As one of Africa's most successful businessmen, Sudanese telecoms billionaire Mo Ibrahim is well placed to deliver home truths to the continent's occasionally complacent policymakers. His foundation's annual Ibrahim Index of African Governance has long been trusted to deliver a refreshingly unbiased progress check on the continent, often giving governments and politicians deserved credit for unheralded successes.
Yet 2018's index, released in late October, delivered an unpleasant shock to those who hope that the continent is on an unstoppable upwards trajectory. Amid a number of disappointing indicators, the notably downbeat instalment found that sustainable economic opportunity--defined as the extent to which Africa's governments enable their citizens to pursue economic goals and prosper--is stalling across the continent.
While Africa's GDP has increased by nearly 40% since 2008, sustainable economic opportunity increased by a paltry 0.2% on average. Twenty-five of Africa's countries, accounting for 43.2% of the continent's citizens, have seen a decline in economic opportunity over the last decade. Meanwhile, endless talk of pro-business reform and improved opportunity for the private sector is belied by the awkward reality that Africa's average business environment score deteriorated by almost five points over the last decade to 41.1 out of 100.
Of course, it's not all doom and gloom--over the same period, overall governance maintained a "moderate upwards trajectory", with three out of four citizens living in a country where governance has improved, and indicators on health and human rights showing welcome progress. Cote d'Ivoire, Morocco and Kenya are singled out for their overall progress.
But the often optimistic Ibrahim refused to sugarcoat the survey's more disturbing findings.