The State Of African Democracy: Prospects And Challenges

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

The State Of African Democracy: Prospects And Challenges


Democracy has been perceived as a universal creed and the most acceptable system of government in the world.
African countries tend to key in to this reality against the backdrop of a long period of military rule which has been a cog on our wheel of social-economies and political emancipation in the process of country this democratization they found themselves a more serious problem and challenges. The objective of this research is to examine the State of African Democracy. Some of the challenges facing it as well as the prospects. The research identified that African democratic project is impeded following that African democratic project is impeded following the problems associated with the conduct and management of Election in Africa, the challenges of political leadership and the inability to transform democracy in to instrument of Human security. The research therefore recommend that the prospect of African Democracy lies on credible, free and fair election, Good Governance and the delivering of the dividends of democracy to African people. The methodology adopted in this research is the secondary method of data collection which involves the descriptive and historical analysis of already existing materials from textbooks, journals. Well researched article and publications and the internet.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

Africa politics has several unique features in our historical experience and contemporary times; this experience includes colonialism, Nationalism, independence, military rule, transition to democracy and consolidation of democracy.

Colonial domination of the African countries started officially in the scramble for Africa at the British conference 184/1885 where Africa was partitioned among different spheres of influences by colonizing state. Britain, France, Portugal, Belgium and Germany. During these era, different kinds of colonies assimilation and association in the French colonies indirect rule was administered by Lord Lugard a British colonial policy Belgium and Portugal used different sort.

During this period, Africa was subjugated and placed in a subservient position in the mainstream of political activities. This lead to discontentment and struggle for self rule and independence by African Nationalist, in the Language of Kwame Nkrumeh of Ghana “seek ye first political independence and every other things shall be added unto you”. In the Anglophone West Africa, where Colonial Policies Marginalized the Educated Elites. The Aborigines Right protection society was formed in the Gold coast to articulated interest of the undeageans people. The national council of British West Africa (N.C.B.W.A) also emerged in the early 19th centuries. All these struggles lead to the granting of political independence to many Africa State in the 1950s and 60s.

Ghana was the first country to achieve political independence in Sub-Sahara Africa in 1957, Guinea-1958, Nigeria-1960. Between 1957 to 1963, 32 African States has gained political independence the last was south Africa in 1994-Liberial, Egypt and Ethiopia were not colonized.

After independence nothing changed, professor Soj Ojo referred to the situation as “Frustration of unforeseen hope of independence Africa situation was a Neo-Colonial contradiction anchored on a fragile foundation and disarticulated structure perpetrated by Neo-Colonialism and imperialism rein formed by internal collaborators and indeageneous Bureaucratic bourgeois. Our political elites lacked the requisite knowledge of good governance and leadership, what quickly followed was corruption, Absolutism, aliases of public offices, Tribalism, esthetic conflict and political regrettable stories of Africa is the spate of military coup, starting in 1952 when king Farouk of Egypt was over throne, there was a little gap until January 1963 when a group of soldiers assassinated Congo-Brazzaville was toppled by the military in 1963 (August) Benin. Republic (October) Nigeria in January 1966, Ghana in February 1966. The increasing culture of militarization became part of the polities of the continent which resulted in various forms of instability and recourse to civil war as a means of resolving political issues. Realities tells man that the only way to escape these instability and insecurity is to embrace the wave or democracy which is perceive as a rocket carrying a warhead to its destination i.e. for Africa countries to develop. We must accept democracy and eschew dictatorship and military rule.

Prof. George Nzongola was optimistive about the future of democracy in Africa. He said and I quote.

“Since 1988, the people of Africa has raisen to replace one party and military dictatorship will Multy Party democracy from October 1985 in the street of Algeirs, this new social movement for democracy has manifested it self all over the continent than going the rule of Political game and bringing about meaningful reform in the institution in the post colonial State”

In the optimism, he was not alone other African Scholas has also spoken of Africa “Sarging tide of democracy”

The transition to democracy by South Africa in 1994 strengthened this seeming Irreversible march which was regared as an important feature of the African Renaissance (Mbeki, 1991).

The challenges of developing lasting and representative political institution base on the will of the people has been dearly demonstrated in Africa over the past decades. From one perspective many African states have been able to transit from Military rule to democracy. On the other perspective, the inability of some African State to transit from military to democracy is a call of serious concern. In some other cases, incumbent president refuse to hand over power to their successors but against this backdrop, some substantive Menber of counties including such regional power as south Africa and Nigeria have succeeded in holding legitimate election and moving a heard to address questions of democratic consolidation.

On the other hand, the past decades has been tragedious of State failure in countries such as Rwanda, Siere-Leone and democratic Republic of Congo.

From our experience in the new Millennium, we can eathegorize countries in three types, those undergoing meaningful-change, those adopting the form but not the substance of democracy and those that have not undergone any significant democratization process.

