How Dr. Ibrahim and Other Well-Off Africans Can Best Foster Good Governance in African Countries (By Jump-Starting Resource-Pooling Efforts to Build High-Impact Independent Information-based Institutions and Infrastructures that Will Foster Accountability and the Emergence of Visionary and Transformational Leaders)
Dr. Mo Ibrahim’s laudable and inspiring effort has generated increased attention to the governance challenge in Africa and the urgent imperative to come up with innovative strategies to aggressively address the leadership crisis, especially direly needed indigenous initiatives developed and led by Africans themselves. As ALPN has argued, the onus is on accomplished Africans themselves to bring about better governance in their countries, with or without help from the international community.
However, the Ibrahim Foundation’s approach, which is primarily premised on “energiz[ing] civil society,” presumes that there are strong, independent, and vigorous civil society organizations and leaders (or so-called “change agents” or “champions”) with strong supportive networks who will be able to utilize the Governance Index information to aggressively foster accountability in their countries. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The handful of genuinely independent and committed civil society organizations that focus on governance have very limited resources and are therefore weak and not very effective against powerful and ruthless elites. And, many other organizations that claim to be part of civil society are either not truly independent or are primarily motivated by partisan political and financial considerations, and therefore lack credibility. Furthermore, the few brave reformers and change agents who lead good governance initiatives get very little support and therefore easily get quashed by oppressive regimes who have national treasuries at their disposal.
The most critical need, therefore, is to build the vigorous and high-impact independent information-based institutions and infrastructures that can effectively (a) galvanize citizenries at the grassroots to make governments more accountable and (b) facilitate the rapid emergence of visionary and strong leaders who will have transformational impact. This is, of course, the more daunting aspect of addressing the governance challenge, which will require substantial resources and take several years to accomplish.
In this brief, we discuss the limitations of the Mo Ibrahim approach and argue that the most cost-effective use of the limited resources available from Dr. Ibrahim and (hopefully) other well-off Africans is to jump-start massive resource-pooling efforts to mobilize the substantial resources needed to build the requisite high quality institutions and infrastructures. We also present a strategic framework for implementing such an approach, including how so-called “Brain Drain”/Diaspora Africans, who have a special responsibility in this regard, can play unique and transformative roles.
I. Introduction: The Challenge – and Failure to Date – of Fostering Good Governance in Africa
The African Leadership and Progress Network (ALPN), like several others who genuinely want to see rapid progress in Africa, applauds Dr. Mo Ibrahim’s highly laudable and inspiring efforts to help foster better governance in African countries. The Ibrahim Foundation’s approach primarily involves (a) publication of an annual African Governance Index (the inaugural edition was published in September 2007) and (b) annual award of an African Leadership Prize (the inaugural Prize was awarded in October 2007 to the former president of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano). This approach is, of course, in line with ALPN’s goals and strategies—when ALPN was launched in 2004, we advocated, and have since then worked to promote, inter alia:
• Stronger and more proactive and innovative efforts by well-off and accomplished Africans to implement independent leadership and governance capacity building initiatives, by harnessing and leveraging their immense but largely untapped and underutilized resources. See, for example, ALPN’s Research/Information Portal and briefs:
- Leadership & Governance Capacity Building in African Countries: Why and How Well-Off and Accomplished Africans, Especially “Brain Drain” Africans, Should Proactively Take Charge of Fostering African Progress (2004)
- Addressing Africa’s Humiliation: ‘Brain Gain’/’Brain Circulation’ Diaspora Networks for African Progress (2005)
- After the 2005 G8 and UN Summits: Independent, High-Impact Information Infrastructures and Networks for Transparency and Accountability in African Countries (2006)
• Development of “ratings and rankings of African leaders based on relevant information on leadership performance”–see ALPN’s African Leadership & Governance Rankings webpage, which also provides links to several sources of leadership and governance rankings and related information.
• Development of talented emerging leaders and youth with exceptional leadership potential into future visionary and transformational leaders–see ALPN’s African Leadership Capacity Development Project, and ALPN founder/director, Dr. Michael Isimbabi’s letter in The Economist, “Making Leaders” (24 July 2003).
If nothing else, the fact that a wealthy African is willing to dedicate some of his wealth to addressing the leadership problem should have a substantial inspirational impact on others with respect to the basic premise of ALPN’s advocacy, i.e., that the onus is on accomplished Africans themselves to bring about better governance in their countries, with or without help from the international community.
