Friday, February 4, 2011

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

African leadership is often challenged, but few measures accurately examine how well Africa’s leaders perform. There is the African Leadership Prize from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, established in 2007, but even the world’s richest prize (US$5 million) does not adequately reflect the progress that has been made on the continent among the presidents and prime ministers of Africa.

The Nation Media Group, publisher of the EastAfrican magazine, has created the African President’s Index, which rates the continent’s leaders using several measurements: the Nation Media Group’s own political Index (35%), the Mo Ibrahim Index (15%), the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index (15%), the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index (15%), Transparency International’s Corruption Index (15%) and the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index (5%). What they arrived at is five Africa presidents who were given an “A” rating for their governance.

Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam of Mauritius received an A+. Son of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, known as the “Father of the Nation,” the Prime Minister presides over one of Africa’s most highly-developed countries. Mauritius has been named the best governed African country by Mo Ibrahim’s index since it was initiated.

President Pedro Verona Rodriques Pires of Cape Verde is a hugely respected figure in his country, having been so since independence from Portugal was achieved in 1975. He was the country’s first Prime Minister from 1975 to 1990, and after remaining active in politics, he returned to power in 2001. Pires’ country is one of the few African countries that is on track to meet the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals.

President Seretse Ian Khama of Botswana is the son of the country’s revered first President Sir Seretse Khama. The current President worked his way through the political system before assuming the presidency in 2008. Botswana, already a democratic model to the international community, President Khama has worked to expand his country’s circle of admirers. The country has been beset by HIV-AIDS, but under Khama’s rule 92.5% of those needing anti-retroviral drugs are receiving them.

President John Atta Mills of Ghana, known throughout the country as “The Prof,” is one of Africa’s best educated leaders. The former Vice President under President Jerry Rawlings, Mills won the office vacated by President John Kufour when he stepped down after two terms. President Mills is now responsible for developing the country’s oil sector and will have royalty revenues with which to extend the development of an already advanced nation.

President Hifikepunye Luca Pohamba of Namibia is the former Lands Minister who successfully sped up the transfer of land from white farmers to black citizens. One of the founding members of the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), he won office in a landslide in 2004. He received the 2010 Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network Food Security Policy Leadership Award for creating responsible fisheries policies in Namibia.

Just missing this group with a B+ was President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. Zuma is a longtime leader of the ruling African National Congress who served time in jail with other party leaders such as former President Nelson Mandela. Zuma received much kudos for his successful conduct of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. He missed an A by a fraction of a point despite leading a major nation struggling to overcome the lingering aftermath of apartheid.

Five other African Presidents received a B grade: President James Alix Michel of Seychelles, President Amadou Toumani Touré of Mali, President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia. All have significant accomplishments that may have been somewhat dimmed by unresolved issues or laws seen as not fully upholding full civil rights.

Even those rated with a C have laudable accomplishments. For example, President Rupiah Banda of Zambia has provided treatment for 90% of HIV-AIDS victims and allowed Angolan refugees to remain in his country after residing there for many years. Kin Mohammed VI of Morocco has hic country on track to exceed targets for water and sanitation services under the Millennium Development goals thanks to greater government spending on water supply and sanitation infrastructure.

Several leaders, such as President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, were considered to have been in office for too short a time to be rated.

So leadership is alive and well in Africa. Kudos goes to the Nation Media Group for its index, which allows a fuller view of African leadership than even the Mo Ibrahim Index. Attention is too often focused on those African leaders who violate human rights and fail to meet the needs of their people. It can make us forget that there are many others who do serve their citizens and earn the respect of their nation and the international community.


  1. Dear Sir, I find your argument correct. However, I would take it a step forward and dare to say that undermining Africa’s good leadership can be attributed to an intentional global discourse. A discourse that wishes to keep the current North – South power structure and justify poverty and exploitation…

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