Belfer Center Home > Publications > Academic Papers & Reports > Journal Articles > Strengthening African Governance: Small States and Islands Top 2008 Rankings

EmailEmail   PrintPrint Bookmark and Share

Strengthening African Governance: Small States and Islands Top 2008 Rankings

AP Photo

Strengthening African Governance: Small States and Islands Top 2008 Rankings

Researchers at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center release results of Ibrahim Index of African Governance

Press Release

October 5, 2008

Author: Robert Rotberg, Director, Program on Intrastate Conflict and Conflict Resolution

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Intrastate Conflict Program


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Small states, island states, and Botswana and South Africa are the best governed countries in sub-Saharan Africa according to this year's Index of African Governance, released today by researchers at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Mauritius, an Indian Ocean island-state, tops the list of well-governed territories for the second year, the Seychelles is second, Cape Verde third, Botswana fourth, and South Africa fifth. The remaining five top-ranking states are Namibia, Ghana, Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe (another island state), and Senegal.

The bottom ten -- the worst governed states this year -- are Nigeria, Guinea, Eritrea, Côte d'Ivoire, Central African Republic, Angola, Sudan, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Somalia. Most of these states have been convulsed by civil wars. Many are also very poor -- despite being oil producers.

The Index is based on fifty-seven indicators, such as deaths in war, crime rates, literacy, child mortality, educational opportunity, and gross domestic product, and sums the results for each African country according to five over-arching categories of safety and security; rule of law, transparency, and corruption; participation and human rights; economic opportunity; and human development. Each country is ranked fifty-seven ways and then five ways, and the overall final report card emerges from a combination of all of the scores.

This year, two low ranking post-conflict countries, Liberia and Burundi, emerged as most improved over last year, showing decisive progress. Overall, the Index results also show that governance across sub-Saharan Africa is improving. Thirty-one of the forty-eight counties progressed over last year.

Professor Robert I. Rotberg and Dr. Rachel M. Gisselquist, who produce the Index for the Program on Intrastate Conflict at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center, said that the rankings are illustrative and important. "But the real point of the Index is to strengthen African governance by giving African governments and civil society a diagnostic tool," they said.

The Index displays each country's strong and weak spots. "Insiders and outsiders can immediately zero-in on those critical areas among the fifty-seven which need help," Rotberg said. Donors, say Rotberg and Gisselquist, can use the Index results, as can foreign investors. "No more comprehensive tool exists for Africa," they said.

Read more here.

The full results are available at and They are also available in book form as Strengthening African Governance: Ibrahim Index of African Governance, Results and Rankings 2008, and on CD.


For Academic Citation:

Rotberg, Robert. "Strengthening African Governance: Small States and Islands Top 2008 Rankings." Press Release, Harvard University, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, October 5, 2008.

Bookmark and Share

Events Calendar

We host a busy schedule of events throughout the fall, winter and spring. Past guests include: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore, and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.