As we have argued (e.g., in the briefs cited above), regardless of the underlying historical reasons for Africa’s current leadership and development crises, well-off (and even not-so-well-off) Africans have the ultimate responsibility for meeting this challenge, and must strive to do so with a desperate sense of urgency, through effective pooling of financial, intellectual, networking, and other resources. Surely, those Africans who successfully fought colonialists and dictators in the past have demonstrated that success is possible through effective pooling of resources, however meager, and innovative strategies.
Of course, the international community has a responsibility to help, and some rich-country governments and institutions have done so to a certain extent. However, given the realities of global geopolitics and economics, it is unrealistic to expect that the international community will deliver Africans from bad leaders. Even the most well-intentioned rich-country governments and institutions often face severe domestic and international political and economic constraints with respect to what they can actually do to foster better governance in Africa.
Furthermore, given most African leaders’ lust for power and wealth, and their desire and ability to entrench themselves in power – with plenty of help from some foreign corporations and governments – it is also unrealistic to expect that initiatives such as NEPAD’s African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and the ‘good governance’ reform programs sponsored by the World Bank and other aid agencies will have the transformational impact that is necessary to bring about rapid progress. This is because such initiatives often require the same inept and corrupt governments to essentially reform themselves out of power. Hence these initiatives have only been marginally effective in helping to improve governance in just a few countries.
In general, getting wealthy governments, foundations, and individuals to make substantial investments in leadership and governance initiatives remains a very difficult task. This is partly because the success of such initiatives is often uncertain and not immediately and clearly evident, highly visible, or easily measurable (compared to, say, stopping conflicts and wars, building education and health infrastructures, etc.). Thus, even those foundations and governments that genuinely want to promote good governance are generally not inclined to provide substantial financing for (often expensive) governance initiatives, especially as there are always high-visibility crises that demand immediate attention and commitment of the limited resources available.
Currently, only a tiny fraction of the aid budgets of rich countries is allocated to promoting better governance in poorly-run countries and, worse, very little of this is allocated to independent initiatives. Instead, aid funds are usually given directly to the same corrupt governments, which are then exhorted to undertake governance reforms that, if successful, would eventually force them out of office. Not surprisingly, this clearly unrealistic approach has so far produced only very limited and halting progress.
Similarly, the few wealthy foundations that even consider funding leadership initiatives allocate only relatively small amounts, usually to small-scale projects. Notably, to his great credit, financier and philanthropist George Soros has been a pioneer and innovator who has provided substantial financing for transparency and accountability initiatives worldwide for decades, through his Soros Foundation Network, Open Society Institutes in Africa and elsewhere, the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Campaign, the Africa Governance, Monitoring and Advocacy Project (AfriMAP), etc. Hopefully, newer and innovative foundations such as the Gates and Google foundations will soon also accord high priority to leadership and governance issues and thereby rapidly boost ongoing efforts.
An argument that will hopefully gain greater acceptance is that much more substantive investment to foster better governance in African countries will ultimately provide high returns to wealthy countries and foundations: With only a small fraction of the billions of dollars in aid that will continue to be misused or stolen, substantial investments in highly effective leadership and governance initiatives would:
– save donors billions of dollars in future aid that would otherwise be needed to deal with the increased poverty, civil strife, wars, etc., that will inevitably be the consequence of continued bad governance; and
– greatly reduce the growth of global terrorism that is likely to result from state failure in many countries.
In general, foundations, governments, and organizations such as the World Bank are wary of funding aggressive, high-impact initiatives because of sensitivities to accusations by African leaders that Western governments and institutions are interfering in their countries’ internal affairs and attempting to remove them from power. This obviously underscores why highly potent, grassroots-based independent initiatives need to be developed and led by Africans themselves. External funding will continue to have limited impact without strong indigenous efforts by highly motivated, credible, competent and dedicated Africans.
In any case, Africans must assume that they will not get much help from the international community to support their efforts and must therefore take charge on their own, even with only meager resources. It is in this regard that wealthy African benefactors such as Dr. Ibrahim can play crucial roles that will have transformational impact, i.e., by jump-starting massive resource-pooling efforts and independent governance and leadership development initiatives.
Even if started on a small scale, an initiative that demonstrates strong potential and effectiveness will be able to attract more substantial support from various sources, including the international community. Stronger backing from the international community would, in turn, enable those working to bring about better governance to do their work with much less fear of repression and persecution, thereby ensuring much quicker and greater impact.
