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10 October 2016

Africa needs sensible leaders – Mo Ibrahim

mo-ibrahimAfrican presidents do not need to win the Mo Ibrahim prize, but quality leadership is crucial. The EastAfrican speaks to Mo Ibrahim about the latest Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) report released on October 3.

The report shows that two critical areas — security and rule of law — are in the negative. Let us start with Sudan where you are from: Is the problem of South Sudan of concern to you?

It is a serious concern and it is extremely sad to see a political leadership that is fighting, and dividing the country along ethnic lines. Tens of thousands have been killed and tens of thousands of women have been raped. This is totally unacceptable. All those leaders should end up in in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

What levels of engagement has the foundation had with the AU to bring peace to South Sudan?

We had former South African president Thabo Mbeki working hard on this issue and we also had from our foundation Festus Mogae, ex-president of Botswana, working specifically on the issue of South Sudan. This is not about mediation because there is no substance for the mediation. People mediate if there are real issues to be discussed. I think these are all issues about power, naked power to milk the meagre resources of the country for personal interests.

What impact have these reports had on governance in Africa?

I think the first thing is that the word governance started to fall in Africa. Ten years ago, nobody was talking about the big elephant in the room. We started to use that word and we try to simplify it. It is not a complex academic definition and the best way to start is by dissecting it into reasonable things that relate to everybody’s daily lives. What is governance? It is about delivery of goods.

So what is happening in education? What is happening in health? What is happening in infrastructure? What is happening in jobs? What is happening in our security? can we walk on the streets safely? What is happening about corruption? These are simple things that can be measured. We try to measure these based on simple to understand report, not because we want to win elections, became want the elderly people, men and women, in the street to feel they are citizens and that the government is accountable, and that is what the index is trying to do. It is not intended to shame or name any government but to help all of us understand what works and what doesn’t work and why some countries are succeeding while other countries are failing.

On the gender issue where the index reports some progress, is this just a question of numbers?

No, this is about what is actually happening on the ground. This is about the women’s political, physical, economic and social rights. Look, to have a woman prime minister or three women in the Cabinet does not mean that women’s position in the country has improved. But we are very pleased with the progress that has been made.

Ten years ago, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt showed signs of being emerging markets that would soon compete with established markets in the world, which have certainly retrogressed in terms of security and rule of law. All growth indices are collapsing and these countries are sliding backward slide. What do you think is responsible for that?

Right, I think the evidence is clear in front of us about these countries. To rely too much on exporting a commodity is a dangerous path and for years we have been talking about the need to diversify the economy.

There are 14 African countries that are oil exporters and they rely mainly on oil for their budgets and what happened? I mean for 10 years, we had a big bonanza in the price of oil. It went up from $35, $38 to $130, $140 even $150 and what happened? We tracked its impact over these 10 years on the infrastructure of the industries of the rural sectors of these countries, and, my brother nothing happened. What happened with this windfall of money? That is the question and it is a legitimate question.

This is the importance of data because it puts right in front of us, these are important and simple questions, which need an answer. A lot of this is also on corruption in Nigeria and we are aware that President Buhari is going around asking for his money back, and we have difficulties in seeing how this money can get back to him.

In South Africa, the commodity prices hit the mines, then we had violence in some mines and then we have the government that keeps on changing policies in the mining sector, then we started to see this investment undermining the sector, then we started to see some political instability creeping into the system in South Africa and that was a problem.

Now, I was looking at the table, which explains the inequality in the country and it says South Africa is the most unequal country in the world and its raises a legitimate question.

Twenty years of liberation and inequality in the country is increasing; it is unfair. So why did you come to govern? These are the kind of questions we need to really dig into. Egypt has had several changes of government and a lot of instability in the country these affecting the economy of the country and this is a country that depends on tourism for foreign currency and employment.

Governance is a factor of leadership; I would like to know your views on the current crop of leadership in Africa and particularly in view of the fact that it has been a while since we got a winner of the Mo Ibrahim Leadership Award.

Well, last year we got pledges to have one from Namibia. So, yes, not every year we got to have a winner but this is the nation of excellence, unfortunately. And you know I would be happy if people did not even achieve the same standard as President Barack Obama or Festus Mogae. They don’t even need to win the prize but let us just have reasonable leaders. I think we have a deficit in leadership in Africa, which is sad.

Question: What could be the reasons for this deficit

That is, I wish I know about that. That is a very difficult question. Is it a political process slowing these others or is just one m moment in history which closes our eye and produces a situation I don’t know but I mean we had like how many elections this year.

Just look at those elections and see what happens in them. We have a huge number of elections this year and I don’t think that any of them have been wonderful. It is very sad.

