Examination of research used to arrive at the above index, leads one to question the methodology and variables used by Mo Ibrahim Foundation to arrive at their inconclusive index of governance in Africa. African data sources used in social research such as this one, have been known to be inaccurate, thus increasing the margin of error, that finally distorts results obtained from such research.
Subjects/objects are highly skewed due to political/ethnic composition/concentration that, if one is not able to mitigate bias resultant, is bound to form biased opinion from such samples.
Although researchers on this project claim to have used better methodology as well as inclusive data, (than similar institutions which gauges one variable at a time eg TI-Transparency International and their Corruption Index) their aggregation of variables to arrive at indices of; safety, security, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunities, and human development renders such indices inaccurate.
Also taking countries in Africa as a population without regard of their historical underpins, makes comparison futile. For instance, how do you group countries like Burundi and DRC which are ex-conflict countries (with others that have not had conflicts), and talk of security and human development issues without reference to their immediate past environment, that could not have allowed them to develop such governance parameters.
The same could be applied to Rwanda with its traumatic genocide past. Such incidence, which were not captured by such researchers give misleading data bases that yield misleading results.
For these and other African economies, it is only natural that some aspects of governance will evolve faster than others. Aggregating these in any analysis is bound to distort results, which can neither hold for under-performing sectors nor for better performing sectors captured by such index.
Countries like Comoros, and Mauritania that have had numerous coup de tas of late are ranked well! Aren’t these outliers which should not even feature in the sample used? The assumption that, each economy has had a stead path of governance, questions the entire research process, and by extension variable captured by Mo Ibrahim Index.
Furthermore estimates from multi-dimensional data as used to measure governance across countries, can only be valid if the institutional and other factors that determine good governance are invariant across countries and that the marginal response to good governance of each measure used is also invariant, which is highly assumptious.
Of interest in this research is the premium given to change of leadership through elections. In some countries, this is simply change of guards and may not improve the governance issues this index tries to capture.
Many African countries has changed leadership, but the absence of strong institutions to act as checks and balances only serves a cosmetic change.
Nonetheless, with regard to Rwanda’s ranking at 32, may questions abound. Governance, is not an end in itself. It is means of delivering public goods and services to her people. The best measure for this has been, and will be GDP, and GDP per capita of the country.
That our GDP has hit double digit figures, and our GDP per capita approaching US $ 500 in a short period is better measure of governance.
Political governance is highly correlated to economic governance to order one, so much so that, at ranking 32 even behind ‘failed states’ serious puts to question the authenticity and credibility of such index as a measure of our governance.
Moreover, governance is a process, and at the time such data is gathered a lot will have changed on the ground, that such index simply distorts reality.
Thus, this index can only hold at the point in time at which they were arrived at. Given these, and other questions with regard to the methodology used by Harvard researchers, in addition to issues of dataset which is assumed to be stationary, yet used in measurement of a very dynamic process (governance), throws doubt to the entire research process and by extension; indices produced by the same.
The ideal thing for Mo Ibrahim Foundation to is to limit their analysis on a few disaggregated variables/governance issues that can be captured by known methodologies of social research, as aggregation will haunt these results, and their credibility as a measure of governance in Africa.
The author is a Senior Economic Advisor to the President of Rwanda.