Hopefully, since the impact of aid-based and governmental initiatives such as the APRM will remain quite limited, independent efforts such as Dr. Ibrahim’s will further inspire other well-off Africans to become more proactive, by generating, and investing in, innovative ideas and implementing independent leadership development initiatives.
Many critics have noted, however, that, given the limited resources currently available for such initiatives, the Ibrahim Foundation’s approach is not necessarily the most cost-effective means of bringing about better governance in African countries, and that the funds could be better utilized to build the infrastructures that are direly needed to foster accountability.
In the next sections, we discuss the limitations of the Mo Ibrahim approach and argue that the most cost-effective use of the limited resources available from Dr. Ibrahim, and (hopefully) other well-off Africans, is to jump-start massive resource-pooling efforts to mobilize the substantial resources needed to build the requisite high quality institutions and infrastructures that can:
(a) effectively galvanize citizenries at the grassroots to make governments more transparent and accountable; and
(b) facilitate the rapid emergence of visionary and transformational leaders.
We also present a strategic framework for implementing such an approach, including how so-called “Brain Drain”/Diaspora Africans, who have a special responsibility in this regard, can play unique and transformative roles.
II. Limitations of the Ibrahim Foundation’s Approach
Dr. Ibrahim explains his rationale for establishing the Leadership Prize, which has drawn much praise and support from Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, and numerous others, as follows:
“…We need to get out of this pessimism that all African leaders are corrupt. There are some doing wonderful things and implementing the right policies. They need to be honoured… Running an African country is the toughest job in the world. And if you do manage to take five million people out of poverty, or get clean water to people or educate kids, a $5 million reward is peanuts…” [“Mo Ibrahim Unveiled”, The East African]
“…There is much gossip and speculation about what Tony Blair will do when he leaves office next year. Will he join the lecture circuit? Will he take on a series of directorships? Will he write his memoirs?…In Africa, the choices for heads of state are more sobering. Most leave office with no chance of sustaining a lifestyle equivalent to the one they enjoy while in office. The income of former heads of government may seem a trifling issue compared to the major problems faced by many of the continent’s citizens. In fact it is of fundamental importance in securing its future. …A situation in which leaders face three choices – relative poverty, term extension, or corruption – is not conducive to good governance. And the continent’s problems will not be solved unless governance improves radically. That’s why I am today launching a foundation that aims to change fundamentally the choices faced by African leaders, and as a result recast the terms of the governance debate…” [Mo Ibrahim, “Leading Africa Forward”]
Many skeptics have, however, expressed doubt that the Leadership Prize can motivate African leaders who are not already so inclined to govern well. Many Africans also find it disturbing and humiliating that their leaders have to be “bribed” to do what they are supposed to do, i.e., govern well. Furthermore, some critics have pointed out that the Leadership Prize approach places too much emphasis on one person rather than the more important focus on political elites and their cronies, public institutions, bureaucracies, citizenries, etc., and thereby only further perpetuates the stereotypical African ‘big man’ syndrome. One commentator, for example, highlights some of the key challenges in this regard:
“…The $5m prize intended to help improve Africa’s leadership risks diverting attention from more critical institutional issues. …Much of Africa currently holds multi-party elections. But parliaments are poorly supported. Elected leaders can hardly be effective representatives of their people. For example, many parliaments debate national budgets but they cannot influence their contents. They merely rubber-stamp proposals for the executive branch, many of which are discussed in advance with development partners. Similarly, judicial offices remain under-funded and lack the administrative infrastructure to render justice in a fair and efficient way. They need to digitise their records but can hardly get the support to do so. The lack of administrative infrastructure reduces transparency, breeding corruption and other malpractices. All of this will reflect badly on leaders in power. The prize serves a useful purpose in focusing attention on the need to improve governance in general and leadership in particular, but more needs to be done to help Africa build the institutional infrastructure needed to deepen democracy.” [Calestous Juma, “Trophy leaders are not enough”]
[For links to several other critiques and commentaries on the Ibrahim Foundation’s approach, visit ALPN’s Web Portal Page: The Mo Ibrahim African Governance Index and Leadership Prize]
The rationale for the Prize – i.e., that the only choice facing a leader besides term extension and corruption is relative poverty – is tenuous at best. In today’s global environment, Africans who distinguish themselves through exemplary leadership can count on international accolades and numerous avenues for ensuring their financial security and international recognition. Organizations such as the Clinton Global Initiative, the Gates Foundation, the Soros Foundations, and others would only be too glad to provide such leaders with the global platform, financial security, and resources to enable them continue to do work that will have a substantive impact on African development. Nelson Mandela is, of course, the most obvious example in this regard. But even if his case is an unusual or unique one, other recent examples include Ngozi Okonji-Iweala (the former Nigerian Minister of Finance who is now back at the World Bank following a stint at Washington, DC’s prestigious think-tank, the Brookings Institution), John Kithongo (Kenya’s former permanent secretary in charge of governance and ethics, now a senior associate member of St Antony’s College, Oxford, UK), and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Wangari Maathai.
