Global Integrity was invited in July to Praia, Cape Verde, for a conference organized by the Alliance for Rebuilding Governance in Africa. The theme was “Africa Re-Invents its Governance,” and the venue was the Assembleia Nacional, a deliberate choice because Cape Verde has been a reputed model of good governance on the continent. Last year, former President Pedro Pires won the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership for “transforming Cape Verde into a model of democracy, stability, and increased prosperity” – a ringing endorsement of the governance record of this island state.
Its governance highlights are evident through development indicators. For one, with just 10% arable land, serious water shortages, and very little mineral wealth, Cape Verde has the highest life expectancy on the continent: 71 years old. That’s 20 years higher than the Sub-Saharan average. In fact, according to the World Bank’s World Development Indicators, Cape Verde is one of two – Botswana is the other – African countries that have moved from being classified as “Least Developed” to “Middle-Income.”
Not only is it doing well in development indices, but it also has one of the best e-governance models. The e-governance model is more advanced than most countries with far more resources. According to the United Nations’ E-Government Survey 2012, Cape Verde’s electronic governance is ranked sixth on the continent and has been adopted as a best practice model in the Caribbean.
Part of the reason for strong e-governance could be that there is strong political will to make government information available to citizens and accessible online.
For example, there’s a strong push to improve Internet access. Although citizen access to Internet is still limited by cost, the government provides centers where people can bring their computers and access the Internet for free. This and other e-governance initiatives are being lead by the Operational Information Society Nucleus (NOSI), a government agency.
NOSI also has been introducing e-governance to the electoral process. Registration and voting is now online, which speeds up the announcement of results and minimizes electoral fraud. Anyone who tries to vote twice by voting in different districts is easy to identify; previously, this was a problem. The system is built with specific criteria to detect fraud, and it is possible to identify the administrator who enters each record. That way, if there is suspected fraud, it is easy to detect. The system can also handle minor spelling errors because it is linked to – and can corroborate information from – other government databases. Thus, it can provide voter background details like parental information, previous residential addresses, etc.; importantly, that level of detail is only available to the election officials.
As a result of these innovations, the electoral process is very transparent and contributes to a peaceful transfer of power, even when voting results are very close. This was proven in 2011, when technical problems prevented a prompt announcement of the official results of the National Assembly election. The system quickly made it clear that the PAICV party had won a parliamentary majority, and the opposition civilly conceded defeat. This was an impressive sign of the strength of Cape Verde’s democracy. One can only imagine the example this sets for countries such as Kenya or Zimbabwe, where such steps would also be transformative.
These are some of the reasons Cape Verde has come to be known as a beacon of good governance on the continent and beyond. In trying to “reinvent African governance,” this is a good place to look for practical solutions.
— Dadisai Taderera
— Image Credit: Dadisai Taderera