesting forum indeed. I will be curious to see which leader eventually wins the prize (one of the judges is former Unites Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan). In the most recent Ibrahim Index, the top ten governed countries as rated on 5 main criteria (Safety and Security, Rule of Law/Transparency/Corruption, Participation/Human Rights, Sustainable Economic Opportunity, Human Development):
Sao Tome et Principe
It it interesting to see that 4 out of 10 of those well governed countries are actually small island nations, including 3 of the top 4, the outlier being Botswana.
Now lets look at the bottom ten from worst to "best":
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Central African Republic
Not too many surprises here, though with the recent victory of an opposition party in Sierra Leone there is renewed potential for stability and growth. A more in depth analysis of the criteria as well as more information about the prize can be found on Mo Ibrahim's website moibrahimfoundation.org.