Obviously, the increased attention and discourse on governance in Africa generated by the Prize and Governance Index are very positive developments, for which Dr. Ibrahim should be highly lauded. However, as he himself has acknowledged, these initiatives by themselves are not sufficient to adequately address the governance challenge.
Looking ahead, say, over the next 10-15 years, the Prize is likely to go to leaders who governed or are governing well and were already inclined to be good leaders anyway without the enticement of the award. Thus, it is still not clear how the Prize will motivate any of the current leaders of Africa’s most populous and/or resource-rich nations, virtually all of which are badly governed, to change behavior or relinquish power voluntarily, since they know that they are unlikely to ever win the Prize.
Furthermore, for these leaders, whose primary motivation is power and wealth, the Prize is also ‘mere peanuts’ compared to (a) the large amounts they know they can steal without severe consequences and (b) the thrills and benefits of absolute power. The Prize is therefore not a sufficient incentive to entice them to govern better or relinquish power. Thus, because the countries over which such leaders preside constitute the vast majority of the African population, the Prize by itself is unlikely to do much in terms of making a difference in the lives of most ordinary Africans, who will therefore remain perpetually mired under bad governance unless much more effective strategies to make their governments more accountable are employed.
This is, of course, the daunting challenge that can be successfully addressed only if substantial resources are invested consistently over several years in high-impact initiatives that will foster transparency and accountability. The question, therefore, is how best to utilize the limited resources available, and whether the Leadership Prize and the Governance Index are the most cost-effective approaches in this regard.
The broader governance challenge is, of course, how to solve the seemingly intractable problems of institutionalized corruption, inefficient bureaucracies, dysfunctional institutions, entrenched powerful interests, tribal and ethnic divisions and conflicts, etc., that even a highly committed and uncorrupt leader, who may otherwise be deserving of the Prize, could be powerless to do much about. Furthermore, any attempt to solve the governance problem will be unsuccessful if it does not adequately address the fact that some powerful foreign firms (and a few governments) (a) help to prop up bad leaders and (b) facilitate corruption, e.g., through the illicit siphoning of funds out of Africa through transfer pricing, shady and illegal transactions, tax evasion, etc., and provision of safe havens for corrupt officials and their stolen assets in Western banks, offshore financial centers, etc. [The G8, the World Bank, former and current UK prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and others have acknowledged this as a serious problem. For details, see ALPN’s Web Portal Page, Illicit Capital Flows, Tax Evasion, and African Development, which provides links to several documents on this issue by organizations such as Global Financial Integrity, Global Witness, Publish What You Pay, Tax Justice Network, Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), and others.] As is well-known, stopping even a fraction of these illicit outflows would leave substantial amounts of funds in most African countries – even much more than they currently get in aid – which, if properly utilized, would have a much greater impact on poverty than aid handouts.
The Ibrahim Governance Index is intended to be a tool to be used in addressing the daunting governance challenge. According to the Ibrahim Foundation, the Index is a comprehensive ranking of good governance developed “in recognition of the need for a more comprehensive, objective and quantifiable method of measuring governance quality in sub-Saharan Africa.” The Foundation expects that “its publication will lead to an improvement in the way in which the citizens of sub-Saharan African countries are governed, while stimulating debate across societies about the criteria by which good governance should best be assessed.”