Question: Mr. Ibrahim year in, year out you produce this report, the foundation produces this report what can you say has been the major impact that these reports have had on governance in Africa.

I think the first thing is that the word governance started to be unused in Africa. Ten years ago nobody was talking about the big elephant in the room. We need to start to use that word and we try to simplify it. It is not a complex academic definition and the best way to start is by dissecting it into reasonable things which relate to everybody’s daily lives.

What is governance, It is about delivery of goods, government need to deliver public goods to the people. So what is happening in education, what is happening in health, what is happening in infrastructure, what is happening in jobs, what is happening in our security, can we walk on the streets safely, what is happening about corruption.

These are simple things and it can be measured and we try to measure it based on very simple to understand report because we want not to win elections, we want the elderly people, men and women, in the street to feel they are citizens and that the government is accountable and that is what the index is trying to do.

It is not intended to shame or name any government but to help all of us understand what works and what doesn’t work, why some countries are succeeding while other countries are failing, what can relate to each other.

I think that is the function of the index and many governments in Africa now have started to appreciate that value. Almost every week we have senior high level meetings with government people who sit with our team and understand what we have discussed about how each country performs so it is a serious business meant really to help the government to rule better and help the citizens to understand easily what is being delivered.

For many years we evaluated our presidents on the basis of how they deliver beautiful speeches and what kind of charisma they have and how they dance do they dance very well or not. It is time to change that we need to evaluate our governments on the basis of delivery

Question: Do think that security is already improving in the great lakes region

We talk about Africa as if it is a country. Of course we need to understand Africa has 54 countries and each country has its own story. In the great lakes region there has been quite improvement in governance, the economy moved well but the rule of law deteriorated. If you look around what happened in Burundi is unacceptable and is that painful in this situation.

They would not want to leave power. In their own country they have a president who have not yet gone for an election. Is that acceptable, is that not going to raise tension. How many people died in demonstrations in Kinshasa.

Now what is the future, are we going to see civil war gain in Congo and DRC ? God forbid ! I hope not but also leaders need to really understand that clinging to power, changing constitution, marginalising other people, dividing the country between minority and others has its own consequences which is at all not very good.

Question: One of the areas you said African governments have retrogressed is on security and the major problem of security or one of the major indices of instability is going to wide in Africa is terrorism and Nigeria is suffering it ,Libya is suffering it, Egypt is under all manner of terrorist activities.

Now do you think or does the Foundation think the West has yet to know how to help African governments deal with terrorist activities that are really affecting good governance in Africa

That is a very good question but I really want to take the long term question view on this. Why are we having all these problems with those crazy guys. I think we need to ask ourselves also are we creating opportunities and jobs for our people, are we marginalising certain people because why people take up arms and go and do stupid things. There must be a reason.

If you have a decent job, you have a wife and few kids you should want to live not to be a suicide bomber I think so and the problem we have in Africa is to have a huge pool of young people and to have a high level of unemployment among the young people. We need to see how we are going to secure a future for those people because if people lose hope then they do stupid things, especially young people they should never lose hope.

Having said that we also need to be tolerant of each other and we accept the notion of citizenship. I find it really very helpful that when you come to Europe or America or whatever and if one of them one ,of us don’t treat you very well you complain about racism and we have racism in own societies and we need to have the courage to face it.

I come across so many times when people from one ethnic group look down upon other ethnic groups or people use divisions in order to get power or to get whatever.

So, I think there are some fundamental issues also on the way we govern or the way we ensure equality of people regardless of ethnicity, or religion or colour that is something we need to work on all of us.

Question: Do you think the West or, developed countries like America, Britain, and France have helped enough in tackling these terrorism activities in Africa

I don’t think so actually we have been in long discussions especially during the week in New York of the UN General Assembly meeting and many people are coming to appreciate now really the need to work and this appreciation comes not out of generosity of service but also self- interest and you have always to understand that politics is about self-interest between nations and in our discussions with our friends in Europe and America we said you see guys you are complaining about immigrants this is the big issue at the moment in the west governments are falling and people are losing office over that issue.

So, we really hate immigration so badly but why are people immigrating .It is not because they like swimming in the Mediterranean, no one likes to do that it is because they are desperate, desperate for one or two reasons; either there is war somewhere and people are escaping the war so we have a duty to try and restore peace.

The second thing is lack of hope, lack of future, why don’t you help us to train and educate our young people so that the can find gainful employment. This is the sort of discussions we are having and I think it is a sensible discussion where we align the interest of those people with our people.

Having said that in the final analysis it is our duty to deal with that before we ask other people to do it. We need to do our bit then ask other people to come and help

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