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Assessing Ghana’s Performance on Governance using the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG)

“Governance” is a broad term that is often used to describe a government’s overall responsibility and duty of controlling, regulating and managing a nation’s affairs. According to Baker (2011), however, governance is much broader than government.” Governance involves “all power relationships, including non-state, sub-state, and supra-state relations.” Moreover, governance is about the exercise of power and authority. This is clearly portrayed in the World Bank’s definition of governance, which it describes as “the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development.” To understand governance therefore, is to acknowledge that it entails various actors who use (or misuse) “their power and authority through the institutions in place to manage the resources available for growth and sustainable development.” Common actors involved in the governance process include “politicians, civic institutions, media, religious and cultural organisations, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), as well as government agencies.”


In the 1980’s, international development agencies and aid donors such as the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank (WB) began to emphasise the critical role that governance plays in shaping the economic growth and social development of a country. They specifically concluded that “many of Africa’s development problems were due to poor governance” which was characterised by wide scale abuse of power (corruption) and poor allocation and weak management of resources. This discussion led to the emergence of the term ‘Good Governance’ (GG); a term that was coined to shed light on how the quality of governance was positively linked to growth and development; it  highlighted GG as “essential to promot[ing] development, build[ing] capacity, and combat[ing] poverty,” through the focus on “participation, transparency, accountability, rule of law, effectiveness, and equity” within a “properly functioning democratic system.” Since its emergence however, the ‘Good Governance Agenda’ has been widely criticised for being idealistic, overloaded (containing “a very [long list and] wide range of institutional preconditions for development), westernised and overly technocratic, conveniently ignoring the political dynamics that exist in societies, as well as imposing a “one size fits all solution” for a group of countries that each have unique contexts. Despite the flaws of the GG agenda, a number of African scholars, prominent leaders and organisations have continued to promote the general idea of GG, agreeing with the need for governance to significantly improve if the continent is to enjoy sustainable growth and development. Ghanaian and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan emphasises this, referring to GG as being perhaps, “the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development” in Africa. The President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, shares similar sentiments, stating that “good governance is not only a worthy goal […] but also a prerequisite for sustainable development and poverty reduction in the longer term.”


Indeed, the promotion of GG in Africa opened up the discussion on corruption, accountability and transparency in governance, pushing many African countries to focus on these areas. Some efforts so far have been regional including i) the establishment of organisations such as the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), which was created “as an instrument for monitoring performance in governance among Member States,” and ii) the enforcement of regional standards such as the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which was adopted in 2007 and “entered into force on February 15, 2012”. On a national level, countries like Kenya have taken practical steps towards good governance by creatively incorporating anti-corruption lessons and clubs into primary and secondary schools. While these efforts are commendable, the underlying question remains: Are these efforts making a significant difference? Ghana is an ideal case study to examine in this area. This is because the country has made significant gains in democratic governance since it returned to constitutional rule in 1993. Since then, the country has experienced the rapid rise of an independent media, increased political participation of citizens and civil society organisations and the establishment of watchdogs and anti-corruption agencies, among many others. Despite this, Ghana still battles with persistent corruption and bureaucracy, transparency, accountability and weak management of public resources and finances, all of which undermine Ghana’s efforts to achieve good governance.

Using graphical representation and cross-country comparisons of data from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s database, this report seeks to assess Ghana’s performance on the MO Ibrahim Index of African governance (IIAG) from 2012 to 2016, addressing the following questions: i) What are the factors or issues that have affected Ghana’s performance in ensuring quality governance over the past five years? ii) What are Ghana’s strengths and weakness as compared to other well (or not so well) performing African countries and iii) What strategies can Ghana adopt to improve upon her performance in ensuring good governance?


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