Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Governance - a victim of crime?

Governance is an important part of a nation’s brand, particularly with regard to attracting foreign investment. The annual Ibrahim Index of African Governance, looked upon as a credible calibration by the international community, was released on Monday, when South Africa saw its ranking move down to 5th place due to high levels of crime, despite high scores in public management and most other areas.

Mo Ibrahim foundation
board director Mamphela Ramphele commented that, "South Africa is in the Top 10 in every other category... but [with crime] we are lounging down there with the Somalians of this day and Zimbabweans. It's not a pretty place." In fact, in the personal safety sub-category, South Africa was ranked 44th – still above Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad, Mauritania, Zimbabwe, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia, but not exactly where the country wants to be.

Crime’s been a target area in South Africa for the last twelve months, given the country’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup amid global concerns about safety. So why the drop? Is the issue policing, poverty or politics? Ramphele identified the root of the problem in the "political culture" of countries: "In our country, South Africa, we have fantastic policies but the performance doesn't always match the policies.”

She draws a parallel between business and government. Activist shareholders keep businesses in line. What we need is citizens’ involvement to drive better governance. But for that you need citizens with the same interest and stake in their government as a shareholder does. In a country where 95% of the population don’t pay taxes, 95% of the population have no reason to fight for a system that makes better use of their money.

But what does the future hold for driving governance, and who are the leaders who are going to ‘up’ the calibrations and raise the rankings on a pan-African scale?

The Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership was not awarded in 2010 for the second year running, with no candidate that promoted excellence in leadership. It will be interesting to see how initiatives like the African Leadership Network build a more cohesive community of leaders for the community that might raise the rankings and compete for the award.

Meanwhile, does South Africa forge ahead trying to tackle crime in an isolated manner, or will the country use this as a benchmark for treating the root cause of poor governance overall?

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