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21st November 2017

2017 Ibrahim Index Indicates Deteriorating Civil Society in Africa

This week marks the 11th annual release of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG). This dataset, compiled and analysed by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, measures and monitors governance performance in all 54 African countries. Key findings from this year’s Index indicate a decline in civil society participation and a tightening of open space for civil society to operate. Continent-wide civil society participation has decreased by 0.28 and 0.07 points over past five and ten years respectively. Overall, this year’s Index classifies civil society participation across Africa as in “increasing deterioration.”

Additionally, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association and civil liberties have all declined over the past five and ten years across Africa. Both freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association are classified as in “increasing deterioration” with civil liberties in “slowing deterioration.” These key factors limit civil society and political participation and shrink the available space for civil society to thrive.

“We see more and more attacks on civil society and some governments see civil society as if it is an opposition party. It is not. We need a change of behaviour there,” said Mo Ibrahim, Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, reflecting on this year’s findings.

In examining progress across the continent, this year’s Index looks more closely at performance trends over the past five years and how these fit into the past decade. The 2017 IIAG features six new trend classifications: Increasing Improvement, Slowing Improvement, Warning Signs, Bouncing Back, Slowing Deterioration and Increasing Deterioration. These classifications easily capture country performance based on results from the past five and ten years.

In addition to shrinking civil society, the 2017 Index shows agriculture and education presenting governance challenges for Africa. Out of 40 countries measured, 30 showed decline in agricultural policy over the past five years threatening overall economic health. Progress in education has halted in that timeframe. The education provision measure, which assesses how satisfied the public are with how their government addresses education, is the third most deteriorated factor in the 2017 IIAG. This factor is concerning, in particular, as lack of education combined with restrictive civil liberties can leave citizens behind in understanding and enacting their civic rights.

Despite these shifts, Ibrahim is optimistic about the future of governance in Africa. “In the past ten years, 40 out of 54 countries have improved in governance,” he said, “We need to have a really balanced picture about Africa. Some countries are moving forward, some are standing still and a few are backtracking. In general, we are moving forward and we need to quicken our pace.”

View this year’s data and key findings on the Mo Ibrahim Foundation website.