GOVERNANCE AND LEADERSHIP TOP PRIORITIES FOR AFRICA IN 2019
By Paul Ndiho
Democratic governance and leadership on the African continent continue to be the leading priorities for Sub-Saharan Africa in 2019, according to a study published last week by the Brookings Institution’s Africa Growth Initiative. But does Liberal Western democracy work for Africa.
The Africa Foresight 2019 study conducted by the Brookings Institution, a Washington DC-Based non-profit organization devoted to independent research and policy solutions, says that governance and leadership should be the priority for Africa in 2019. Brahima Coulibary, a senior Fellow at Brookings explains.
“Democracy is consolidating although the prevalence of tensions and violence in some countries suggests that they’re areas for improvement. As the demographic tidal wave looms closer, the job creation has not been able to keep up, despite continued progress on governance more efforts are needed to combat corruption and very important to elevate the voice and representation of young people and women in the decision making.”
Building governance and democratic institutions remains an uphill battle for most African nations. Western-style democracy is being tested across the continent, especially in countries where some of the world’s longest-serving leaders continue to hold power. For example, in Uganda incumbent president Yoweri Museveni has exploited ambiguities in the law to extend his term in office as head of state — while simultaneously undermining the nation’s constitution. Earlier this month, the British parliament held a historic debate on the state of democracy in Uganda.
Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow on Foreign Policy at Brookings, says that in some countries the essence of democracy is solely about elections, appearing to undermine the broader meaning of democracy which is accountability.
“Democracy in my view should also be about human rights, civil liberties and other mechanisms of accountability than simply elections. These other mechanisms of accountability having to do with the government on a day to day basis are held accountable to the laws of the land such as the independent judiciary.”
Abebe Aemro Salassie, Director of the Africa Department at the International Monetary Fund says another critical area undermining democracy in Africa is corruption.
“The lack of transparency, the weakness of institutions and most importantly the impunity or lack of accountability when corrupt incidents are found… Corruption is a fundamental challenge that many countries face.”
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs, now a senior counselor, at the Albright Stonebridge Group says leadership is essential for Africa’s economic development.
“I can’t stress enough the transformative effects of good leadership that are focused on delivering for the common man and doing what’s right irrespective of the political cost. And we see some changes take place on the continent of Africa. We’re seeing new leaders begin to step up to the forefront that we had even never thought of and Ethiopia come to mind, and what I see happening in Angola now.”
Upcoming elections in Nigeria and South Africa offer a ray of hope to strengthen democracy and governance in two of Africa’s biggest economies.