The African continent’s leaders have been blamed for the underdevelopment of democracy in Africa. This underdevelopment comes despite the willingness of the majority of Africans to see a change on the continent. This is the view of Afrobarometer, a pan-African, independent, non-partisan research network that measures public attitudes on economic, political, and social matters in Africa.
The research agency findings, which were published in a policy paper titled “PP85: Africans want more democracy, but their leaders still aren’t listening,” identified the root cause of such issues as voter apathy, underdevelopment in the democratic processes, and many other negative situations.
Afrobarometer, which conducted a survey across 34 countries during the 2019-2021 season, discovered that most Africans were committed to democracy despite its shortcomings and were eager to see things change only if our leaders were willing to listen.
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It pointed in particular to the perception of widespread and worsening corruption as the key driving force behind this scourge.
According to the research agency, “the perception of widespread and worsening corruption is particularly corrosive, leaving people increasingly dissatisfied with political systems that are yet to deliver on their aspirations to live in societies that are democratically and accountably governed. And although citizens find myriad ways to voice their concerns, they feel that their governments are not listening.”
The report added that this scourge of poor leadership had been made manifest in the “increasing restrictions on opposition parties in Benin, Senegal, and Tanzania; the use of vote rigging, violence, and intimidation during elections in Côte d’Ivoire and Uganda; and a wave of recent military coups in Chad, Mali, Sudan, and Guinea in 2021 and two in Burkina Faso just in 2022.”
It was argued that countries with a visible absence of democratic values were supported by a number of factors.
These include “the West’s increasing focus on combating violent extremism and rising insurgency; the growing influence of China and Russia; the indifference, or even hostility, of these and other African development partners to democratic governance; and the cover that the COVID-19 pandemic, which has sometimes offered for limiting freedoms, restricting fair campaigning, or postponing elections.”
Despite the shortcomings mentioned above, countries such as Gambia have been able to foster the possibility of positive change in our democratic processes.
“The Gambia’s successful 2021 presidential election, the 2021 ruling-party transition in Zambia, and the first democratic transfers of power in Niger (2020/2021) and Seychelles (2020),” it said proved that indeed democracy can grow and institutions needed to ensure this growth must be encouraged.
However, one underlining fact still remains: most participants in the survey agreed that the continent does not want the military back in power.
“They believe that the military should stay out of politics, that political parties should be free to compete for power, that elections are an imperfect but necessary tool for selecting their leaders, and that it is time for the old men who cling to power to step down,” the report stated.