Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Democracy: a blessing and woe to Africa

Article from AFRIC Editorial
According to Freedom House’s Freedom of the World report, nations in the world are in three states of liberty or freedom as a country they are completely free, partly free, or not free this is evaluated according to the extent to which political rights and civil liberties are enjoyed by citizens of a country and how these elements are upheld by the state. Democracy is equated to freedom of a state, however, countries in Africa do not look like they are truly free.
The reports further highlight that there are just eleven African countries who are listed under the Freedom Index. These countries include Namibia, Tunisia, South Africa, Cape Verde, Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, Mauritius, Botswana, Sao Tome and Principe and Senegal. Out of fifty-four countries, just eleven are free. That leaves the continent open for a huge question. What kind of freedom or democracy then operates in the rest forty-three countries?

With these eleven countries, are they truly free? Do they truly practice democracy? In the last five years, the continent has recorded a deterioration state of quality political participation and rule of law. Currently, Africa has an imperfect democracy, and hardcore autocracies it is a mixture of these two in the region. In these “free or democratic” countries, severally elections are being held, however, are the voices and choices of the citizens heard in these elections? Or they just participate in the political process but never get the opportunity to get what exactly they want or elect.


Across the region, the majority of Africans believe democracy is the way to go, whiles others think the autocratic model will do good to Africa. Salif Keita, Malian music legend, declared how he has given up on democracy and suggested that the continent needs a “benevolent dictator like China”. At the end of the day, all citizens ask for is transparency in governance, more economic benefits, less corruption, etc. Nevertheless, in the wider scheme of Africa, citizens hardly get these desires and requests from Government. It looks like there is a missing element in the democracy trail, either the leaders don’t truly understand what citizens needs or the people don’t understand the system of democracy and are asking for the wrong requests.

The understanding of democracy is slowly been defined in another way in Africa, a classic example is Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, who is preparing to run for office for the sixth term in 2021. How does this define democracy is this what the people actually want? This kind of democracy is not experienced in Uganda only. Across the Africa continent, 25 presidents have held office for five years or more. This kind of democracy does no good to a nation; in the end citizens would want change in governance, and leadership.

When citizens are not getting this change, they result to violence, and sometimes military coup d’état. These scenarios occur in most Africa countries. Or do we take it that Africa has a different definition of democracy? On the other hand the democracy story is different, other countries are taking full advantage of the system to develop their nation, and a classic example is Rwanda.

Rwanda has built remarkable growth in developing its governance structures, maintaining peace and security, promoting reconciliation and strengthening the judiciary system through democracy. The nation stood on the wings of democracy to address governance problems, strengthen civil society, developing meaningful opportunities for civic engagement and citizens, improve rule of law,  Provide jobs for youth populace, and professionalize the media industry. There are always two side of the coin to democracy in Africa.

However, Africa has a huge underlining hurdle in our democratic setting. Africa’s continuing dependence on foreign aids has forever opened the opportunities for foreign entities, institutions or individuals to influence our policymaking in the continent beneath the covers  The major donors who often come to the aid of Africa, with grants, loans, etc. in the name of development, in turn, comes with their own strategies and agenda in mind, which in the long haul benefits them not us. These agendas are usually in the form of prescriptions and orders to influence political, economic and social systems in Africa. When Africa governments dances to the tune of these influence the citizens suffer the most.


In the 1980s, the international financial institutions publicized the development and implementation of economic stabilization and structural adjustment programs would be the conditions for Africa countries and their governments who need assistance from them. These institutions include The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, etc. their offer was demanding changes in policies such as the reduction in the size, operation and cost of the public sector, removal of supports for public services, currency devaluation, etc. Do these changes in policies benefit the African people? Or there is an internal agenda for just particular groups of people and these agencies. Furthermore, democracy in Africa looks like it is been enjoyed by just certain groups of people, the larger populace is simply passing through and the actual benefits are for those in Government and their immediate families.  Is this what democracy is truly about? If this is how it works then autocracy would be been a better option for the continent.

As a continent, we need to acknowledge that democracy and development are bedfellows and needs a massive revamp. Stronger policies about leadership and governance need to be implemented for example. No leaders can go beyond a particular tenure in office, the new government should continue and finish the work of previous governments to foster development, democratic governance not political governance.  It is high time, Africans rises and tasks leaders to be extremely accountable to the people, and demands the right thing to be done it is the only way to development, and also as a people we should participate in political process, speak and also do our part by paying our taxes, and doing what is expected of us especially at work until then we can only enjoy the so-called democracy and just wonder if Africa is truly free.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Photo Credit : google image/illustration

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