Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ranking the Performance of African Presidents - The Evidence from recent Afrobarometer Surveys

I have been meaning to post this article for while but never got down to doing it.The piece was motivated by the drama at the start of the year that followed the release of the East African Magazine's rankings of the performance ratings of African Presidents. Malawi's President, Bingu wa Mutharika, came a respectable 17th position out of 52 presidents that were ranked. Personally, I thought the  grade "C" rating accorded to Mutharika was most generous.
That said, the East African Magazine article had a number of flaws. The one that jumped out the most was the mixing of both ceremonial and full executive presidents in the rankings, despite the fact that the former wield very little power. In some cases, such as Morocco and Swaziland, the rankings rated the performance of monarchs. Surprisingly, in the Kingdom of Lesotho, the ranking was for Prime Minister Bethuel Mosisili instead of King Letsie III. In a nutshell, the East African rankings were a mixed bag of apples, oranges and even peaches that were being passed off as one and the same thing. 
An alternative way to rate the performance of African leaders is to ask the ordinary people themselves on how they assess the performance of their leaders. Granted such ratings would differ depending on country-specific circumstances, but to the extent that such assessments are what influence decisions during elections, they can serve as more objective pointers than the subjective ratings of 'experts' that are far removed from the reality on the ground. 
Fortunately, the availability of Afrobarometer Survey data makes it possible for us to start to track and compare popular assessments of the performance of African presidents. So I went back and looked at the data from the most recent Afrobarometer Surveys (conducted in 20 countries between 2008 and 2009) to compare responses to the following question:
"Do you approve or disapprove of the way the following people have performed their jobs over the past twelve months, or haven't you heard enough about them to say: President (name)"?
The 2008 surveys covered a total of 20 countries, 19 of whom have executive presidents. In the following table, I combine the responses for strongly approve and approve to gauge the proportion of respondents that expressed approval for the performance of the leaders in the 19 presidential-regime countries.
Name of President
Approval Rating (%) 
1 Jakaya KikweteTanzania 
2=Ian KhamaBotswana 
2=Hifikepunye PohambaNamibia 
4Bingu wa MutharikaMalawi 
5 Armando GuebuzaMozambique 
6= John Kufuor Ghana 
6= Marc Ravalomanana. Madagascar 
8 Marc Yayi BoniBenin 
9 Blaisé Compaore Burkina Faso 
10 Musa Yar' Adua Nigeria 
11= Mwai Kibaki Kenya 
11= Yoweri Museveni Uganda 
13 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Liberia 
14 Amadou Toumani Touré Mali 
15 Thabo Mbeki South Africa 
16 Pedro Pires Cape Verde 
17 Rupiah Banda Zambia 
18 Abdoulaye Wade Senegal 
19 Robert Mugabe Zimbabwe 
  *These rankings do not imply that highly rated presidents are more democratic than those ranked at the bottom end of the list, although it is tempting to make such a case when looking at the countries at the top and the bottom of the rankings (there is actually a strong correlation between the two).
*It is also important to note that the Afrobarometer Surveys were conducted between 2008 and 2009. The approval ratings should be looked at from this time specificity as it is highly likely that the figures have changed in response to changing circumstances. In some cases, some of the leaders have left office (Mbeki, Kufour) while Nigeria's Yar'Adua has since passed.
Kikwete: first among 19
*It is interesting to note that Tanzania's Jakaya Kikwete is atop the Afrobarometer rankings when he only scores a modest B- ranking in the East African Magazine rankings, where he comes 10th. Meanwhile, Cape Verde's Pedro Pires only gets a 50% approval rating in the Afrobarometer Surveys, coming number 16 of 19. This is in sharp contrast to the love he receives from the expert rankings used in the East African Magazine, where he was rated as Africa's number 2 leader.

*Malawi's Bingu wa Mutharika was rated as the fourth best president in the list of 19 in 2008. This was translated into Mutharika's landslide victory in the elections of 2009. Whether he continues to enjoy these high approval ratings in 2011 remains to be seen (Afrobarometer will be conducting another survey in Malawi sometime in 2012).

Not much home love for Mugabe
*Rupiah Banda in Zambia (37% approval In 2008) faces a major battle to win over the approval of more of his country-folk as he seeks a second term of office in elections scheduled for later this year. Hopefully he has used the last three years meaningfully!
*Robert Mugabe's approval rating of 24%  is the lowest among the 19 presidents. His fellow Octogenarian, Abdulaye Wade did not fare much better either, with a 28% approval rating.

*Next time, I will look at this data more closely and look at other issues such as popular trust of presidents and perceptions of corruption by the presidency and officials in his/her office.