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Democracy and development in Africa

Essay 2016 12 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Topic: Development Politics

Excerpt

Table of Contents

Introduction

DEFINITION OF TERMS
Democracy
Development

Characteristics of a democratic state

Characteristics of Africa’s socio-political way of life

Correlation between democracy and development

Democracy as a means to development

Failures of Democratic practice in Africa

Negative impact of democracy to development in Africa

Way forward to a failed democracy

The concept of good governance

CONCLUSION

REFERENCES

Introduction

Winston Churchill famously criticized democracy as “the worst form of Government”. Indeed people get a voice to shape their political and economic destinies through democratic exercises but in it has many imperfections. The Westminster Democracy has failed to be successful in Africa and critics have argued that it is because it does not speak to the culture of Africans. They suggest the need for an African democracy that speaks to values and cultures of Africans for it to be successful. However proponents of democracy say that The Western democracy is a good form of government that can lead to socio- economic development if it is given time to develop. They give example of Successful democracy in the developed world and state that it took some countries more than 200 years to achieve successful democracy and therefore Africa should be given the time. The problem however is that Africa continues to languish as underdeveloped under the umbrella of democracy and we really do not have that time to wait and build democracy at the expense of development. Any pragmatic person can assertively say that the democracy that is currently being practiced is a social and economic ill to Africa. This paper seeks to analyze whether democracy has led to development or it has led to underdevelopment. My main argument is that the Western style of Democracy has failed to work in Africa and thus if development is to be achieved, Africa needs a democracy that is in tune to its own culture. The article begins by defining what democracy and development means. I then give the characteristics of a democratic state and Africa’s socio-political way of life. The article will also carry out a comparative analysis of the correlation between democracy and development and highlight the failures of democratic practice in Africa. In the last pages it will examine negative impact of democracy to development in Africa and suggest the way forward to a failed democracy while suggesting the concept of good governance to attaining development.

Key terms:Democracy, Development, Good governance, Socio-Economic development

DEFINITION OF TERMS

Democracy

Democracy is a political system in which the eligible people (electorates) in any country participate actively in not only determining the kind of people that govern them but actually also participate actively in shaping the policy output of how government is managed (Eze, 1997). [1]

Development

Development refers to an advancement to state that is desired; a better state. People take development to mean change while some see it as advancement, progress or improvement (Ele, 2006). [2] The desired goal of development is improvement in people’s standards of living through good physical infrastructures such as roads, electricity, water and social infrastructures such as health, education and security services. Development is thus a multi- dimensional process that involves improving the social, economic, political and cultural aspects of people and by extension the environment in an effort to make the development sustainable.

Characteristics of a democratic state

Ali A. Mazrui wrote that democracy has four primary goals. (i.) To make the rulers accountable and answerable for their actions and policies. (ii.) To make the citizens effective participants in choosing those rulers who are in regulating their actions. (iii.) To make the society as open and the economy as transparent as possible. (iv.) To make the social order fundamentally just and equitable to the greatest number possible. Democratic governance is characterized not only by free and fair ballots, but it also entails freedom of speech, association, assembly, opinion and expression. Freedom of the press and mass movements; which enables them to expose decays within society. Rule of law governing accountability and equal justice.

African states today define democracy as:

i. More than one political party competing for election that is a multiparty state.
ii. Regular, fair and free elections to determine real governing power.
iii. Protection of civil and political liberties.
iv. Effective political representation.
v. Independent judicial bodies guided by the rule of law.
vi. Tolerance for opposition parties.

Characteristics of Africa’s socio-political way of life

The poor socio-economic and political development in Africa has been attributed to abuse of basic human rights and freedoms, totalitarian rule, inequalities, corruption, ethnicity, tribalism, disregard of rule of law, Impunity, lack of office tenures, poor constitutions, weakened institutions and many other negative aspects. There is therefore need to conduct a comparative analysis of Nations to examine the contribution that the practice of democracy can make towards achieving any state’s overall development.

