Measurement Drives Effective Interventions

Article in Global Giving Matters, by Synergos.

Feature Spring 2013

Improving governance in Africa

Dr. Mohamed “Mo” Ibrahim benefited from reliable data when he started a cell phone business in Africa in 1988. While conventional wisdom said that most people couldn’t afford phones, research revealed that the average household had enough disposable monthly income to pay for the devices. Ibrahim’s company, Celtel International, brought modern communication tools to the African continent.

Today, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation ( is relying on the power of good data to transform delivery of public goods and services to African citizens. The Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) provides an annual assessment of governance performance in every African country, based on the belief that the lack of good governance and political leadership is the main barrier to development across the continent.

“Good governance is about harnessing a country’s resources to achieve the results any citizen living in the 21st century has a right to expect… Political sovereignty begins with data autonomy,” wrote Ibrahim in the foundation’s 2012 annual report.

Hadeel Ibrahim, the founding executive director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and Ibrahim’s daughter, argues that the development community should be investing more money to obtain quality data that can be compared across countries and over time. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation funds two major initiatives to bolster existing data. Afrobarometer is working to expand citizen surveys in two-thirds of African countries, and the Global Integrity Trust maintains a network of experts in every African country to assess social, economic and political indicators.

Hadeel Ibrahim is convinced that measurement makes a difference in people’s lives. She pointed out that the UN Millennium Development Goals have contributed to improvement in Human Development scores in the IIAG. “[The Millennium goals] have measurement at their core,” she said.

The IIAG is the most comprehensive collection of data on African governance. It evaluates 88 indicators in 14 sub-categories and four major categories: Safety and Rule of Law; Participation and Human Rights; Sustainable Economic Opportunity; and Human Development. Some critical indicators of governance, such as poverty, are not included in the Index because reliable data is not available.

“Poverty is the elephant in the development room,” Hadeel Ibrahim said, adding, “Where we see gaps we try to find creative ways to fill them.” The foundation has begun commissioning public opinion surveys to corroborate the data it has, and to fill in the blanks.

At first, the foundation saw its role as working with civil society to hold government accountable. “Now, government wants to engage with us, wants us to help them formulate public policies from the great database we’ve created and through the Index,” Ibrahim said. To facilitate such engagement, the foundation recently opened its first office in Africa and hired the former executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa to head the effort.

While Ibrahim says that it’s difficult to quantify the impact of the index, governments, donors and philanthropists such as Bill Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have said that they use the IIAG to guide decision-making. “As new investors go into Africa, this is a resource they can use,” she added, acknowledging that a “huge amount of work” needs to be done to increase the reach and influence of the Index.

Ending modern slavery

The Ibrahim Index of African Governance has had a major impact on a new index whose purpose is to eliminate modern slavery. TheGlobal Slavery Index is a project of Walk Free (, a global fund founded by Australian philanthropist Andrew Forrest. Forrest founded iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group Ltd.

“Mo Ibrahim was a wonderful inspiration to me,” said Forrest, who praised IIAG for rewarding good governance in Africa. “Thanks to Mo’s assistance and experience, we have been able to create quite a different index. While the Slavery Index also rewards well-performing countries by encouraging international investment, it takes an additional step of shining a light on an evil practice in order to eliminate it.”

The index will measure the prevalence of slavery as well as analyze the conditions that make slavery possible and the country’s capacity to address it. It will highlight countries that demonstrate the will to eradicate slavery even if they don’t yet have the ability to achieve that goal.

Walk Free is saying to governments that slavery is “harming your economy; it’s harming your people; it’s reducing your tax base; and it’s reducing international investor confidence in your country, and therefore collectively, all of those things serve to harm your people,” according to Forrest. “Moving down the Index doesn’t suit any country… Slavery is an insidious cancer, which no economy or politician really wants to endorse within their borders.”

For victims and potential victims of slavery, the index educates them about their rights. “There’s a general ignorance in many parts of the world and in many parts of various countries that slavery is completely illegal; it is not a business… it’s illegal,” said Forrest. “We have an enormous amount of work yet to do, but the people that we work with are energetic and committed, and they understand the daunting nature of the task.”

The slavery index is one element of a broader four-pronged strategy that also includes a popular movement, business-to-business pressure and a Global Fund to fight slavery. Expected to launch in August, a draft of the index has been circulated to governments to solicit feedback, according to Nick Grono, CEO of Walk Free.

Like the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Walk Free faces challenges compiling data. For example, while the gold standard to determine the prevalence of modern slavery would be to do country-by-country and industry-by-industry surveys, the slavery index relies primarily on secondary sources and estimates to fill in the gaps. Both foundations plan to invest in improving data collection and encourage other donors to do so.

Accurate measurement is critical to creating more effective interventions, Grono said. “We think we know what works, but we don’t know until we can get the data. I would hope that any philanthropist looking at undertaking an intervention would understand the broad case [for better data].” He added that it is not difficult to convince people of the specific case: that slavery is evil, whether it be forced labor, forced marriage, prostitution or other situations in which people are treated like property.

By approaching issues scientifically rather than trying to solve problems with good intentions and will power, philanthropists can have a greater impact, Grono said.

For example, when Steve Killelea was starting the Global Peace Index (; see also Global Giving Matters January-March 2009), he deliberately worked to identify the factors that correlate with a more peaceful society. “Those (factors) provide rich opportunities for investment,” noted Grono, who is on the expert advisory board of the Global Peace Index.

“[GPI] is a useful model of how you can use an index to drive action,” he added, remarking that the growing trend toward measurement reflects a more sophisticated understanding of how to invest limited philanthropic dollars.


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