Building the Ibrahim Index of African Governance


The Mo Ibrahim Foundation celebrates its 10th year anniversary this year. One of the key initiatives of the Foundation is the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG). The buildup of the IIAG is essentially a nine month process that usually starts in January every year.

What is the IIAG?

The IIAG is an annual statistical measure of governance performance in every African country since 2000. As a composite index it is an amalgamation of several different measurements (or indicators), combined in a standardised way, to provide a useful statistical measure over time. The broad aim of the IIAG is to inform and sustain the debate on African governance by providing a user-friendly tool for all stakeholders to use.

The Foundation defines ‘governance’ as the provision of the political, social and economic public goods and services that every citizen has the right to expect from his or her state, and that a state has the responsibility to deliver to its citizens. The structure of the IIAG is based on this definition, broken into four broad categories: Safety & Rule of Law, Participation & Human Rights, Sustainable Economic Opportunity and Human Development.  These categories are made up of 14 sub-categories which consist of underlying indicators. The IIAG is constructed by the Foundation’s Research Team, which is guided by the IIAG Advisory Council and the Foundation’s Board.

How is the IIAG constructed?

The first task of the Index construction is to select data that measure governance performance. Governance is not as easily measurable as say time or distance and, for this reason, the Research Team must look for indicators that are ’proxies’ of governance. An indicator measuring the extent to which there is media censorship in a country, for example, can be used as a proxy indicator for the level of freedom of expression within a country, which in turn can be used a measurement of human rights. The Foundation does not collect primary data, but rather collates data provided by respected external sources.

Once indicators have been  selected as suitable proxies for governance performance, we apply ‘inclusion criteria’. In order to guarantee the robustness of the IIAG, indicators can only be included if they cover at least 35 of the 54 African countries, provide at least two years' worth of data between 2000 and the latest data year, with the latest available data being no more than three years old.

Indicators that are consistent with the Foundation’s definition of governance and meet the inclusion criteria are then selected and positioned within the IIAG structure.

Some indicators have missing data points for countries or years. Where possible, the Research Team estimates missing data using the most suitable statistical methods, to provide a more comprehensive picture of governance performance.

Collecting indicators that come from several different institutions means that different indicators come on different scoring scales. An indicator measuring ‘maternal mortality’, for example, comes on a scale of 0-100,000 (a ratio of maternal mortality per 100,000, higher value is worse), whilst an indicator measuring ‘judicial independence’ comes on a scale of 1-10, where the higher value is better (1 = no independence, 10 = total independence). Before being included in the IIAG, therefore, the Research Team transforms all indicators into the same scale of 0-100, where 100 is always the best possible score within the group of 54 African countries. This is done through a statistical process called ‘normalisation’, and means all scores, for all indicators and all countries, are comparable.

Once the indicators are on a common scale, a simple method of data aggregation is applied to calculate the scores. The overall score is the average of the underlying category scores; the category scores the average of their underlying sub-categories, and the sub-categories the average of their constituent indicators.

The 2016 IIAG consists of 95 indicators that are formed by 166 measurements, from 34 independent, external data sources. It covers every African country, every year, since 2000.

It’s a long, rigorous process and requires great attention to detail, but it means the IIAG is refined and improved every year, and this makes it the most comprehensive, robust and user-friendly tool to measure African governance.

For media, the IIAG serves as great reference tool when writing articles on areas covered by the IIAG. The data portal provides a detailed, granular view of each country for all 93 indicators. 

Visit the Data Portal here.