According to Dr. Ibrahim, the governance information reflected in the Index is intended to “really energize civil society…We will give information to civil society. That is accountability, which is very important” (Speech by Dr. Ibrahim at the UN’s 7th Global Forum on Reinventing Government). He also stresses the importance of, and need for, independent initiatives by Africans themselves:
“This is an African initiative, occupying a unique space which NGOs, foreign donors and the investment community, for obvious reasons, are not able to fill. I am committing my resources to it because I am convinced that, used in this way, they can have a massive and disproportionate impact on the health and prosperity of the continent.” (Emphasis added) [Mo Ibrahim, “Leading Africa Forward”]
“…So, we set out really to do the things that you believe that neither the World Bank, nor the United Nations, nor the European Union, nor the other Communities can do, which is to speak frankly. Because we are a member of civil society, we are really able to speak frankly, to measure, and publish, and rank, and tell countries what we are doing and also tell leaders what they are doing, because we are going to map each leader’s period of leadership on their performance. Then, we need to give these facts to civil society in a very easily digestible form to know exactly what we are doing. Then, you take issues with guys, if you want to.” (Emphasis added) [Speech by Dr. Ibrahim at the UN’s 7th Global Forum on Reinventing Government]
“The Ibrahim Index of African Governance is shining a light on governance in Africa and, in so doing, improving its quality. Progress is being made: for the period assessed by the first Ibrahim index (2000-05), overall governance performance in sub-Saharan Africa improved. To be sure, not all countries improved. According to the Ibrahim index, governance deteriorated in just under a quarter of the region’s countries.
The index will be updated yearly, providing a scorecard of national progress assessed against objective criteria, and a framework for African civil society to engage its leaders in a debate about how we are governed. This is an African initiative, occupying a space which donors, investors and governments are not able to fill. It is about Africans taking ownership, developing their own forms of accountability, and delivering change. It is about Africans setting benchmarks that the world can emulate.” (Emphasis added) [Mo Ibrahim, “Criteria for a continent”, The World in 2008 (The Economist)]
However, this approach presumes that there are strong, independent, and vigorous institutions and civil society organizations (or some will spontaneously evolve) that will use the governance information to energize citizenries at the grassroots, intensify public demand, and exert strong pressure for better performance, not just on one person, but on political leaders and elites (including those not in power), other public officials, public institutions, business and civic elites, the private sector, etc. Even in advanced democracies with well-functioning governments, the existence of such independent institutions and civil society (the media, think tanks, academics, research, policy, education, information, and advocacy groups, etc.) remains crucial to ensuring transparency and accountability, given the human tendency of those in power anywhere to become power-drunk, hubristic, secretive, and corrupt.
Unfortunately, most African countries currently do not have such vigorous and highly influential civil society organizations that focus on governance issues, and the handful that are genuinely committed, highly motivated, and truly independent have very limited resources. They are therefore weak and not very effective, since they are usually dealing with powerful, corrupt, and often ruthless leaders and their cronies who control their nations’ resources and have no qualms about using these resources to harass, suppress, or even kill those who demand accountability, believing, usually correctly, that they can get away with poor performance and criminal behavior. Furthermore, many other organizations that proclaim themselves to be part of civil society are not truly independent, or are motivated primarily by partisan political and financial considerations, and therefore lack credibility.
Clearly, the most critical need is therefore the establishment of high quality institutions and infrastructures that can be effectively “energized” to actually bring about substantive change by sharply focusing on high-impact strategies. Otherwise, as useful as it is to measure and rank governance, the Ibrahim Index will have little impact on most African leaders, who will simply ignore or dismiss it, as they have other older ratings of leadership performance, such as: Freedom House’s Freedom in the World, Global Integrity Index, the Bertelsmann Transformation Index, the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Selection Criteria, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, the World Bank’s Governance Indicators, The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Index of Democracy, the Open Budget Initiative’s Open Budget Index/Budget Transparency Country Rankings, etc. Usually, following publications of these ratings, there’s some media coverage, along with lamentation and hand-wringing about poor governance in Africa, and then everyone goes on with business as usual.
Nevertheless, the Ibrahim Index has the potential to have much greater impact than previous rankings because it (a) puts a specific focus on Africa, (b) is sponsored by an African who evidently is prepared to use his considerable resources to bring about change, (c) is supported by respected figures such as Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan, and (d) has an advisory council made up of “eminent African academics.” Hence, it cannot simply be dismissed as yet another set of ratings produced by biased non-Africans, though it does rely largely on data produced by non-African organizations and was developed at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Despite its shortcomings (discussed below), publication of the Index reportedly has generated much media coverage and discourse in African countries and internationally, including discussions at the Brookings Institution (“How to Rank Good Governance: The Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership“), the World Bank (“Africa’s Crises: Strengthening Leadership & Governance”), and other institutions. However, it remains to be seen what practical impact it will have, i.e., whether (a) it will indeed generate enough debate to put African leaders under much greater scrutiny and pressure, and (b) the increased attention will galvanize Africans and others to be more proactive about demanding greater accountability from their leaders.
