The World Economic Forum has just released the new Global Competitiveness Report and the African press was quick to note that Nigeria ranks 115 out of 140 countries worldwide. While this may be disappointing news for Nigeria, it is essential to put things in perspective.

In the top 5 we find USA, Singapore, Germany, Switzerland and Japan, the United Kingdom is 8th, France is 17th, Israel 20th, Italy is 31st (after United Arab mirates, China. Czech Republic and Qatar and just before Estonia, Chile, Portugal and Slovenia), Russia is 43rd, Indonesia is 45th and Kazakhstan is 59th (right behind Philippines and Greece).

How competitive are African economies? With a few exceptions (Mauritius, South Africa and Seychelles), not much.

Only Mauritius (49) is in the top 50. Only 6 African countries are in the top 100 Mauritius is 49th, South Africa is 67th, Seychelles is 74th, Botswana is 90th, Kenya is 93rd and Namibia is 100th. All the other African countries are in bottom forty positions of this special ranking.

Africa has 8 of the 10 least competitive economies.  Worse, 17 of the 20 least competitive economies are in Africa. Of the 40 least competitive economies, 28 are African. Chad is the least competitive economy and ranks 140th, Angola is 137th, Burundi is 136th, DRC is 135th, Sierra Leone is 134th, Mozambique is 133rd, Liberia is 132nd, Lesotho is 130th, Zimbabwe is 128th, Guinea is 126th, Mali is 125th, Burkina Faso is 124th, Benin is 123rd, Ethiopia is 122nd, Cameroon is 121st, Swaziland is 120th. Gambia is 119th, Zambia is 118th, Uganda is 117th, and Tanzania is 116th.

We went through this long list to show that while Nigeria’s position in the rankings may be  disappointing -considering the size, the wealth, the potential of the country – it is nonetheless better than how most African countries have performed.

Only 11 countries did better than Nigeria, while 22 fared worse Nigeria–which means that while Nigeria should do better, it could have done a lot worse. But that’s not the point.

Africa lags behind the rest of the world in terms of good governance (stability, rule of law, transparency,…). Africa’s good governance deficit makes African economies very uncompetitive and prevents them from experiencing higher rates of economic growth, from creating the conditions for sustainable development, and from making a more significant progress in eradicating poverty.

The key message of the report is not simply that good governance matters. That’s been known for a while. What this report really says is that Africa needs to improve the level of good governance and the right time to do it is now. Improving good governance should be a top priority for the all the leaders in the continents. That’s what Africa needs and that’s what its leaders should deliver.

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