Correlation between democracy and development

There is a general misconception that once a country is considered democratic then automatically it is developed. I call it a misconception because as this article will highlight democracy is continuing to be a ‘fallacy statement’ that exists in African states. A country might be termed as ‘democratic’ because of how people participate in electing their leaders but you find that there is no democracy at all in how the elections are conducted in such states. The Western style of democracy adopted has failed to work in African states but has been assumed to be successful. It is a fallacy for one to state that Africans enjoy their democratic right hence they are developed. Adrian (1996) argues democracy can only serve as a framework for realizing development if it is seen as a means to an end and not an end in itself. However, it is indeed rare to find democracy thriving in a state that is economically flawed.[3] A state with poor electorates usually has leaders elected in a ‘democratic way’ although in real sense democracy was not practiced in the first place. It is a case of the political leaders campaigning by giving the poor handouts to vote for them with the deception of improving their economic situation. In turn the poor person with dire need to get the hand out to buy his basic needs will receive the hand out and eventually vote the political leader; not because he is a deserving leader but because the poor voter is returning a favor. Some researchers argue that socio- economic development leads to democracy while others argue it is democracy that leads to socio- economic development. They are informed by “Lipset thesis” (Lipset 1959; 1963) that explains economic development not only leads to democracy but is also essential for democracy to exist. The cases however vary from country to country.[4] When you carry a broader comparative analysis you find that in Western and Asian countries, democracy has been a means to an end in the former and an end in itself in the latter. For instance in Central and Eastern Europe, economic failure has acted as a catalyst to bring about democratic change. In others like South Korea and Taiwan, economic success has acted as a catalyst to democracy. Samarasinghe S.W.R. de A. (1994), ask whether development leads to democracy? They discuss the multiplicity of paths to democracy such as good governance, depending on the particular circumstances of the country. They conclude by stating it does not always happen.[5] This background forms the basis of my argument on whether democracy leads to development or not in Africa.

Democracy as a means to development

The concept of democracy is tied to good governance that leads to development. Good governance can help the process of democratization by promoting essential democratic practices such as accountability that helps develop a political culture conducive to democracy. Good governance helps economic development which in turn can help nurture democracy. However according to World Development Report given by The World Bank, in (1991), it’s important to note that economic development can occur both in democratic and non- democratic states.[6] In Latin America, Peru and Bolivia have performed very poorly in the 1980s under democratic regimes and Chile did exceedingly well under an authoritarian regime. Costa Rica is a democratic state with good record in social welfare and development. South Asia, India, with long-standing democratic regime has had modest economic growth record since independence in 1947. Most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have experienced low economic growth usually under non-democratic regimes. But quite frankly democracy in Africa will not guarantee economic development in Africa because in itself is flawed.

Failures of Democratic practice in Africa

The failure of democratic practice in Africa is due to the fact that we do not really understand what constitutes democracy. We have gone on and on fighting for democracy; we are fighting to attain something we do not understand in the first place. It is therefore important to understand what it means so as to be able to judge whether it has failed to develop Africa or not. Some of the cases that suggest democracy has failed in Africa are the crises of military coups in Mali and Guinea Bissau, the fraudulent presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the recent refusal to concede elections outcome in Gambia by president Yahya Jammeh, the unconstitutional third term candidacy of Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, the change of constitution to fit term in office by Rwandan president Paul Kagame, the never ending term of office for Zimbwabwe president Robert Mugabe and the 2007 post- election violence in Kenya. Citing Kenya as an example, the Western democracy of conducting elections has led to more outcries in terms of ethnic violence, poor governance and under development just to state but a few ills.[7] The democratic practice in 2007 elections created a larger rift in social ties which had an impact in the country’s’ Gross domestic product. According to Guibert and Perez-Quiros (2012), over the period 2007-2011, per capita GDP was reduced by an average of 70 USD per year, which amounts to be approximately 5 percent of the 2007 baseline level.[8] In the disputed 2007 elections, Kenyans went to vote thus exercising their democratic right, the elections were rigged and the whole country turned into chaos. A Western style democracy demands that Democratic decisions be made by a majority vote. If well practiced, it fosters transparency; an important dimension to democracy but it also brings out the aspect of ethnic divisions. The minority positions are usually ignored and the marginalized people might tend to start war with an aim of expressing their views.

