Human Freedom Index: the East African Perspective- Thomas Zidia & Polycap Nyaribo

In 1856, Alexis de Tocqueville stated in his writings that, ‘He who seeks freedom for anything but freedom’s self is made to be a slave’. Perhaps the modern times call for a revisit of the Tocqueville’s classical work more than ever before, and that’s exactly why the Cato Institute, the Fraser Institute and other partners published the Human Freedom Index.

Human freedom refers to a social concept recognizing the dignity of individuals, which is the absence of coercive constraint in a country. The Human Freedom Index (HFI) measures the state of freedom in the world through a comparison of countries. 76 unique indicators are used to measure economic and personal which include the rule of law, security and safety, movement, religion, association, assembly and civil society, expression, relationships, size of government, legal system and property rights, access to sound money, freedom to trade internationally, regulation of credit, labor, and business. A total of 152 countries were evaluated for these parameters, on a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 represents more free­dom. Information about the benefits of freedom in the society can be deduced from the HFI, especially in administration. Northern Europe, North America and Western Europe emerged as the regions with highest freedom levels while the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa had the lowest levels.

In Eastern Africa, Tanzania is the top ranked country at position 94 with a Freedom Index (FI) of 6.57. Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia follow at positions 97, 104, 108 and 145 respectively with FIs of 6.57, 6.45, 6.40 and 5.22 respectively. The Eastern Africa countries are all ranked in the bottom half of the countries surveyed and perform dismally against global average FI of 6.96. The HFI shows that there is a correlation between freedom and democracy since most of the countries with a higher FI have well established democratic systems. On the other hand, Eastern Africa countries are relatively young democracies and these could perhaps explain their dismal performance. Only Tanzania has experienced successive smooth transitions of political regimes.

Countries with a higher index when it comes to the rule of law such as Hong Kong (7.5) and New Zealand (8.1) translates to a higher index for security and safety at 8.7 and 9.8 respectively. These are the key ingredients for ultimate freedom in a country since no one would be infringing on another person’s rights and civil liberties. This is not the case in East Africa where the performance on the rule of law and security is slightly above average. Rwanda is the best performer in this regard at position 78 with an index of 5.1 for the rule of law and 6.7 for safety and security. Kenya (89) and Tanzania (100) rank have indices of 4.3 and 4.7 respectively for the rule of law and 7.7 and 7.4 for security and safety. It is clear that pure freedom cannot exist in an environment that does not adhere to constitutionalism, which usually results in impunity and lack of freedom for citizens.

Nations that rank high for association, assembly and civil society have a higher FI as exemplified by the first 10 nations (having a minimum of 8.9 for assembly, association, and civil society). This shows that these nation allow their citizens to exercise freedom by airing their views within the law. On the other hand, most African countries suppress the freedom of association, assembly and civil society. Kenya has a score of 8.4 while Tanzania has 7.3. East African countries need to increase the space for freedom of association, assembly and civil society if they are to really ensure freedom for their citizens. Freedom must be the ultimate goal for all nations for them to prosper socially, economically and politically.

However, all is not lost since even some of the world’s superpower countries don’t rank at the top. The United States of America ranks at position 20 yet it is at the forefront of championing for global freedom. Africa’s ‘superpower economies’ South Africa and Nigeria ranking at position 70 (6.99) and 139 (5.44) respectively; in East Africa, only Ethiopia performs poorly than Nigeria at position 145 (5.22). The HFI also looked at freedom in terms of economic freedom in various countries with the top quartile of freedom enjoyed at sig­nificantly higher per capita income countries ($30,006) than those in other quartiles; compare that with the per capita income in the least-free quartile which is $2,615. Most African countries fall the lower quartile with countries such as Senegal recording an average FI of 6.20. It is not only Sub-Saharan African countries that perform poorly on the HFI, but also developed countries such as Russia at position 111 (6.36), which is slightly higher the average East African index of 6.22. Kenya (6.57), Uganda (6.40), Rwanda (6.45) and Tanzania (6.58) enjoy more freedom than Russia. China at 132 (5.86) is way below the East African average, yet more developed.


The writers are Junior Research Associates With the Eastern Africa Policy Centre.

What Does Africa Need to Develop?

M-Pesa: An innovative mobile based financial service that is transforming lives.

M-Pesa: An innovative mobile based financial service that is transforming lives.

President Barack Obama is headlining the Global Entreprenuership Summit (GES 2015), which is being held in Nairobi from July 25th. Once again issues of Africa development and what exactly needs to happen for Africa to develop will come to the fore. But what needs to happen for Africa to develop? The following short video by the Eastern Africa policy Centre in Collaboration with Atlas Economic Research Foundation, documents  through the case of M-pesa (a mobile money financial service), how a laissez-faire regulatory regime can provide an optimum environment for enterprise and development.



