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«Addis Ababa 2000 1. Abstract The paper problematises the issues of democracy and good governance in Africa and analyses their future prospects ...»

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Africa and the Challenges of Democracy and Good

Governance in the 21st Century

By : Said Adejumobi

Addis Ababa


1. Abstract

The paper problematises the issues of democracy and good governance in Africa and

analyses their future prospects especially in the 21st century. Liberal democracy and good

governance, beside market reforms are the new puzzle words on the global agenda. Indeed, the

three issues appear to be organically linked in the present context, with the hegemony of the liberal capitalist ideology in the international arena.

However, there are inherent problems and contradictions in the nature of the domestic and the International Political Economy of African States, which may significantly vitiate or undermine the “democracy-good governance” project in Africa. Thus, evolving democracy and good governance in Africa will require not only the discipline of the state and the reconstitution of politics, but also the animation of the civil society and its democratic potentials, re-adjustment in economic policy and agenda from the fundamentalist market orthodoxy, resolving the military question and engendering some relative re-ordering of economic and power relations within the global arena.

2. Introduction Beginning from the 1980s, there has been a gradual, but concerted attempt to reverse the trend of political despair and disillusionment, which hitherto characterized political life in Africa.

This attempt manifests in the demand for political pluralism and democratization. The long years of political misrule and of course bad governance exemplified by personalized political regimes and ruthless dictatorships left most African States politically demobilized and economically decapacitated with an immiserised population ravaged by poverty, illiteracy and disease.

Regrettably, Africa harbours the highest stock of the world's poorest people.

The debilitating poverty of the people accentuated by the economic crisis seems to have provided a basis and indeed, a common platform in the demand for democratic change by the people. Thus, the struggle for democratization in Africa has relevance not only in liberalizing the political arena and achieving civil and political liberties, but also to ensure better living standards and social welfare for the African people (Adejumobi 1996, Mamdani 1987, Lisulo 1991). In other words, achieving the object of good governance.

However, the extent to which the current democratic project with its frailties, uncertainties and sometimes reversals, could usher in a viable democracy and ensure good governance particularly in the 21st century remains an issue of conjecture. In other words, what is the future of democracy and good governance in Africa? This question constitutes the focus of the paper.

The paper takes a conceptual and reflective view of its problematique. It traces the current global emphasis on good governance and democracy and sets in context the theoretical linkage between the two concepts. Further, it reflects on what went wrong in Africa in the over three decades of her post-colonial history in which neither the values nor nuances of democracy and good governance were cultivated by the governing elite. In the final section, the paper analyses what is to be done in order to evolve and sustain democracy and good governance in Africa taking cognizance of its current strides and setbacks.

Bringing Democracy and Good Governance Back In 2 The demand for political participation and the involvement of the people in the choice of their leaders and decision-making which constitutes the critical hub of political democracy (Sorensen, 1993) is not a new phenomenon in Africa. The anti-colonial project was constructed and legitimized on this basis. As such, the current democratic effervescence in Africa could be regarded not as a process of “democratic birth”, but to use the words of Richard Joseph (1990) is a process of “democratic renewal”. Although the urge for good governance is implicit in this process of democratic renewal as we earlier noted, however, the conception and usage of the term “good governance” in recent times came from the World Bank. Given the virulent political resistance which greeted the implementation of the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) in Africa and the growing concern with their apparent failure by the World Bank, there was a slight shift in strategy by the Bank towards domesticating the policy and finding an appropriate institutional and political framework within which to situate it in the domestic economies of African countries. The emphasis therefore shifted to “good governance”.

In the view of the World Bank, the market economic reform policies it recommends rarely work and have achieved very little because these policies fall on institutionally barren grounds and are stalled by internal bottlenecks and political ineptitude in terms of governance.

In other words, the poor performance of SAPs is caused by lack of good governance. To quote

the Bank:

Underlying the litany of Africa’s development problems is a crisis of good governance. By governance is meant the exercise of political power to manage a nation's affairs. Because countervailing power has been lacking, state officials in many countries have served their own interest without fear of being called to account. In self-defence, individuals have built up personal networks of influence rather than hold the all-powerful state accountable for its systemic failure. In this way, politics becomes personalised and patronage becomes essential to maintain power. The leadership assumes broad discretionary authority and loses its legitimacy, information is controlled, and voluntary associations are co-opted or disbanded.

