Measures of democracy and governance are becoming increasingly popular, and a number of indices are now published annually, showing how countries around the world fare on different indicators.

The Ibrahim Index of African Governance examines governance trends in Africa. It is an initiative of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, founded by a Sudanese-British telecoms tycoon, after whom the foundation is named.

The index analyses each African country using over 100 indicators which are grouped into four broad categories. They are: Safety and Rule of Law; Participation and Human Rights; Sustainable Economic Opportunity; and Human Development. The index was established in 2006 and is now published every year.

Countries that want to attract investment need to be stable and well-governed, with consistent policies around sectors such as mining.

Zambia fares relatively well. The latest index ranked Zambia at 16th in Africa in terms of governance. However, Zambia’s five-year trend for governance shows the country’s rankings are in decline. Zambia is also flagged as one of the countries where there are “warning signs” in terms of a decline in governance. The country is also highlighted as one of the ten countries with the biggest declines in governance rankings over the past five years.

The latest index ranking was topped by the island nation of Mauritius, followed by another island country, the Seychelles. The top five was rounded out by Botswana, Cape Verde (another island state), and Namibia.

Zambia’s overall performance, and its performance in the four categories, is shown in the accompanying graphs. The performance of Africa overall and in the four categories is also shown, as way of comparison.

Zambia’s performance on the four categories is mixed. In the category of Safety and the Rule of Law, Zambia is ranked ninth. However, the five-year trend shows Zambia’s performance is becoming poorer on this indicator.


Zambia fares less well in the category of Participation and Human Rights: here, Zambia is ranked 18th on the continent. Both the five- and ten-year trends show that the country’s performance is worsening.

There is also room for improvement in Zambia’s ranking in the category of Sustainable Economic Opportunity – here the country is ranked a distant 20th. Again, the ten-year trend has generally been positive, but this is not the case on the five-year trend, which has shown a decline.

The category where Zambia fares worst is Human Development, coming 22nd on the continent. However, both the five- and ten-year trends have been positive for Zambia, with the country showing a steady improvement on this ranking.

What is the significance of a good ranking in the index, and why should it matter to Zambia?

Countries that want to attract investment need to be stable and well-governed, with consistent policies around sectors such as mining. It is no surprise that Botswana is often ranked as one of the best governed African countries, and at the same time is one of the most attractive investment destinations on the continent. The Heritage Foundation, an American think tank, ranks Botswana as the 19th most attractive mining investment destination in the world, showing the importance of good, stable policies.

Mohammed “Mo” Ibrahim: founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation

Good governance is vital to ensuring that a country’s resources contribute to development, and benefit all citizens. According to the National Resource Governance Institute, a global NGO with offices around the world, governance is a key determinant of the long-term benefits that citizens derive from mineral endowments, and of the nature of relationships between citizens and mining companies. Paul Collier, a global development expert based at the University of Oxford agrees, arguing that good governance, coupled with responsible mining practices, can see mineral resources be an important driver of development. ENS Africa, one if the continent’s biggest law firms, also emphasises the importance of the rule of law and good governance in creating a positive investment environment, which can see these benefits accrue to all.

What should Zambia take away from its ranking in the most recent index? On the plus side, Zambia is one of the better-governed countries on the continent. It does well on most of the categories and its reputation as one of Africa’s most stable democracies is well deserved. However, on the minus side Zambia has been slipping down the rankings. Over the past five years the trend for Zambia on the rankings has been negative, and it has been flagged as one of the countries which has one of the biggest backslides in governance over the past five years.

Zambia can justly be proud of their place on the rankings, but it is clear that there is some cause for concern: the five-year trend is clearly negative. Zambians must hold their leaders to account and ensure that the country remains one that is known for its good governance. Good governance and economic growth go hand-in-hand – the evidence not only from Africa but from the rest of the world is clear.

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