In as much as democracy entails electing leaders, In Africa leaders are elected in office on tribal lines. Citizens cast their votes not to the deserving good leaders, rather to their tribe’s mate. This is due higher rates of ethnicity, tribal and cultural diversity characterized in African Nations. For instance in Sudan and Nigeria, there exist religious differences (Islamic and Christianity), which have caused rifts between people from different regions. In Kenya the Government and public institutions are majorly controlled by groups of people from the ruling tribe. Such scenarios make it difficult to fight poor governance because the public cannot scrutinize a leader who belongs to their tribe. In most cases in Kenya we have experienced leaders taken to Anti- corruption units to face corrupt charges and the public comes up to protest against the bodies fighting corruption; in support of their corrupt tribes’ man or woman. Thus it has always been utmost impossible to challenge the status quo.

Another aspect that makes me argue the Western democracy has failed in Africa is that the style of democracy being practiced is that of power-hungry leaders. Democracy is supposed to be about good leadership but it is just about power seeking, corrupt leaders. In essence people do not seek leadership to govern the electorate in a better way rather they seek leadership to gain themselves power that will enable them accumulate more wealth from public resources. The aspect of power sharing in Kenya after the disputed elections in 2007 is a good example of leaders competing for power. I say this because after elections have been carried out and the winner announced, it is not necessary to divide state power into two competing groups, for the state to be considered democratic. In Africa it is a case where leaders go to contest but when the opposing person loses he does not want to accept defeat. It is an authoritarian way of imposing a selfish will on people. When we look at the same power sharing idea in Kenya, we see African leaders going back to the colonial and post-independence period where there existed one party to govern the state. I can assertively say that by sharing power to rule a state, we are fighting against the same factors that we as Africans define as democracy, and that is multiparty. When we merge two parties that are opposing it means we are creating one ruling party. So in as much as we say multi-party is a way to go to ensure democracy, we are fighting its existence from within and thus Western democracy has failed in Africa.

This idea of leaders’ not conceding defeat has also been recently characterized in Gambia. According to Answers Africa News (2016), President Yahya Jammeh had first praised the election system as rig-proof and thus cannot be rigged. When the president-elect Adama Barrow won, he conceded defeat to later reject the election outcome and call for fresh polls.[9] The idea of democracy being characterized by clearly stipulated head of state term in office has really not succeeded in African democracies. Some African Leaders have been in power for over 20 years and do not want to relinquish their seats. An article on ABC News on 18th December 2016 reports that Zimbabwe's ruling party has endorsed the 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe as its candidate in the national election scheduled for 2018. The never ending terms of heads of states such as Yahha Jammeh in Gambia, Paul Biya in Cameroon, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Eduardo dos Santos in Angola, and Yoweri Museveni in Uganda, as well as Soviet-style landslide re-election victories, as that of Rwanda in 2010 is a highlight of how citizens do not enjoy the democratic way of electing leaders. Yes elections are said to be conducted in theory but in practice it is non-existent. In Uganda, the democracy could still be rated as Quasi- democracy. President Yoweri Museveni has won four elections, changing the constitution to allow himself an unlimited number of terms. The appointment of Robert Mugabe as the chairman of the African Union in 2015, the pulling out of South Africa, Gambia and Burundi from the international criminal court (citing neo-colonialists tendencies that targets African leaders); also paints the image that Africa supports poor leadership simply because the leaders are united as one regardless of their economic performance, political accountability in their own countries and citizen’s social wellbeing.

The majority rule is the way to go in the Western democracy. It however creates oppression to the minority since their will cannot be realized. For example in Kenya there is an issue of ‘Tyranny of numbers’, which has served as a way to oppress the minority and therefore their needs cannot be articulated in a successful way. [10]Evident in parliamentary proceedings, if a bill is brought up by a member of the opposition team to be passed, however much this bill could assist people in a marginalized community to get government services, chances are it will be opposed in parliament and fail to go through; that is if the majority who have tyranny of numbers are not the ones proposing the bill. In most cases the bill will be opposed not because it is not right but because the tyranny of number wants to prove its power in all decisions made in the parliament sittings. Therefore you find that the marginalized group need is eventually not solved because of tyranny of numbers syndrome. All these issues are brought up by the tribal rule and selfish leaders elected to power.

