from Africa in Transition

The Failed States Index and Africa

June 22, 2011

Blog Post
Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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Civilians flee from renewed fighting between government soldiers and the Al Shabaab in Somalia's capital Mogadishu May 24, 2011. (Feisal Omar/Courtesy Reuters)

On June 20, Foreign Policy published the Fund for Peace’s annual Failed States Index. Drawn from millions of publicly available sources and covering 177 countries, the statistical analysis has become required reading in government and policy circles over the last decade. Unsurprisingly, Somalia continues to top the list as the most unstable state in the sample. Ivory Coast also rejoined the top ten most fragile states, and the data set does not account for the country’s post-election conflict that left more than one thousand people dead. However, some of the results below the Sahara are encouraging: of the top ten most improved countries, three are from Africa. Kenya now ranks sixteenth, down from thirteenth last year—an indicator of increased stability following the 2007-2008 electoral conflict. Ghana (115) and Botswana (113) continue to be low in the rankings.

The Failed States Index can be a helpful analytical tool for policymakers, academics, and development professionals alike. But it is only a tool, and it can be limited. The most recent data set covers indicators from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2010, excluding the post-election violence in Nigeria, the demonstrations in Uganda, the recent strife in Sudan, and other events. Further, as I write in Nigeria: Dancing on the Brink (2010), fixing failing states may not be not analogous to fixing “broken machines.” The Failed States Index is not necessarily predictive, and it may not represent what every citizen experiences on a daily basis.

My CFR colleague Stewart Patrick also has a new thought-provoking article in Foreign Policy that challenges the prevailing logic behind state failure. Read it here.

More on:

Politics and Government

Elections and Voting

Kenya

Wars and Conflict

Ghana

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