To ensure the desired substantive impact beyond press coverage and passive debate with little consequential action, Dr. Ibrahim and his distinguished supporters will need to use their substantial stature and clout to deliberately and forcefully bring immense pressure to bear on African leaders and force them to pay attention. Even then, the failure to date of the APRM’s peer review approach (after more than five years) has already shown that not much will happen unless civil society and citizenries are effectively galvanized to demand better governance.
Furthermore, the Index’s potential impact is in danger of being undercut by its shortcomings. Because its ratings are derived from some of the same data used to compute previous ratings (such as those cited above), the Index, not surprisingly, provides little additional information — beyond the overall assessments already evident from these other indexes — that can have any significant impact on African leaders.
As the developers of the Index themselves acknowledge, and critics have noted, the inaugural “2007” index, which is actually based largely on 2005 data, needs to be refined to provide more accurate indicators of leadership performance, as there is much to criticize about the methodology used and the conclusions derived therefrom. [See, for example, the transcript of the panel discussion at the Brookings Institution and Marta Foresti, “Assessing governance: No easy task“, for critiques.]
One glaring example is Gabon, a country that has been ruled by an oppressive dictatorship for over 40 years, ranked at No. 6 in overall governance, largely on the strength of its No. 1 ranking in the “Safety and Security” category, which ironically is a result of severe repression. Similarly, Equatorial Guinea, clearly a very badly governed country, earns a relatively respectable 32nd ranking overall, largely because of a very high ‘Safety and Security’ ranking.
Another important aspect of the Index’s ratings that needs to be comprehensively addressed is the distinction between measures of the state of affairs in a country, which may be the result of the actions of previous leaders and therefore is not necessarily attributable to the leadership in power at the time data were collected, and change in the country’s state of affairs based on actual performance of the leadership. For example, a leader may be doing a great job of cleaning up the mess left by her predecessor, which would imply a very high “change” (performance) score despite a low “state” score. [The World Bank’s Aart Kraay also makes a related distinction between the “development” and “governance” aspects of the Index’s measures during the panel discussion at the Brookings event.]
Incidentally, the Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI) makes such a distinction. Its Status Index “shows the development achieved by…states on their way toward democracy and a market economy. States with functioning democratic and market-based structures receive the highest scores.” The Management Index, however, “reveals the extent to which governments and political actors have been consistent and determined in their pursuit of a market-based democracy. Those states showing progress in the last five years and in which transformation has resulted from astute management receive the highest scores.”
Interestingly, with the exception of Gabon (for the reason noted above) and smaller countries that are not included in the BTI, the Ibrahim Index’s rankings are quite similar to the BTI’s 2006 Status Index (which are also based on 2005 data), e.g., the top six countries common to both indexes, and their ranking orders, are exactly the same. (The BTI does not include all sub-Saharan African countries, while the Ibrahim Index does.) For obvious reasons, as explained above, the Management Index is not as highly correlated with the Ibrahim and BTI Status Indexes.
To be sure, despite its limitations, the overall impact of the Ibrahim approach to date has been positive, as several commentators have noted—it clearly has generated increased attention and advanced the discourse on governance in African countries. However, in order to ensure the transformational impact that is necessary, the limited resources available should be applied toward establishment of strong, independent, and high-quality information infrastructures and civil society organizations that can be effectively energized to foster better governance. We present an approach for achieving this goal in the next section.
III. ALPN’s Approach: Resource-Pooling for High-Impact, Independent Information-based Institutions and Infrastructures
Better governance and leaderships will evolve only when those in power know that they will pay severe penalties for poor performance, i.e., if there is strong public demand and pressure to make them – and those foreign firms and governments that aid and abet them – more accountable. But then such public pressure will evolve only if populaces are well-informed about their countries’ resources, how well they are utilized, how to demand and ensure transparency and accountability, etc., and then take the necessary actions to hold their leaders’ feet to the fire.
