African Countries Show Mixed Results in Quality of Government Performance

Latest Issue: 
  • Assessing Africa’s Policies and Institutions


  • A new review of Africa’s policies and institutions shows that 20% of countries improved their policies to boost growth and cut poverty
  • Gains in post-conflict countries show that peace and stability support economic expansion, less poverty, and better living standards
  • Rwanda, Cabo Verde, and Kenya scored the highest ratings in this annual World Bank review

DAKAR, June 26, 2014—The overall quality of government policies and institutions that broadly support growth and reduce poverty in African countries remained steady in 2013, whereas progress was made in a number of former conflict affected countries, according to a new World Bank review.

The latest Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) Africa report, describes the progress made in low-income African countries to strengthen their policies and institutions that help to spur better development outcomes. This year’s report includes two new countries from the Middle East and North Africa region: Djibouti and Yemen.

The CPIA scores countries on a scale of 1–6 (with 6 as the highest and 1 as the lowest) using 16 indicators in four areas to determine a country’s final score. These areas include economic management, structural policies, policies for social inclusion and equity, and public sector management and institutions.

The scores are primarily used to determine the allocation of zero-interest financing scores for the countries eligible for support from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s concessional fund for the world’s poorest countries.

The results show the overall score for Africa was steady at 3.2

“Although there are a number of highly performing countries, African IDA-eligible countries on average continue to lag behind those in other regions in their policy and institutional ratings,” says Francisco Ferreira, Chief Economist for the World Bank Africa Region. “There is still a lot of work to be done in Africa to meet the region’s needs for effective public services, and transparent and efficient government operations, so the CPIA can be a valuable resource for governments, the private sector, civil society, researchers and the media to monitor a country’s progress and benchmark it against progress in other countries.”

" There is still a lot of work to be done in Africa to meet the region’s needs for effective public services, and transparent and efficient government operations… "
Francisco Ferreira, Chief Economist, World Bank Africa Region

Francisco Ferreira

Chief Economist, World Bank Africa Region

The Top Performers

Eight countries in Sub Saharan Africa had a rise in overall CPIA scores. More policy reforms lifted Rwanda’s CPIA score to 3.9, putting it at the top of the CPIA list alongside Cabo Verde and Kenya. Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Tanzania followed close behind, each with a score of 3.8. The Democratic Republic of Congo achieved the largest gain, boosting its score from 2.7 to 2.9.

The picture is also bright for countries transitioning out of years of conflict. Policy reforms in these and other fragile countries accounted for over half of the improvement in overall CPIA scores in this year’s report. Cote d’Ivoire, for example, saw an uptick in its rating for a third consecutive year, thanks to wide-ranging policy reforms. Ongoing reforms (especially in governance) strengthened Chad’s CPIA score, while policy development progress lifted the score for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

South Sudan and Eritrea — both countries struggling with political and institutional challenges — had the lowest scores (2.1 and 2.0, respectively). At the same time, the Central African Republic’s CPIA rating was sharply lower, showing that conflict rapidly sets back policy gains.

This year’s report includes Djibouti and Yemen, with scores that were virtually unchanged from 2012.  Despite unsettled conditions in the region and lingering challenges in global economic conditions, the stability of these two countries indicates that in the Bank’s Middle East and North Africa region, IDA countries generally opted to maintain their existing policy framework. Djibouti’s CPIA score was slightly higher than average (3.1) while Yemen’s was on par with the average.

Economic Management Remains High

Countries throughout the region continued to score the highest in the area of economic management. This trend reflects a mix of issues, such as the consensus among African policy makers that macroeconomic stability usually results in a productive private sector. At the same time, managing macroeconomic policy is not as politically charged as changing institutions (such as the judicial system).

“There was a wide range in the performance recorded by African countries in their economic management,” says Punam Chuhan-Pole, Lead Economist for the World Bank Africa Region and the report’s author. “This year’s scores show slippages in economic management and weaknesses in the fiscal framework in many countries, including Ghana and Zambia.”

“By contrast,” Chuhan-Pole says, “several countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Congo Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Rwanda, saw an improvement in debt policy and management.”

Differences in Trade and Gender Policies

African countries continued to make progress in programs affecting trade, the financial sector, and the business environment — all indicators under the structural policy cluster — with a regional average score of 3.2. 

Four countries saw an improvement in their overall rating for trade: Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Liberia, and Rwanda.

Yet the average CPIA score on trade for Africa was 3.7, just below the score for countries in other regions worldwide. While there is still plenty of scope for all African countries to improve their trade policies, these results show that the challenge for trade in Africa relates primarily to its fragile states.

Progress with laws and policies that promote gender equality continued to lag behind most other regions. A few countries have made progress with gender equality — Cabo Verde, for example, has ranked highest (4.5) every year since 2005 —while five countries hold an average score of 4.0: Burundi, Ghana, Lesotho, Mauritania, and Rwanda.

Eight countries with a low 2.5 CPIA for gender equality also have extremely high rates of maternal mortality, a low percentage of births attended by skilled health staff, low contraceptive prevalence, and large gender disparities in secondary school enrollment.

Main CPIA Findings

  • More than 40 percent of the region’s countries—16 out of 39—saw a change in their overall CPIA score, with an equal number of countries experiencing either an increase or a decline in this score.
  • One-fifth of countries saw an improvement in their overall CPIA score, with several fragile countries strengthening their policy environment. 
  • Conflict and political instability continued to weigh down on the policy and institutional environment in some countries.
  • Weaknesses in public sector governance remained, and this area of the CPIA continued to lag behind all other areas assessed by the CPIA.

The report concludes that the average overall CPIA score in Africa’s non-fragile countries is now similar to that of other non-fragile countries outside of Africa. But the gap between the region’s fragile countries and similar countries in other regions persists, illustrating that much work needs to be done on policies that support growth and reduce poverty in Africa.