Category Archives: Failed States

Potential Takeaways on Africa in the 2012 Failed States Index (Part II)

In my previous post, I gave an overview of Fund for Peace’s methodology for the Failed States Index and offered some brief thoughts on how the index may or may not be useful. This post will focus on how Africa (scoped to exclude Egypt and South Sudan for reasons mentioned in the previous post) fares in the 2012 Failed States Index.

Recall that Failed States Index scores range between 0.0 and 120.0 (least failed to most failed), and the Fund for Peace categorizes the Failed States Index scores by quartiles: Alert (scores of 90-120), Warning (scores of 60-89.9), Moderate (scores of 30-59.9), and Sustainable (scores of 0-29.9). In 2012, 20 African countries were in the Alert category, 31 were in the Warning category, and one was in the Moderate category. Africa’s 2012 Failed States Index scores, rankings, and categories are on this table:

Ranking Country Score
1 Somalia 114.9
2 Democratic Republic of the Congo 111.2
3 Sudan 109.4
4 Chad 107.6
5 Zimbabwe 106.3
6 Central African Republic 103.8
7 Côte d’Ivoire 103.6
8 Guinea 101.9
9 Nigeria 101.1
10 Guinea Bissau 99.2
11 Kenya 98.4
12 Ethiopia 97.9
13 Burundi 97.5
14 Niger 96.9
15 Uganda 96.5
16 Eritrea 94.5
17 Liberia 93.3
18 Cameroon 93.1
19 Sierra Leone 90.4
20 Republic of the Congo 90.1
21 Rwanda 89.3
22 Malawi 88.8
23 Mauritania 87.6
24 Togo 87.5
25 Burkina Faso 87.4
26 Equatorial Guinea 86.3
27 Zambia 85.9
28 Angola 85.1
29 Libya 84.9
30 Dijbouti 83.8
31 Swaziland 83.5
32 Comoros 83.0
33 Madagascar 82.5
34 Mozambique 82.4
35 Gambia 80.6
36 Tanzania 80.4
37 Senegal 79.3
38 Lesotho 79.0
39 Benin 78.6
40 Algeria 78.1
41 Mali 77.9
42 Morocco 76.1
43 Cape Verde 74.7
44 Gabon 74.6
45 Tunisia 74.2
46 São Tomé and Príncipe 73.9
47 Namibia 71.0
48 Ghana 67.5
49 South Africa 66.8
50 Botswana 66.5
51 Seychelles 65.1
52 Mauritius 44.7

On a map, the 2012 Failed States Index categories look like this:

(Okay, I’ll admit that the graphics on Fund for Peace’s website are much better!)

Anyway, in 2012, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Chad and Zimbabwe are the top five countries on the Failed States Index (both for Africa and globally). Yet, this actually doesn’t give us very much information, as it is not surprising that these countries rank how they do on the index. One of the things I mentioned in my last post is that the Failed States Index can be useful if you look at how scores change over time. (For previous Failed States Index scores, see Fund for Peace’s website.)

Between 2007 and 2012, 14 countries’ scores have improved: Seychelles, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sudan, Malawi, Côte d’Ivoire, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, and Namibia (in order of most improved scores).

On the other side of the scale, 38 countries’ scores got worse during this timeframe. Not all of these countries are necessarily the weakest on the continent, but some may be weakening at such a rate that they may be increasingly vulnerable to catalysts (i.e., coup, natural disaster, mass population displacement) that could send them “over the edge.” According to Failed States Index data, the five countries on the continent that have weakened at the most rapid rates since 2007 are Libya, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia, and Guinea-Bissau.

  • Libya has been categorized as a Warning country since 2007, but its score was 18.41% higher (indicating relative state weakening) in 2012 than it was in 2007.
  • Senegal has been categorized as a Warning country since 2007, but its score was 15.59% higher in 2012 than it was in 2007. (Note that the the time lag in Fund for Peace’s data collection as described in their methodology does not account for possible improvements in Senegal due to former President Abdoulaye Wade standing down in favor of Macky Sall in 2012, which would not have been covered by Failed States Index data collected in 2011.)
  • South Africa was categorized as a Sustainable country in 2007, but its score was 14.2% higher in 2012 than it was in 2007. Since 2008, it has been categorized as a Moderate country.
  • Tunisia has been categorized as a Warning country since 2007, but its score was 11.65% higher in 2012 than it was in 2007.
  • Guinea-Bissau has been categorized as an Alert country since 2007, but its score was 10.48% higher in 2012 than it was in 2007.

