UNDERSTANDING RWANDA’S GOVERNANCE RANKINGS: Comparative analysis of Harvard and Ibrahim Indexes of African Governance

Since 2007, readers, scholars, analysts and indeed nations themselves have looked to the Ibrahim Index of African Governance for valuable insight on the performance and relative rankings of African Governments. 

Since 2007, readers, scholars, analysts and indeed nations themselves have looked to the Ibrahim Index of African Governance for valuable insight on the performance and relative rankings of African Governments. 

Indexes such as Mo Ibrahim’s as well as Harvard’s ‘Strengthening African Governance’, which rate African nations on their ability to deliver public goods in categories such as Safety and Security; Sustainable Economic Opportunity; Participation and Human Rights and Human Development, although valuable, are self-proclaimed “works in progress” and must therefore be viewed as such.

In an attempt to highlight some of the inconsistencies between these works and improve the flow of accurate data to the public, the Rwanda Governance Advisory Council (GAC) has been analyzing the methodologies employed by these projects and discussing ways of improvement with their publishers.

Up until this year, the Ibrahim Index of African Governance was a joint project funded by the Ibrahim Foundation and ran at Harvard‘s Kennedy School of Government.

A New York Times Article tells us however, that after a dispute over control of the index the two have split, each now publishing its own index.

Although the scores and ranks for many African countries are similar in both indexes, there are some with significant variations, as is the case with Rwanda. 

In the 2009 index ‘Strengthening African Governance’, Professor Rotberg and Dr. Gisselquist, the creators of the original Index, place Rwanda 26th overall and 2nd out of five in the East African Community.

In this Index they also mention that Rwanda is the second most improved country in Africa since the index began.  This year’s newly formulated Mo Ibrahim Index on the other hand places Rwanda only 32nd overall and 4th in the EAC. 

The following tables show the variation which exists between Rwanda’s score and placement in the two indexes. 

From this table above, it must be noted that Rwanda is leading EAC countries on two indicators: safety and security and Participation and Human Rights.  It must also be noticed from the table bellow that Rwanda is only second last or last on all indicators.

Furthermore, there is a difference of 10 points out of 100 on Rwanda’s overall score between both ranking ( 48.3 points in Ibrahim index against 58.6 points in Harvard Index) .

One reason for this difference, highlighted above, comes from a change in the categorization which Mo Ibrahim’s new index employs.

This year the index combines two categories; 1) Safety and Security; and 2) Rule of Law, Transparency, and Corruption into one: Safety and Rule of Law.

Harvard continues to leave them as separate categories, scoring Rwanda 98.3 out of 100 for Safety and Security. 

In recent years Rwanda has consistently been rated as one of Africa’s safest countries.  One would assume with a basic observation that if a Safety and Security score of around a 95 was averaged with a Rule of Law score around 45 that it would result in a score of at least 70.

How then, can it be justified to combine Safety and Security with Rule of Law and score Rwanda just 55.53? 

It is important to note that the original framework for the 2007 and 2008 Mo Ibrahim Index continues to be used by Harvard’s ‘Strengthening African Governance Index’.

It is this original framework which ranks Rwanda 2nd in the EAC this year.  Ironically, it is the Index which continues to go by the name Mo Ibrahim which has changed some of its methods, resulting in the discrepancy mentioned above. 

While the efforts and ideas of Mo Ibrahim’s Foundation to “Africanize” the index- one of the reasons cited in the New York Times article for the conflict over control- are well-regarded, it is vital that they continue their “work in progress” in a manner which ensures high quality data sources, proper methods, and objectivity.

Another factor which also needs to be addressed deals with the discrepancies not necessarily between separate Index publishers, but between international and local data sources.

Often times the international figures these indexes rely on differ significantly with national statistics.  For example, national figures concerning health and education show that Rwanda has progressed far more than either index suggests. 

In order to address the issue of local versus international data use, the Rwanda Governance Advisory Council facilitated a conference in Kigali in January of this year to discuss the matter with the leading researchers from the then Ibrahim and now Harvard’s index.

The conference concluded that there is a serious need to use locally generated data in future reports to ensure that the data being used reflects as accurately as possible the reality on the ground.

The responsibility of making these data available however, cannot fall only on the indexes themselves.

African countries and indexes as well as their international data sources have a role to play.  On one hand, African countries, and Rwanda included, must ensure the accessibility and dissemination of accurate data; and on the other hand, indexes and international data sources must be committed to employing the most accurate data available on respective countries. 

Until these two conditions are fulfilled, significant data discrepancies will persist in the indexes’ scores and will consequently lead to unreliable rankings.

Subsequently, that inaccuracy could be perceived as unfairness to the affected countries and in the long run it may affect the index’s credibility.

About the authors:

Professor Anastase SHYAKA is the Executive Secretary of the Rwanda Governance Advisory Council (GAC); Sheldon Wardwell is an intern with GAC from the Hinckley Institute of Politics, at the University of Utah (USA).

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