The cheap gas boom has not been the best of news for African countries where oil and other raw materials have been the basis of their export economies since colonial times.
Gas and oil are not the only raw materials to suffer as economies in Asia and the west contract and investors take wait and see positions while they look for the next promising trend.
The region’s difficulties were highlighted in the latest Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), a comprehensive survey started by Sudanese billionaire Mo Ibrahim as an independent project to promote better governance and economic development in Africa.
“We can’t pat ourselves on the back and pretend everything is hunky-dory,” declared Ibrahim, who earned billions of dollars installing some of Africa’s first mobile phone networks. “It’s not.”
“While Africans overall are certainly healthier and live in more democratic societies than 15 years ago, the 2015 IIAG shows that recent progress in other key areas on the continent has either stalled or reversed, and that some key countries seem to be faltering.”
This year’s rating of 50.1 on a 100-point scale, while up from 46.5 when the index was first issued in 2000, is down from a peak of 50.4 in 2010. Under the Ibrahim Index, 100 represents a prosperous, democratic utopia.
When times were good, short-sighted governments in Angola and Zambia, among others, put insufficient money aside for improving education, health care and roads at a time when commodity prices were high and government coffers were flush, said Nathalie Delapalme, the Ibrahim Foundation’s executive director for research and policy.
Now, with commodity prices falling, even the most well-intentioned of the continent’s governments will have a harder time lifting their citizens out of poverty, she said. “They could have been better positioned to confront the crisis that is in front of them.”
Spending cuts, such as those threatened in Kenya and other nations, have made the poorly-paid and under-housed resentful and angry.
“Many countries that most need economic takeoff aren’t getting it because their politicians don’t support widespread growth,” said Johannesburg-based economist Thabi Leoka. “We don’t have exemplary leaders to tell other leaders they should be doing well.”
“The whole Africa rising story is in question,” she added.
Published annually, the IIAG provides a comprehensive assessment of every African country using 93 indicators across the following four categories: safety & rule of law, participation & human rights, sustainable economic opportunity and human development.