Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Governance and Leadership in Africa: Measures, Methods and Results

Academic journal article Journal of International Affairs

Governance and Leadership in Africa: Measures, Methods and Results

Article excerpt

Governance is performance--the delivery of high quality political goods to citizens by governments of all kinds. In Africa, as everywhere else, those political goods are security and safety, rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity and human development. The Ibrahim Index of African Governance, created at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, evaluates forty-eight sub-Saharan African countries according to fifty-seven variables. The results of this massive measurement exercise produce overall rankings of governance attainment, plus rankings for each of the five categories of political goods and each of the fifty-seven variables. Yet, the purpose of this Index is not to rate, but to diagnose. The Index is a diagnostic tool for civil society, donors and governments so that performance can be enhanced and the lives and outcomes of Africans can be strengthened. Improving African governance is the goal.


Governance is the delivery of political goods to citizens. The better the quality of that delivery and the greater the quantity of the political goods being delivered, the higher the level of governance--everywhere and at every jurisdictional level, not just in Africa? Delivery and performance are synonymous in this context. If governments patch roads or fix broken street lights, they deliver valuable political goods that are hard for citizens to obtain privately. These homely examples illustrate an underappreciated truism: Governments and nation-states exist primarily to provide for their taxpayers and inhabitants. Governments exist to perform for their citizens in areas and in ways that are more easily--and more usually--managed and organized by the overarching state than by private enterprises or collective civic collaborations. The provision of physical safety and national security are prime examples.

Modern nation-states deliver political goods to persons within their designated borders. Having inherited, assumed and replaced the suzerains of earlier centuries, nation-states now buffer external forces and influences, champion the local concerns of their adherents and mediate between the constraints and challenges of the international arena as well as the dynamism of their own internal economic, political and social realities.

It is according to their performance in the governance realm that states succeed or fail. Stronger states are distinguished from weak states according to the levels of their effective delivery of political goods. Such goods are those intangible and hard to assess claims that citizens make on national and local governments. Political goods encapsulate citizen expectations and bundles of obligation, as well as inform the local political culture and give content to the social contract between ruler and ruled that is at the core of state and citizenry interactions. (2)


There is a hierarchy of political goods. None is as important as the supply of security, especially human security. Individuals alone can sometimes arrange their own security. Groups of individuals can band together to purchase goods and services that provide more or less substantial quantities of security. Traditionally, however, individuals and groups of individuals have not effectively substituted privately obtained measures of security for publicly provided security.

States are obliged by definition to provide national security--to prevent cross-border invasions and losses of territory. They are obligated to deter domestic threats or attacks upon the national order and social structure. Nation-states are also charged with preventing crime and related assaults on human security. They pledge to help their citizens resolve differences with the state and with their fellow citizens without resorting to arms or other forms of physical coercion. When states fail to deliver these fundamental political goods, they lose the Weberian monopoly of violence and encourage the rise of non-state actors, insurgents and anarchy. …

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