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Is African governance getting better? The Mo Ibrahim Foundation seems to be having a tough time finding winners for its prize for retiring African presidents. The prize, designed to strengthen incentives for African leaders to relinquish office when their terms end, consists of US$5million over 10 years and US$200,000 annually for life thereafter. After giving the award to Mozambique’s Joaquim Chissano in 2007 and Botswana’s Festus Mogae in 2008, they decided no one deserved it last year. Today, they announced no winner again for 2010.

Last year the Prize Committee announced that it had considered some credible candidates, but after in depth review could not select a winner. This year the Prize Committee told the Board that there had been no new candidates or new developments and that therefore no selection of a winner had been made.

Ouch!

What about the supposed African renaissance? What about the higher economic growth rates, supposedly driven, at least in part, by better governance? Pierre Englebert of Pomona College shared an interesting slide last week at a conference in Germany comparing indices for Sub-Saharan Africa for GDP growth, export value, and the World Bank’s governance scores:

Mo Governance in Africa chart

We can quibble with the data, the scale, using regional aggregates, or whatever you like. But Englebert interprets this as GDP growth driven mainly by export prices and dragged down by stagnant governance. I’m inclined to mostly agree with him. Sounds like the Mo Ibrahim Foundation may as well.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.