In this Study EAPC’s Executive Director, Michael Rotich, documents the litany of logistical, structural, and operational challenges that long distance truckers within the East East Africa Community face. Trucking is the lifeblood of the economy in the East African Community, mainly because three of the five member countries (Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda are land locked, with Kenyan and Tanzania the only member countries with access to the oceanic transport. Rail-transport is also under-developed meaning that every day thousands of freight trucks roll across East African borders in a network of international trade. The free flow of goods across borders is vital to economic development, a fact that is no less important in East Africa than anywhere else. But a new report from the Kenya-based Eastern Africa Policy Centre (EAPC) shows that barriers to trade are running up shipping costs and crippling growth in the region.

The study, for example, that driving a standard 20-ton container from Mombasa, Kenya to Kigali, Rwanda costs between $3,400 to $6,500. Shipping the same freight to the UK via Mombasa’s port (traversing two oceans and the Suez Canal along the way) would only cost $2,000 – $4,000. Reasons for the high costs include tariffs, various fees, corruption, and wait times averaging 13 hours just to cross a border.

The EAPC is right to worry about costs to trade in East Africa, where over 70 percent of traded goods pass along two major highways of the East African Community. High shipping costs suppress employment, stifle growth, and prevent African entrepreneurs from reaching foreign markets. You can read the EAPC’s report here. The report has already been covered by major news outlets in the East African Community such as Standard Media Group and Nation Media Group.

Download the Study Here

Aid to Africa Enfeebles Local Capacity

Aid to Africa Enfeebles Local Capacity

imagesHaven’t you all seen grotesque images of a scorched up village tucked away in the middle of an equatorial forest or grassland in Africa? Haven’t you all seen the all too familiar naked child, emaciated, with red, teary eyes, and an empty bowl of porridge in his hands?  Haven’t you heard figures being band around 10 million Africans face death by starvation in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa or the Democratic Republic of Congo? Haven’t you all heard, statements like: ‘the international community must act and act fast to avert the continuing humanitarian crises in the Horn of Africa?’ What is it that makes African problems the responsibility of the international community? Why is the international community obligated to help Africa?

Of all continents the world has ever seen, Africa receives the largest in-flows of aid. The United Nations Office of the Special Advisor on Africa (OSAA) posits that Africa is the greatest recipient of global aid; Africa receives a greater share, at 36%, of the total global aid than any other part of the world. Over the past four decades, aid to Africa has quadrupled from around US$11 billion to US$44 billion, with a net increase of almost US$10 billion during the period 2005-2008 alone. In 2005, the world’s greatest donor nations, the G8, met in the Gleneagles, Scotland, and made commitments to increase aid to Africa. But while aid to Africa has reached record levels, it has fallen well below international commitments. Current forecasts  suggest  a  US$14  billion  shortfall  on  the  original  Gleneagles  estimate  that  aid  would  increase  by US$25 billion a year from 2004 to 2010. Much of this additional ODA was destined for Sub-Saharan Africa where, despite a strong increase in other inflows (such as foreign direct investment and domestic resources), aid still makes an important contribution to government revenues.

download (1)Dambisa Moyo, a long time Afri-aid sceptic, in her damning indictment on aid to Africa writes that, ‘Giving alms to Africa remains one of the biggest ideas of our time — millions march for it, governments are judged by it, celebrities proselytize the need for it. Calls for more aid to Africa are growing louder, with advocates pushing for doubling the roughly $50 billion of international assistance that already goes to Africa each year.

To this day, I am still wondering why global nations have to make aid commitments to Africa. Are they morally obligated to do so? My bone of contention with aid is not around its existence. It is about its use and application around the African continent.

Over a period of time, in Africa, governments, and non-profit organizations have perfected the art of polishing their ‘beggar’s bowls’ in anticipation for aid. Flowery language is used, imminent cataclysm and Armageddon is mentioned as a possible effect of constrained aid flows. Some African bureaucrat, non-profit institutions and hordes of other aid dependent actors have developed and perfected the art of aid seeking.

The perfected aid of aid seeking has one major flaw, the art of aid seeking has a donor orientation. Beneficiaries of financial aid flows dance to donor’s every tune, hum to every high note and bend every moral principle to be appease the donor. Donor orientation means that intended beneficiaries of aid never really benefit, supposed beneficiaries of aid never get the chance to define their development aspirations. Beneficiaries of aid are never allowed to share their priorities.

Aid to Africa no matter the altruistic intentions has never helped communities and it certainly enfeebles the capacity of communities to extricate themselves from poverty. Aid entrenches dependence, not self-dependence which seriously affects the capacity of communities to depend on themselves.

The biggest question around Afri-aid is a moral question. Aid is a forceful mis-appropriation of resources from ordinary tax payers in developed economies to greedy bureaucrats in Africa.

African governments need to rethink their development strategies. They need to refocus and place emphasis on the development of local capacity, not window dressing for donor appeal.