Note that two of those countries – Libya and Tunisia – are “Arab Spring” countries that did not display indications of such rapid weakening in the 2011 Failed States index. They thus displaced two countries – Benin and Eritrea – that would have also made it on to the list of the five countries that are weakening at the most rapid rates:

  • Benin has been categorized as a Warning country since 2007, but its score was 8.43% higher in 2012 than it was in 2007.
  • Eritrea was categorized as a Warning country in 2007, but its score was 9.52% higher in 2012 than it was in 2007. Since 2009, it has been categorized as an Alert country.

The takeaway from this level of analysis of the Failed States Index is not that countries like Senegal and South Africa are failing, but that countries like Guinea-Bissau and Eritrea, which are already starting from a relatively compromised position, and deteriorating at a considerable pace year-to-year. At least that’s one way I see the index potentially being useful.

Thus ends my brief analysis of the 2012 Failed States Index and what it may or may not tell us. Take from it what you will.

Making Sense of the 2012 Failed States Index (Part I)

Last week, Fund for Peace released the 2012 Failed States Index. Accordingly, my next two posts will cover my thoughts on how the index may or may not be useful (Part I) and how Africa fares on the index (Part II).

But before I start, two important caveats: First, if you are looking for a debate on the utility of using the terms failed state, weak state, collapsed state, etc. and the policy implications that accompany that designation, this post is not going to do that for you, as that topic has been covered in-depth elsewhere. Second, when I turn to what the index means for Africa, I’ve scoped “Africa” to include 52 countries. I’ve excluded Egypt because I’m just accustomed to scoping the continent accordingly because it’s not in the AFRICOM AoR. Like the 2012 Failed States Index, I’ve also excluded South Sudan, which became a state midway through the year. Though unranked in the 2012 iteration of the Failed States Index, Fund for Peace did determine where South Sudan would have ranked, had it been included.

Methodology

First, a word on Fund for Peace’s methodology. (No, don’t skip this section – it’s important!)

Every year, the Fund for Peace triangulates data collected using content analysis, quantitative data, and qualitative input to develop final scores for the Failed States Index. Aggregated data are normalized and scaled from 0-10 (best to worst) for each of 12 indicators that span three categories – social, economic, and political/military. No single indicator is guaranteed to indicate state instability, as they cover a wide range of state failure risk elements. Failed States Index scores range between 0.0 and 120.0 (least failed to most failed), and the Fund for Peace categorizes the Failed States Index scores by quartiles: Alert (scores between 90 and 120), Warning (scores between 60 and 89.9), Moderate (scores between 30 and 59.9), and Sustainable (scores between 0 and 29.9).

Data for each year’s index is collected between January 1 and December 31 of the previous year. As a result, each year’s Failed States Index would not account for developments that took place after December 31 of the previous year. This is important to keep in mind when trying to make sense of where each country lies in the index in light on current developments. 

You can find out more about the Fund for Peace’s methodology here and here.

What the Failed States Index Does/Does Not Do

The Failed States Index is not a crystal ball. It is not intended to predict when, how, or under what circumstances a state will fail. It is merely an analytic tool that suggests which states may be more vulnerable to state failure than others. Furthermore, one should not read too much into a country’s numbered ranking, because ultimately ranking one state as slightly “more failed” than another is meaningless. It is, however, more useful to think of the data the index provides in terms of tiers or categories (i.e., Somalia is more vulnerable to state failure than Malawi, and Malawi is more vulnerable to state failure than Mauritius). Finally, what is even more important than rankings or categories are the changes in the country’s scores over time. Looking at the Failed States Index from year to year, one can see that many of the countries that top the list have topped the list every year – some just trade places with each other. So if a policymaker or military strategist was trying to make sense of this index, one takeaway is that there are countries that are chronically vulnerable to state failure, but absent a specific catalyst (i.e., coup, natural disaster, mass population displacement), it is unlikely that the state is going “over the edge,” so to say. What they then do with that information will of course depend on whether or not a particular state’s failure matters to their country, or even to their bureaucracy.

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