Early last month I was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the Mo Ibrahim Foundation‘s annual governance weekend, including the celebrated Ibrahim Forum. The MIF, headed by the eponymous and irrepressible Mo, does amazing work promoting good governance in Africa. It’s perhaps best known for its incredibly comprehensive Governance Index.
Despite the terrible score of his native Somalia on his own Governance Index, Mo is much keener on celebrating all that is young and joyful and promising in Africa than telling dismal stories about its problems. Which is why the weekend began on a Friday evening in Addis Ababa stadium, with an exhibition football match between a local side and the continent’s most feared team, TP Mazembe from the DRC — the visitors easily winning 3-1 — followed by a pop concert.
The more serious part of the weekend was a reception on Saturday evening, including a fun mixture of politics and music, and the forum itself on the Sunday with a series of high-quality panel discussions on directions for African development, governance, integration and security. This year’s meeting was in Addis Ababa, home of the African Union, to coincide with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the AU’s founding (as the OAU) in 1963.
The MIF’s aim of good governance is, of course, very much aligned with the aims of the Open Knowledge Foundation. It was good to hear the importance of open data stressed by some of the speakers. Among others Trevor Manuel, minister in charge of the National Planning Commission in South Africa, made the point that the work of building stability must start with reliable, accessible statistics. The OKF will be increasing its involvement in the region through its involvement in the Open Data Partnership for Development, a partnership with the World Bank and the Open Data Institute to increase the amount and impact of Open Data in developing countries.
Though it was a flying visit, I did have time for a whistle-stop tour of Addis Ababa. In the National Museum of Ethiopia it was particularly exciting to see Lucy, the famous skeleton of a member of what may have been our earliest upright ancestor species, as well as the earliest known human remains. As H.E. Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chair of the African Union Commission, said in her address, ‘Welcome home to Ethiopia – wherever in the world you are from, this is your home.’