Multiparty has been said to enhance democracy but in real sense they are only vehicles used by the political elites to ascend into power and/ or to gain an economic interest. Once leaders are elected into power, those in the opposition parties converge to the ruling party. Parties are like a means to an end and if the deal is not rosy in party A, a leader jumps to the ruling party B to gain self- interests. We have had cases of opposing parties that had purported to be having different ideologies now merging into one ruling party. Citing Kenya as an example, in 2016 The National Alliance party (TNA) and United Republican Party (URP) launched a single party called Jubilee in September 10th 2016 and several former opposing parties such as Ford Kenya dismantled their party to join the ‘new winning train’ ahead of the 2017 general election. The issue of party hoping has been due to the fact that unlike in the United States, parties in Kenya belong to individuals and not the public. It is sort of not the will of the people but the will of few individuals that is being imposed in the name of democracy. Judging from the way events are unfolding, we don’t necessarily need multi-party as a sign of democracy in Africa because parties are just vehicles to self-progress and have no attachment to democracy and development.

Negative impact of democracy to development in Africa

Democracy if well practiced could promote pre-conditions factors that lead to development; civil and political rights, property rights, access to information, equality, accountability and the rule of law. For instance a country that is well developed economically, democracy has been practiced through a vibrant opposition and a free press that enhances accountability of elected leaders. Exercising democracy means that the electorates have a political participation in voting in power the leaders they want. There has been a lot of criticism as to whether the elected in power measure up to citizens’ expectations. It begs the question; are the leaders elected considered good? Fine people have exercised their democratic right by participating politically, but can the elected leaders stir development? It turns out that these democratic leaders are characterized by corruption which consequentially leads to inequalities and derails economic development. Instead of resources being distributed equally it goes to pay patronage to those who voted for the reigning government and those who voted against continue to languish in poverty. In as much as we say elections are about democracy, Elections rigging and corruption with impunity gives power to leaders over the people who elected them. The existent poverty situation and underdevelopment are a challenge to democracy, because a hungry and poorly educated electorate can easily be bought by politicians with false promises of improving their social and economic lives if elected. Then you find that people have vote but the ones voted in will provide poor leadership that will not enhance development.

Way forward to a failed democracy

Asides from Africa having to redefine its own style of democracy, there is need for a paradigm shift away from democratic leadership to dictatorial leadership for development to be achieved. A dictatorial kind of rule will in a many ways increase accountability, transparency and there will be efficient use of resources. In an authoritarian regime the leader can make economic decisions that are unpopular among the people as long as those decisions lead to development, for instance how equal resources will be distributed regardless of ethnic background affinity.

The view shared by Oloo and Oyugi (2016), is that one party regime has been criticized as the cause of political oppression and economic discrimination in Kenya. [11]Both the Kenyatta and the Moi regimes were criticized of creating ethnic differences which had an impact in social- economic development of the people. It is however important to note that these one party regimes can equally be a way of attaining development. One party regime translates down to dictatorial leadership where everyone among the political elite pays allegiance to the leadership of one party. This way there will be no favoritism, inequalities and resources will be distributed evenly.

The issue of political parties being owned by individuals and political elites is also a threat to democracy in Africa thus its development. You find that the ones in power are controlled by party members and are not independent decision makers. If party members commit offences such as corruption then the head of state may fail to hold them accountable because his allegiance belongs to the party members who are the political elites. Such issues derail the economy of a state and consequentially the social well-being of the individuals within the state.

The way to ascertain that democracy has been practiced in a sustainable way that leads to development is generally to adopt the concept of good governance. With good governance then the democratic process of electing leaders will lead to development in Africa. Good governance creates conditions necessary for development and in turn enhances democracy. In essence, the only way that the Western democracy can succeed to bring about development in Africa is through good governance.