Unfortunately, as noted above, most African countries do not have the strong and independent civil society organizations that can effectively utilize the information provided by the Ibrahim Index and others to bring about better leadership performance. Given the substantial resources required, the most crucial role that wealthy Africans such as Dr. Ibrahim can play is to galvanize massive and effective resource-pooling efforts among well-off Africans, in order to provide a solid resource base for implementing critical initiatives, such as:
1. Establishment of high-impact, independent, and robust information-based institutions and infrastructures that will energize citizenries, especially at the grassroots, to take charge of fostering change and force their leaders to be accountable. These would include, for example:
- Reputable, nonpartisan, and vigorous media organizations (radio, TV, print, Internet, etc.). One proposal, for example, calls for the establishment of an “independent, indigenous, multimedia, multilingual, pan-continental broadcasting network, owned and managed by Africans,…. broadcasting on television, radio, and the Internet,” that would “push secretive governments toward greater transparency, foster economic and political ties between distant parts of the continent, and report honestly on events and trends affecting Africans…” [Philip Fiske de Gouveia, “Africa Needs an Al-Jazeera”]
- Independent and objective research, policy, education, information, and advocacy organizations and experts (think-tanks, public education groups, academics, etc.)
- Private oversight and community watchdog groups; etc.
[For a detailed discussion, see ALPN’s brief: After the 2005 G8 and UN Summits: Independent, High-Impact Information Infrastructures and Networks for Transparency and Accountability in African Countries (2005)]
2. Development of young people with exceptional potential, and provision of support for genuine emerging leaders, in order to facilitate the rapid emergence of visionary and transformational leaders. [See ALPN’s African Leadership Capacity Development Project for a detailed framework. See also The Global Integrity Alliance.]
Of course, resource-pooling need not be restricted to only well-off Africans. Even Africans of modest means can also pool resources and launch small-scale initiatives that can have significant impact–the resources do not have to be financial: resource-pooling could be through intellectual collaborations, network development, information dissemination, advisory services, etc. [For details, see ALPN’s briefs: “After the 2005 G8 and UN Summits: Independent, High-Impact Information Infrastructures and Networks for Transparency and Accountability in African Countries” and “Addressing Africa’s Humiliation: ‘Brain Gain’/’Brain Circulation’ Diaspora Networks for African Progress”.]
Through effective pooling of financial, intellectual, networking, and other resources, as well as innovative use of the Internet and other information and communications technologies, even individuals and small groups can help to foster greater transparency and accountability by focusing sharply on specific issues such as:
- Monitoring, research, analysis, information dissemination, and public education – on leadership performance, policies, public management of resources (revenues, budgets, procurements and contracts, etc.), etc. — to raise awareness on citizens’ rights and entitlements, change mindsets, build sustained public support, reduce barriers such as tribal and ethnic divisions which inept and oppressive regimes exploit to entrench themselves in power, etc.
- Freedom of expression, press freedom, media independence, etc., to enable greater access to information and transparency (e.g., through enactment of Freedom of Information Acts, etc.).
- Collaboration with like-minded international organizations to effectively address the “other” or “supply-side” (foreign) side of corruption and bad leadership in Africa–foreign firms and governments that (a) prop up bad leaders, (b) aid and abet corruption and illicit siphoning of funds out of Africa, and (c) provide safe havens for corrupt officials and their stolen assets in offshore financial centers, tax havens, etc.
- Development and advocacy of alternative policies and strategies, to foster competition in ideas and better economic management and leadership
- Provision of strong and proactive support for emerging visionary and transformational leaders to enable them to effectively fight entrenched corrupt interests and bring about meaningful change in their countries
- Training/mentoring/development of young people with exceptional leadership potential, to foster the rapid evolution of visionary, committed, uncorrupt, knowledgeable, competent, and transformational leaders.
As ALPN has advocated, one particular high-potential group of Africans, so-called “Brain Drain”/Diaspora Africans (BDAs) resident in Western countries, is particularly well-suited and well-placed to implement many of these independent, nongovernmental initiatives in several innovative ways. [For links to information and websites on work by BDAs worldwide, visit ALPN’s Research/Information Portal: Brain Drain, Brain Gain, Brain Circulation, Diaspora Africans, and Capacity Building in Africa.]
Many BDAs already utilize personal resources to implement several useful projects at community and national levels in their native countries and their countries of residence. However, the substantial collective resources of large numbers of BDAs – intellectual, financial, networking, etc. – most of whom obviously care deeply about leadership in Africa (but usually feel helpless to do anything about the problem), are yet to be effectively harnessed toward implementing high-impact governance initiatives.
