Campus & Community

Index, prize together may strengthen African leadership

3 min read

Ranking system, incentives will work in tandem

Strengthening African governance is the goal of a new ranking system in development at the Kennedy School of Government. Drawing heavily on the pioneering work of the director of the Belfer Center’s Program on Intrastate Conflict Robert I. Rotberg and generations of his students, a team of researchers under his direction will create an annual Index of African Governance.

The creation of the index, the first of its kind, is being supported by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation of Monaco. Ibrahim, an innovative cell telephone pioneer in Africa and a native of northern Sudan, launched a prize for African leadership this week in London. The prize, established in tandem with the index, will provide sizable pensions for honest, capable African heads of state after they leave office. The first prizewinners could be chosen in 2007 or 2008. The index will provide an objective, rigorous view of African governance, in comparative perspective. It will provide both a credible basis on which the Ibrahim Prize Selection Committee can nominate heads of state worthy of the prize and also offer a diagnosis of the state of governance in each of the 48 nation-states in sub-Saharan Africa (including the offshore islands).

These diagnoses should help civil societies in those countries to press their governments for positive change. The rankings will also help donors and investors understand the key challenges and opportunities in each country. Ultimately, the rankings and the index should provoke positive responses from African countries, especially from those that wish to improve their scores.

Rotberg noted that Transparency International, the Berlin-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) that has ranked corruption in the countries of the world since the early 1990s, was almost single-handedly responsible for “bringing corruption out of the closet.” He wants to do the same for governance, especially in Africa. “The preparation of the index will help bring governance out of the closet,” he said.

Rotberg and graduate students in his classes have, since the 1990s, tested the governance-measuring method in several different ways, and for all of the countries of the world. The Program on Intrastate Conflict sponsored several international meetings in Britain and at the Kennedy School about governance and its measurement. Rotberg then published articles and parts of several books in 2004 and 2005 about the problems and prospects of such measurements. He also wrote articles on how best to strengthen African leadership, and helped to create the African Leadership Council in 2004.

When Ibrahim decided to “do something” positive about African leadership and build major incentives into his prize, he sought Rotberg out.

In addition to the launch of the prize and the index in London this week, it will be announced and launched in Nairobi, Kenya, and Johannesburg, South Africa, next week.

The board of trustees of the Ibrahim Foundation includes former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, former secretary-general of the Organization of African Unity Salim Salim, Lord Cairns, and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town Mamphela Ramphele.