The concept of good governance

It is a reciprocal cycle that good governance can help the process of democratization by promoting essential democratic practices such as accountability thus developing a political culture conducive to democracy. Good governance helps economic development which in turn can help nurture democracy. It is a multi-dimensional concept that involves transparency, accountability, respect to law and public service ethics. Thus all these factors will contribute to the well-being of the people within a state. If a state practices good democracy then issues of ethnicity, inequality and post-election wars will be averted. A stable state characterized with good governance attracts foreign direct investment, increases savings and capital stock from revenues collected thus improving its development. Sadly in Kenya people put in place to create conditions for economic progress have ended up committing fraud in their dockets including ministerial positions. The case of 800 million of cash irregularly transferred from National Youth Service accounts is an example of poor governance in Kenya. Good Governance also involves respect to the rule of law. [12]The rule of law protects and punishes such corrupt vices, nepotism, favoritism and political patronage from private interest groups. Therefore for good governance to be achieved there is need to build stronger institutions in Africa that will promote democracy and enhance economic development. Institutions such as parliament, the judiciary and civil service should be strong enough and have the integrity of not being undermined by politicians. Institutions such as the opposition parties, parliament, auditing bodies and the general public should be strengthened to be able to ask questions and demand answers from leaders to enhance their accountability and to counter impunity. Transparency in terms of flow of information from the government is an important aspect that not only attracts foreign direct investment and leads to growth within a state but acts as a basis to the general public to verify performance. Information about the character of leaders to be elected in office is also crucial. It is certainly what informed the beginning of public debates in the Media before the 2013 elections in Kenya. This way the public gets to judge the character and manifesto of the leader before they elect them to power. It may not be the best believable way to judge aspired form of leadership, but it is a stepping stone towards enhancing civic education.

CONCLUSION

If democracy has to be adopted to realize development within a Nation, then it has to be practiced in the form of good governance. The concept of good governance has to entail respect for the rule of law, accountability, transparency, conduct of credible free and fair election thus effective representation. Since most of these aspects have not been adhered to in most African states, I can conclusively say that the Western democracy has not assisted Africa towards development and it should be discontinued. The way forward would be an African form of democracy that speaks to the diverse cultures and way of lives of African states. An African democracy that is the rule by consensus and once the rulers fail to meet the people’s expectations in regard to good governance they are removed from power even if it entails the use of force or by vote of no confidence in parliament. In essence there is need for a dictatorial rule that will streamline the failing leaders.

REFERENCES

[1] Eze, J. A. (1997). Management and Politics of Africa. Enugu: Glanic Ventures.
[2] Ele, C. (2006). Evangelization through Rural Development. Nsukka: Great AP publishes Ltd.
[3] Adrian, L. (1996). On the Primacy of Politics in Development. In Adrian, L. (ed.) Democracyand Development. Cambridge: University Press.
[4] Lipset, Seymour Martin 1959. “Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy”. American Political Science Review. 53:69-105.
[5] Samarasinghe S.W.R. de A. (1994). Democracy and Democratization in Developing Countries. The American University & Institute for International Research Washington, DC.
[6] World Bank (1991). World Development Report 1991. New York: Oxford University Press.
[7] Becchetti, L., Conzo, P., & Romeo, A. (2013). Violence, trust, and trustworthiness: evidence from a Nairobi slum. Oxford Economic Papers, gpt008.
[8] Guibert L. and Perez-Quiros G.(2012). Measuring the Economic Cost of the 2007/08 Post-Election Violence in Kenya. Pdf Acessed from https://editorialexpress.com/cgi-bin/conference/download.cgi?db_name=CSAE2013&paper_id=75. On 19th December 2016
[9] AnswersAfrica(2016). President Yahya Jammeh changes his mind about conceding, wants fresh polls. Accessed on 19th December 2016 from http://answersafrica.com/yahya-jammeh-fresh-polls.html
[10] Daily Nation(February, 2014).Tyranny of numbers’ the curse that will produce 70 counties. Acessed from http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Tyranny-of-numbers-the-curse-that-will-produce-70/1056-2169516-ebryq0/index.html
[11] Oloo A. ,O. Oyugi (2016). Democracy and Good Governance in Kenya:Prospects and Obstacles. Acessed from http://www.dpmf.org/images/democracy-adams.htm on 1st August 2016. DPMF Publications
[12] Daily Nation (April, 2016) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/King-of-graft-to-lose-Sh800-million-loot/1056-3143134-11ii83p/index.html

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Pages
12
Year
2016
ISBN (Book)
9783668376229
File size
513 KB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v350988
Grade
B
Tags
Democracy Good governance Development

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Title: Democracy and development in Africa