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Durban - Jay Naidoo says he is “tremendously disappointed” that South Africa once again ranked only 5th in this year’s Ibrahim Index of African Governance. South Africa fell one place - while gaining 0.6 percent in its governance score - since data was first collected in 2000. But it maintained its 5th place (out of 52 African countries ranked) from last year.
“We should be number one,” said Naidoo, former Cosatu general secretary and head of the Geneva Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN).
He is also a board member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which draws up the African governance index.
Mauritius once again topped the index this year, with a score of 82.9 percent followed by Botswana, 77.6; Cape Verde, 76.7; Seychelles, 75; and South Africa with 71.3.
Namibia came 6th with 69.5. Zimbabwe came 47th with 35.4, the lowest in Southern Africa.
Naidoo said it was really surprising and disappointing that in the past seven annual indices, South Africa had remained at number 5.
“Being number 5 is not something to pat ourselves on the back for. We produce a large part of the GDP of Africa. Why aren’t we number 1?”
The answer was largely to be found in educational shortcomings, the fact that South Africa was not producing people with the necessary skills to hold down good jobs or to create their own businesses, Naidoo said.
Though South Africa was doing better at putting more kids through school, it was the quality of education which was the problem, he said.
Another big cause of the problem he identified was a decline, of almost 18 percent in South Africa’s score in the category of economic inclusion since data collection began in 2000.
“We still have structural and persistent unemployment. And the education system remains in crisis, producing very poor skills...”
Naidoo said the number of dependents of each wage earner had doubled since he was Cosatu general secretary and this was putting increasing pressure on wages and therefore triggering more strikes.
The index ranks the performance of African countries in four broad categories of governance: Safety & Rule of Law, Participation & Human Rights, Sustainable Economic Opportunity and Human Development.
Naidoo noted that South Africa was still scoring poorly in the sub-category of personal safety, where it came 41st, its lowest score by far. Incidents such as Marikana and service delivery protests had contributed to its decline of about 8 percent over 12 years in the category of Safety and Rule of Law.
And although South Africa came third overall in Participation and Human Rights, South Africa’s score in this category said South Africa has experienced “a notable decline” because it had dropped (about 6 percent) from first in 2000.
Across Africa, Naidoo noted that 20 countries had improved their scores in participation and human rights and safety and rule of law, while about 30 had declined since 2000.
Workers rights had declined 23 percent since 2000, with Swaziland being a classic example of the trend.
However, the index found that overall governance had improved for 94 percent of Africa’s population, prompting Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese cellphone billionaire who created the index, to say the continent had improved slightly.
“Neither Afro-pessimism nor Afro-optimism does justice to modern Africa,” he said. “This is now the age of Afro-realism - an honest outlook on our continent. It’s about a celebration of its achievements but also a pragmatic acknowledgement of the challenges that lie ahead.”
Naidoo noted that the gap between Africa’s best and worst performers was widening with Mauritius scoring close to 83 percent - a rise of 7.3 points since 2000 - and Somalia scoring 8 points at the bottom.
But one of the most encouraging developments was that several states that had been mired in conflict - Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola and Burundi - were now doing well, bucking the usual trend of post-conflict states which normally took 20 to 25 years to recover, Naidoo said.