Africa is making progress

A World Bank report released this week has given Africa the thumbs-up for good governance.

A World Bank report released this week has given Africa the thumbs-up for good governance.

The report, Governance Matters, 2007: Worldwide Governance and Indicators, 1996-2006, finds that a number of African countries have made strides towards reducing corruption and improving governance.

"The hopeful news is that a considerable number of countries, including some in Africa, are showing that it is possible to make significant governance progress in a relatively short period of time," says Daniel Kaufmann, a co-author of the report.

"Such improvements in governance are critical for aid effectiveness and for sustained long-run growth."

The report measures governance in 212 countries and territories throughout the world using a comprehensive set of indicators developed over the past decade. The report measures six components of good governance. These include:

l Voice and accountability - measuring the extent to which a country's citizens are able to take part in selecting their government as well as freedom of expression;

l Political stability and absence of violence - measuring perceptions of the likelihood that the government will be destabilised or overthrown by unconstitutional means, including violence and terrorism;

l Government effectiveness - measuring the quality of public services and the degree of its political independence from political pressures, the quality of policy formulation and implementation and the government's credibility as well as commitment to such policies;

l Regulatory quality - measuring the ability of the government to formulate and implement sound policies and regulations that permit and promote private sector development;

l Rule of law - measuring the extent to which agents have confidence and abide by the rules of society, and in particular the quality of contract enforcement, the police, courts, and the likelihood of crime and violence.

l Control of corruption - measuring the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, including petty forms of corruption, and "capture" of the state by elites and private interests.

Kenya, Niger and Sierra Leone have been identified as countries that have improved their voice and accountability component, which measures citizen participation in government and press freedom.

Algeria and Liberia have strengthened the rule of law, according to the report.

The report also finds that Algeria, Angola, Libya, Rwanda and Sierra Leone are more politically stable. Tanzania was one of only two countries worldwide where progress in combating corruption was judged to be significant.

But the report finds that many African countries still face serious governance challenges.

Not surprisingly, Zimbabwe is identified as one of the countries where the quality of governance has deteriorated.

President Robert Mugabe's response to the current political and economic crises in his country has transgressed most of the dimensions of governance articulated in the report.

For example, the passing of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) and the Public Order and Security Act (Posa) have ensured that there's hardly any free media and hardly any freedom of expression or association to talk about.

The Zimbabwean government has used Aippa to close down all independent newspapers in the country. It also uses Posa to suppress any form of public activity by the opposition.

The violent attacks on the Movement for Democratic Change members and supporters by security police show how Posa has been used to stifle freedom of expression and association.

One cannot talk of the rule of law in a country where the president can appoint hoodlums to impose economically unviable measures and use brute force to do so, as Mugabe has done in imposing the 50percent reduction in prices.

Also, a country where the police have become a law unto themselves when dealing with the ruling party's political opponents, cannot claim to uphold the rule of law.

The recent move by the Zimbabwean government to impose drastic price reductions and the threat to nationalise businesses that question these drastic measures is an indication of that government's inability to "formulate and implement sound policies and regulations that permit and promote private sector development".

It is common knowledge that members of the ruling Zanu-PF party use their political connections for their private interests.

There have been many reports of how senior party officials hoard petrol on their farms only to sell on the black market at much higher prices.

The recent arrest of a Zanu-PF senator, accused of hoarding goods to avoid the price reduction, is a case in point.

That he was arrested is hardly an example of how the government fights corruption but a response to an act of defiance against a government that has lost control.