Governance lags behind youth expectations and needs

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The 2018 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) measures performance of the provision of political, social, and economic public goods and services that every citizen has the right to expect from their state, and that a state has the responsibility to deliver to its citizens. In the IIAG, country performance in delivering governance is measured across key dimensions that effectively assess a country’s Overall Governance performance (see Figure 1.1).

Over the past decade, public governance in Africa remains on average on a moderate upward trajectory, mainly driven by progress in Gender, Health, and Infrastructure. The 2018 IIAG shows that approximately three out of four African citizens live in a country where public governance has improved over the past 10 years. Many positive trends emerge from this year’s index. Thirty-four out of 54 African countries have improved in Overall Governance over the past decade, with 15 of these having accelerated their pace of improvement in the past five years. Among those, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, and Kenya display the most impressive progression, stepping up from 41st, 25th, and 19th ranks out of 54 countries to 22nd, 15th, and 11th over the past decade, respectively. On the continent, improvements stand out in indicators related to Health, the most improved of the 14 sub categories of the IIAG over the past decade, as well as in Gender and Infrastructure. There are also recent and welcome improvements in Rule of Law and Transparency & Accountability, even if scores in the latter are still low.

Ibrahim Index Of African Governance structure

Approximately three out of four African citizens live in a country where public governance has improved over the past 10 years.

But despite these improvements, needs and expectations of the continent’s youth are not met. Faced with unprecedented demographic growth, key governance areas are not progressing fast enough to keep up with rising demands, and more specifically to answer the growing expectations of Africa’s youth (under 25 years old), who now represent more than 60 percent of our continent’s population and are still expected to increase their number by almost 20 percent in the next decade.

Considering Africa’s youth population growth, it is concerning to see the recent downturn of the African average score for Education. For 27 countries—half of African countries—Education scores registered deterioration in the past five years, meaning that education outcomes are worsening for more than half (52.8 percent) of Africa’s youth.

Though enrollment levels are higher, this concerning drop is driven by a fall in the indicators measuring whether education is meeting the needs of the economy, as well as education quality and citizens’ expectations of education provision.

Education score and youth population (2008-2027)

For 27 African countries, Education scores registered deterioration in the past five years.

In a world of globalized information and multiplying social networks, Africa’s growing number of young citizens also ask for better rights and participation.

Progress in Participation & Human Rights has been registered, and almost four out of five of Africa’s citizens (79.6 percent) live in countries that have progressed in this dimension over the past decade.

However, the increased number of free and fair executive elections does not necessarily translate into a better participatory environment. Alarmingly, citizens’ political and civic space in Africa is shrinking, with worsening trends in indicators measuring civil society participation, civil rights and liberties, freedom of expression, and freedom of association and assembly.

Also, strong macroeconomic growth over the past decade has failed to translate into progress in Sustainable Economic Opportunity for citizens, namely the extent to which governments enable their citizens to pursue economic goals and provide the opportunity to prosper. While Africa’s combined GDP has increased by almost 40 percent over the past decade, average progress has been almost null for citizens in Sustainable Economic Opportunity. Even if some countries do manage to register progress, almost half (43.2 percent) of Africa’s citizens live in one of the 25 countries where Sustainable Economic Opportunity has declined over the past 10 years.

The almost stagnant trend then strikes a concerning contrast with demographic growth and youth expectations. Africa’s population has increased by 26 percent over the past 10 years and 60 percent of the continent’s 1.25 billion people are now under the age of 25 years old. A deteriorating business environment and high unemployment, among others, are a huge missed opportunity that could become a recipe for disaster even for the largest African economies. Large unemployed populations are bound to fuel further migration flows or political unrest and shake the stability of countries for years to come.

The IIAG results confirm that governance must be citizen-centered. Common factors among the best-performing countries in Overall Governance are relatively higher scores in the provision of property rights, civil rights and liberties, government accountability, and social welfare policies to their citizens.

The index also confirms that Rule of Law and Transparency & Accountability are key pillars of good governance. These two sub-categories show the strongest relationships with Overall Governance scores. Transparency & Accountability is also key for progress in economic opportunity, being strongly correlated to the Sustainable Economic Opportunity category and the Business Environment sub-category. However, even if recent improvements here are encouraging, Transparency & Accountability performance is still low and needs to be further strengthened.

Young citizens of Africa currently lack hope, prospects, and opportunities.

Sustainable Economic Opportunity and GDP growth

Africa is at a tipping point. We welcome progress in Overall Governance, but the lost opportunity of the past decade is deeply concerning. Africa has a huge challenge ahead: Its large and youthful potential workforce could transform the continent for the better, but this opportunity is now close to being squandered. Young citizens of Africa currently lack hope, prospects, and opportunities. Their leaders need to invest in education and speed up job creation to sustain progress and stave off potential deterioration, as well as to make sure the voice and expectations of the youth are included in policymaking. The time to act is now.