|Prime Minister Raila and President Kibaki|
By Kipchumba Some
Two years after Kenya sunk to her lowest point and was being mentioned alongside failed states like Somalia and Sudan, international community has expressed its faith in the country.
Kenya has been ranked among the best 100 countries by an internationally reputed magazine, Newsweek. It was ranked the best country in East Africa, eighth in Africa and 87th overall, out of 194 UN countries.
Coming just days after embarking on a journey of national renewal by passing the new Constitution, the ranking is an image booster for the country internationally.
In it’s first ever such ranking, the latest issue of Newsweek placed Kenya above East African neighbours Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia. East Africa’s most hyped nation, Rwanda, was not listed.
At position 67, Tunisia is the leading African country followed by Morocco, Egypt, Botswana, South Africa, Algeria and Ghana, in that order.
The magazine used several factors including quality of life, economic dynamism, education, healthcare, transparency and political environment in the ranking.
Finland emerged the overall winner with world’s superpower, the US, ranked eleventh. Switzerland was second overall, followed by Sweden, Australia and Luxemburg.
None at top tenIn its editorial Newsweek stated: "The list shows the best countries tend to be small, rich
and safe. It also shows there are many plenty of ways to look at it."
Although no African country made it to the top ten, the continent can take solace that its countries appeared alongside the best in the world.
Other African countries that featured in the list include Madagascar, Senegal, Mozambique, Zambia, Cameroon, Nigeria and Burkina Faso in that order. Most of these countries are synonymous with dictatorship, conflict and corruption.
Were it not for the local political turmoil, Kenya would have possibly ranked better as alluded to by Newsweek’s Rana Foroohar who wrote: "Our list represent a snapshot of how countries looked in 2008 and 2009, rather than a historic or predictive view — a country like Thailand or Kenya, for example, may have scored higher on political stability two years ago than it would today."
Northern African countries excelled in indices such as education, health, economic competitiveness and quality of life.
South Africa and Ghana have ranked high because of the competitive economies, transparency and political stability. The two recently held peaceful elections and smooth transfer of power.
Instil dictatorshipRwanda, which has drawn plaudits for its booming economy, must have been left out based on democracy and transparency indices. President Paul Kagame has been accused of trying to instil dictatorship in the country.
On education, Finland once again topped followed by South Korea. Analysis by Mona Mourshed and Fenton Whelan of McKinsey consultancy group must be encouraging to President Kibaki for his 2003 flagship Free Primary Education programme.
"First, get children in to school early. High-quality pre-schooling does more for a child’s chances in school than any other educational intervention," they stated.
Among upper-middle-income countries, former Soviet-bloc states ruled the roost. Kazakhstan was first followed by Poland, Cuba and Latvia. Lithuania was sixth, Russia seventh while Bulgaria was tenth.
Explanation behind this performance is that these countries place high priorities on science and math subjects. Kenyan students have been performing dismally in these subjects in national exams.
On healthcare system success, Japan took the lead.
On transparency, where African countries are not known to shine, none of them makes to the main list of analysis. This is mainly because the analysts looked at the vice in the main markets.