Africa: Democracy in Africa - Good or Bad for Economic Development?


Rwanda, under the autocratic leadership of President Paul Kagame, has experienced relatively spectacular levels of economic growth. His admirers hold the country up as a model of why democracy isn't necessarily good for Africa. But the country is the exception, not the rule, and the reverse is true - democracy and economic growth are, indeed, good bedfellows.

I recently facilitated a training session for young West African civic leaders in Accra, Ghana. The session focused on governance and democratic principles and practice. A friend of mine watched me facilitate. After the session, he gave me this feedback: "Leandre, brilliant facilitation, but my issue with your presentation is the fact that democracy does not work in Africa and it is not bringing the needed economic development for the continent. Only autocratic leaders can make things happen in Africa, have you seen the strides that Rwanda is achieving through (Paul) Kagame?"

The conversation with my friend inspired this article.

Discussions on the relationship between governance, democracy and development in Africa are not new. In the early days of the post-independence era, one-party and no-party (military regimes) systems were prominent across the continent. These were bolstered by the many intellectual arguments against democracy...


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