The question that looms large is why having some state done better than the other? What democratic model work in Africa? Have African Leaders translated democracy into Good governance? Have democracy lead to social economic and political development? How instrumental is democracy towards resolving the crises of development in Africa? The crises identified by Lucia Dye, Legitimacy crises, identity crises, distributing crises, and participatory crises; have democracy “delivered the good”

The Analyses of the state of Africa democracy encompasses what I called the “three wheres”- it is an answer to the following question.

  1. Where are we coming from in retrospect?
  2. Where are we now in reality?
  3. Where are we going in the future?

This means that Africa democratization process is ongoing it defies a simplistic generalization. These reality is much more complex and varied.

1.2 Statement of Problem

In this study, the following puzzles shall be our girding principles.

  1. Most Africa State find it fairly easy to democratize but the major challenges of the 21stcentury is how to consolidate Africa democracy
  2. Most Africa States have not been able to convert Democracy into Good governance which has become a standard of international best practices among developed Nations.
  3. Most African State is still finding much more difficult to conduct free and fair election which is a core ingredient in transforming from a mere civilian rule to concrete democratic
  4. African leaders accepted democracy but rejected it’s principle, culture and values.
  5. Most African states have not been able to deliver the dividend of democracy to their citizens. This is an issue of serious concern in the 21st century.
  6. Why the African Union have not been able to show and expressed commitment and determination towards the quest and hunger for democracy in Libya.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

This work is meant to accomplish the following

  1. To assess the State of African democracy today and its prospects for the future.
  2. To examine some challenges facing democratic experiment in Africa visa-vise the behavour of some Africa leaders towards their citizens.
  3. It also examine how south Africa which is the best country to gain political independent in Africa managed to take the lead in terms of democratic consolidation and performance in Africa
  4. The study sketched out what need to be done to keep and sustain democracy in Africa considering t he challenges of development of the 21st century.

1.4 Theoretical Framework

In this work, we will rely on the system theory as our analytical frame of reference. The system theory is borrowed from Biology and engineering science. It emphasizes the working mechanism of a set up for a goal attainment.

The system theory in political science is associated with David Easton who used it to explain how the political system work and interact. According to Easton, the political system exists with other system such as the physical system, Biological social and psychological system. But the political system is the one in which authoritative binding decision are made.

Some basic concepts associated with the Eastonial Model includes: – INPUTS CONVERSION, OUTPUT AND FEEDBACK.

Another important explanation of the system theory is the existence of structure perform some function or “Roles” Each structure must be separated or diffracted. The political system perform two main function INPUT Function and OUTPUT functions. The input functions includes, interest Articulation, interest Aggregation political recruitment, political socialization, political communication. Output function includes, Rule making, Rule implementation and rule Adjudication.

All these are essential element of a democratic process which involves the articulation of various interests into decision making and decision implementation in order to actualize the system goals.

1.5 Hypotheses

This work is predicated on the following assumption.

  1. There is a relationship between free and fair election and democratic consolidation.
  2. African democracy is rooted in a fragile foundation because of the absence of democratic culture which normally accompanies democratic practices.
  3. (The behavour of some African leaders toward democracy has been source of conflict and instability in some African States.
  4. There is a relationship between democracy and political stability as well as political instability.
  5. There is a relationship between democracy and National Economic performance.

1.5 Limitation / Scope of Study

There are so many literature that have discussed the State of African democracy, it’s prospects and challenges which can not be fully analyzed in few pages. We shall therefore limit our Scope of Study to two African States, South Africa and Nigeria visa-vise good governance, election management and development.

1.7 Clarification of Concepts

In the work the following concepts shall be operationalised to aid our understanding.


The origin of democracy has been traced to the ancient great city state of Athens date to 555 Bc in the Greek City State.

Democracy has two types, direct democracy and indirect democracy (Reprehensive democracy).

Direct democracy means the direct parturition of all adults who were adjudged eatable of making rational decision. While indirect democracy is a representative form which is practiced in most contemporary States.

Democracy has been defined by various scholars for example, Abraham Lincoln define it as government for the people, by the people and of the people. Appadorai (1975) define democracy as a form of government in which the ruling power of the state is legally vested not in one particular class or classes but in the chamber of a community as a whole.

Democratic Culture:

This regards to the best and most acceptable way of life in contemporary time. They are the principles guiding democratic process they include, free and fair elections, fundamental human right, fraternity, dominant of rule of law, representative government, tolerance opposing view, rationality and openness.

Transition And Consolidated Democracy

There are differences between transition to democracy and consolidated democracy. Transition to democracy emphases the displacement of authoritarian reign. It means toppling an authoritarian reign and adopting a redument of democracy.

Good Governance:

Proudly speaking, the term good governance encompasses all aspect of the way in which a country is governed. Good governance have several is governed. Good governance have several characteristic, participatory, consensus, oriented, accountability, transparency, responsive effective, efficient, equitable, inductive and rule of law.


