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Africa should embrace the Failed States Index and 'Move on'

The Foreign Policy Magazine has published the list of the "Failed States Index" which is prepared by the Washington-based think-tank, Fund for Peace. In a heading "Postcards from Hell", FP Magazine gives a pictorial chronology of the 54 "most failed states" in the world. Living on the edge in the world's worst places in the world was the subtitle of the pictorials. The failed state index has not been received well especially in Africa. Many African political commentators have rubbished this index, with some terming it another neo-colonial concept of disregarding African states. The failed state index, just like many other statistical indices, has used scientific statistical indicators to produce a ranking of 178 countries. The FSI focuses on the indicators of risk and is based on thousands of articles and reports that are processed by a CAST Software from electronically available sources. A number of crucial factors were used to draw up this list. Risks such as instability, insecurity, undemocratic elections were used amongst other indicators like infant mortality rates, literacy levels, availability of essential services such as education, health etc. 

The FSI just like many other statistical indices, is far from 100% accuracy, but the indicators used are worldwide accepted as factors of development and growth. Critics have however questioned the measurability of instability. They argue you can scientifically measure stability. Such detractors fail to understand that the indicators to this indices are numerically accounted for using modern statistical software that numerically determines the percentage and thus rank. I know some of these indices are based on perception, and could be biased to some extent. Detractors or rather "denialist" only look at the geographical outlook as presented by these data and say that it is another Western ploy to demean and profile the global south and more so African states. 

For African countries to successfully transform her economies, they need to accept some of these factual analysis and take them as reference points for planning for success. I believe in Africa and see the continent as the next frontier or as the Americans would love to say "The African Century". African countries still grapple with instability, institutional weakness, political fissures, ethnicity, resource conflicts, dictatorships, poor infrastructure, corruption and graft, greediness from political leaders, illiteracy and many other ailments. Of the ten most failed states in the world, according to the 2013 figures, seven are African, of the fifty most failed states, 32 are African. This is not surprising to me. Few African countries are realizing that they should not mourn over this figures but are making effects to remedy the shame. 

Africa needs to get it leadership and governance right. One African country still has a president who came to power when Jimmy Carter was US President. What will this type of leader offer that he hasn't offered for thirty years. Africa still has leaders who are dreaming of changing the constitution to run again for president and when they lose, they rig the vote and run the country with impunity. This is Africa! Africa should embrace the FSI data and remedy the appalling state of affairs.


  1. interesting thoughts. I do not think any measurement will be accurate even if the nayayers have their say. But I think the measurements of instability can be improved to make it more credible. For instance, it is much better to look at the institutional capacity to deal with issues, conflicts for instance in stating how stable or otherwise a country is. So practically, you take a few cases for instance that have been profound, say in the judiciary, look at how their judgement were made, time et al then make a determination based on certain benchmarks. That way, you strengthen institutional capacity and knowledge. You also offer lessons for others. Otherwise all of us have conflicts from time to time, how we deal with them is what counts!!!


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