Thus, a critical imperative is the development of networks and teams of BDAs located in different countries and continents – professionals whose areas of expertise span political/public affairs, policy, law, management, business, finance, economics, media and communications, information dissemination, journalism, science, information/communications and other technologies, etc. – that will work on the issues listed above in their respective areas of expertise and interest (research, analysis, public education, knowledge/information dissemination, networking, partnerships, capacity building, training, mentoring, counseling, technical assistance, advocacy, etc.). To the extent possible, such teams would, of course, collaborate with or support colleagues and compatriots in African countries.
Based on the (obvious) reasoning that BDAs have a special responsibility to pool their resources toward fostering better governance in Africa, ALPN is working to facilitate the development of such networks [see ALPN’s Leadership & Governance Capacity Building in African Countries…]. As Dr. Ibrahim has noted, “we Africans in the diaspora, who have had the opportunity to be in the developed world, to learn skills and to build personal wealth, have a duty to Africa. We need to support the continent through various efforts such as investing in it. We have a debt to pay to our people and our families…” [“Mo Ibrahim Unveiled”, The East African]
For various reasons, many BDAs are unable to permanently relocate back to their native countries. However, given the ease of collaboration, discourse, networking, and information collection and dissemination through the Internet and other information/communications technologies, they can still work on the transparency and accountability issues outlined above even without such relocation. In some cases, occasional short visits to their native countries may be necessary and, in other cases, e.g., where governments are highly repressive, BDAs could even be more effective working on initiatives from outside their native countries. [For a detailed discussion, see ALPN’s brief: Addressing Africa’s Humiliation: ‘Brain Gain’/’Brain Circulation’ Diaspora Networks for African Progress.]
Examples of projects on which teams or networks of BDAs, in association with counterparts in their native countries where possible, can work without having to travel anywhere, or even physically meet, are:
1. Analysis of budgets (revenues, expenditures, government priorities, etc.), contracts, etc. and wide (global) dissemination of findings and recommendations, by teams of BDAs with expertise in public policy, economics, finance, quantitative analysis, law, etc. [For details and case studies on the importance and proven impact of budget analysis work, visit: International Budget Project; Africa Budget Project]
2. Monitoring, analysis, and dissemination of information on illicit financial flows out of Africa, tax havens, etc., by banking/finance/tax experts, economists, lawyers, etc. [For ongoing work on this issue, visit: Global Financial Integrity, Global Witness, Tax Justice Network]
3. Work on Freedom of Information Acts, other legal frameworks and issues relating to access to information, political and economic freedom, human rights, etc., by lawyers, media and communications/information professionals, etc., including collaboration with African and international organizations.
4. Gathering, analysis, synthesis, and dissemination of information, and development of national and international networks, on various issues, to provide support as needed by civil society organizations, media organizations, parliaments, etc. in their native countries. BDAs have easier and cheaper access to sophisticated Internet/information and communications services and technologies, and can therefore provide immense assistance to counterparts in African countries whose resources are limited.
5. Collaborative work with international coalitions such as Global Financial Integrity, Global Witness, Publish What You Pay, Tax Justice Network, etc. that work on transparency and accountability issues.
6. Training and mentoring young and emerging leaders in their native countries who have the potential to become transformational change agents in civil society, by helping them with research, information, advice, support, information and communication technologies, linkages to supportive global networks, etc.
Even with very limited resources, thousands of highly motivated, committed, and competent Africans in the Diaspora and the continent are already trying to do something about poor leadership performance in their countries, often at their own expense and at great personal risk. Many of these brilliant and proven professionals, who already have clearly demonstrated strong interest, motivation, and ability to do innovative and high quality work, would jump at the chance to work on independent leadership and governance initiatives full-time in or outside their countries, as necessary, if they were assured of funding for at least two to three years from the Ibrahim Foundation and other visionary and innovative foundations.
Dr. Mo Ibrahim’s laudable and inspiring effort has generated increased attention to the governance challenge in Africa and the urgent imperative to come up with innovative strategies to aggressively address the leadership crisis, especially direly needed indigenous initiatives developed and led by Africans themselves.
He and (hopefully) other well-off Africans can have transformational and sustained impact in this area by galvanizing massive resource-pooling efforts to build the solid resource base that is direly needed for building the information-based institutions and infrastructures that will energize citizenries to foster transparency and accountability and the evolution of visionary and transformational leaders. The framework described in this brief offers a cost-effective approach for achieving this goal.
Given the crucial importance of such efforts to African progress, accomplished Africans such as Dr. Ibrahim who fund successful initiatives in this area will be counted among the most patriotic and transformational leaders who ever lived.