According to Wanyene (1987:80) election represent a way of making a choice that is fair to all. It is an empirical demonstration of a citizen’s liberty and political choice, a free and fair election provides a veritable platform for conflict resolution and transformation outside battle field without bloodshed.


The term conflict represents disharmony, antagonism or hostility in a relationship. For arises due to incompatibility of goal been pursued and incompatibility of means used in the pursuance of a State goal. It is one of the products of cash of interest in a relationship. Conflict leads to political instability in a State.

1.8 Methodology

In this work we relied on secondary sources involving the review of textbooks, internet material, Articles, Journal and News peppers e.t.c.

Chapter Four

Summary of Findings, Recommendation & Conclusion

4.1 Summary of Findings

Assessing the state of African democracy revealed some important points to note; first and foremost, African politics has been characterized by some unique features-colonialism, Nationalism, Independence, Military rule and democracy.

The analysis of the state of Africa democracy encompasses what I called the “threa wheres where are we coming from in retrospect, where are we now in reality, where are we going in the future.

Through most African states find it fairly easy to democralize themselves but the major challenge has been how to consolidate democracy in Africa. African leaders accepted democracy but rejected its guiding principle, culture and value.

The challenge of developing lasting and representative political institution base on the will of the people is still difficult to come by though some African state have been able to transit from military rule to democracy, in the other perspective the inability of some African state to transit from military to democracy calls for a serious concern. In some other cases, the incumbent president refused to hand over power to their successor, others especially regional powers (Nigeria and South Africa have succeeded in holding legitimate election and moving ahead to address the question of democratic consolidation.

From the above like categorized African countries into three categories of democratic assessment; those undergoing meaningful change, these adopting the form and not the substance of democracy, those that have not undergone any significant democratization process.

Giving a regional assessment the west Africa states in the freedom House rating emphasized that some west African country are “free”, some are “partially free” others are not free i.e. 5 countries are free, 8 partially free, 3 not free. The basis for this rating is political leadership, political right and election criterion. In west Africa Ghana was used as a case study because of the relative political stability and development that it has experienced over the years, thus Claude Ake emphasized that there is an interface between Democracy stability & growth.

Assessing the southern African sub-region reveals that the SAPC states accepted liberal Democracy and more inclusive representative, accountable and social welfarist in form and content. South African have consolidated their democracy and as such represent one of the most developing economy of African state ranging from Human Capital development, social and infrastructural development, Technological advancement. These are the preregionist which informed their of hosting the 2010 world cup and also the arch-founder of the African union and the new partnership for African development (NEPAD) which represent the economic development agenda for Africa.

Though, while it was imperative to make a comparative analysis in assessing the state of African democracy, there have been some challenges facing the democratic project in the new millennium. Some of these challenges is embedded in some colonial legacies, other emanated from limitation that are inherent in global capitalism or market fundamentalism. Most of these challenges are also deep rooted in the character of the African states, some are also attributed to neo-colonial contradiction on elite ideology. Critic behaviour and most importantly, the inability of African leaders to convert Democracy into Good Governance. In plan language, these challenges summarized as follows: colonial legacy, capitalism and market fundamentalism, cost of Governance and corruption, Troubled election outcome the military factor in African politics, the challenge of good governance, Anti-democratic behaviour of African elites.

4.2 Recommendation

Having identified the challenges facing the African democratic experiment what then is the way forward?

  1. Effort must be made towards ensuring free and fair election in Africa, this is because election has constituted a major threat to African democracy. One of Rustow’s yardstick for consolidating democracy in Africa is election test. Election must be inclusive, periodic definitive and must be able to translate political choosing among alternative outside battlefield without bloodshed. African election must be able to alter the prevailing power hypothesis and must show that democracy is not the only game in town.
  2. Secondly, emphasis should be shifted toward transcending democracy into instrument of human welfare, i.e. delivery the dividends of democracy leading to ameliorating the Economy suffering and miseries of Africans. The issue of human security must be taken seriously, by human security we mean equipping the Human person, providing all its existential need to live a relatively comfortable live.
  3. Good governance and its principles must be strictly adhered to by African leaders, transparency, Accountability, Responsiveness and respect of rule of law. Which is the hallmark of democracy must be practicable.
  4. The role of civil society is also important in checking the actions of African politicians and also ensure popular participation which reflect the hallmark of democracy.

4.3 Conclusion

The destiny of African continent lies on our ability to put our hands on deck towards determining our forward match which all Africans both the leaders and the led. The Handwriting has been written on the walls of destiny that democracy in Africa is the panacea that can resolve the crisis of development that has characterized the continent. There is therefore the need for determination and expressed commitment by all African leaders to strictly adhere to these recommendation highlighted in this work in order to Usher Africans into our edoraldos.

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