The environment cannot readily support a dynamic economy (World Bank, 1989: 60-61).

The World Bank therefore argues that adjustment alone cannot put Africa on a sustained poverty-reducing path, such must be complemented with institution building and good governance (World Bank, 1994: 2). Germane to the conception of good governance by the World Bank are the issues of public accountability of government officials, transparency in government procedures, rule of law and public sector management (Olukoshi, 1992;

Nunnekamp, 1995). The process of evolving good governance in Africa according to the Bank requires the shrinking of the state and engendering support for non-state actors (Civil Society).

Following the footpaths of the World Bank, the donor agencies - multilateral and bilateral - have incorporated the demand for good governance in their aid policies and development cooperation agenda in Africa. These include the O.E.C.D. (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) (see O.E.C.D., 1994), and private agencies like the Ford Foundation (see Ford Foundation, 1990) and the Carter Center (see Carter Center, 1990) in the United States, with the emphasis of the latter two, on supporting civil associations and non-state actors in Africa.

On a broader platform, organizations like the Commonwealth and the United Nations and some of its agencies, have begun to emphasize and promote the issues of democracy, human rights and good governance in their activities. For example, the Commonwealth in charting a new course for itself resolved at its Harare Summit in 1991 to promote the principles of democracy, respect for human rights and good governance. A resolution was passed to this effect, by which member-states were to be bound, by these principles. In 1996, at the meeting of 3 the Heads of State and Governments of the organization in Auckland, New Zealand, this resolution had to be revisited, with sanctions imposed on an erring member-state (Nigeria), for the callous and extra-judicial killing of a human rights activist - Ken Saro Wiwa, and the Ogoni eight by the Abacha military junta in Nigeria. Nigeria was thus suspended from the Commonwealth. In 1997, Sierra Leone was also suspended from the Commonwealth due to the illegal seizure of power by the military junta led by Colonel Koromah.

Within the United Nations system, apart from the U.N. adopting specific resolutions on the question of democracy and good governance, some of its agencies like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have taken conscious steps and adopted policies to promote the cause. For example, the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa has developed a special programme, called the Special Initiative on Governance in Africa (SIGA) aimed at improving

the effectiveness of governance on the continent by addressing five major areas, which are:

leadership building, transparency and accountability, civil society empowerment, political transition and peace and stability. Indeed, it is estimated that the UNDP currently spends about 39% of its resources on governance related projects (see Africa Recovery, July 1997: 22-24).

However, it is the World Bank’s position which provides not only the background to the current tide, but also the basis of the political economy of the "democracy - good governance" project in Africa, as it defines the economic context and the political framework and parameters of such projects. Two things are worthy of note in the World Bank's apostasy to good governance. First, while the World Bank (and its arch types) preaches good governance, rule of law and human rights in Africa, the Structural Adjustment Programmes it has improved undermine those noble political ideals. SAPs, rather than empower the civil society, encourages its ruthless repression and dismemberment, rather than promote social security and welfare, contracts them quite significantly, rather than encourage public ethics and accountability promotes declining public morale and fraud with depressing low wages and salaries of public servants (As SAPs emphasise wage freeze and devalued low wages) (Kiely 1998; Adejumobi 1996, Mkandawire 1995, Mkandawire and Olukoshi 1995, Olukoshi 1993, Asobie 1993, Mustapha 1992, Beckman 1991). In addition, the deregulation policy germane to SAP has weakened the capacity of the state to control corruption, while privatization has created a host of opportunities for personal accumulation, especially in the area of financial deregulation, which has led to the emergence of what Morris Szeftel (1998:233) aptly described as “political banks”, engaged in nothing but currency speculation and money laundering (see Lewis and Stein, 1997).

SAPs reduce the capacity of the state to control and tighten rules governing Government corporate relations (Szeftel, 1998). In summary, adjustment confounds the logic of good governance in Africa.

Secondly, the object of the World Bank “good governance” project is mainly to provide an enabling political environment for the market to function properly, and not because good governance is good in itself and deserved by the African people. Thus “good governance” along with the instant crafting of democracy is often traded the same way I.M.F. and World Bank

economists sell neo-liberal market solutions around the globe (Rudebeck and Tornquist 1996:

8). Admittedly, although the World Bank good governance project with its emphasis on rule of law, transparency and human rights, is relevant to the African condition, however, the point being made is that it is a project enmeshed in serious contradictions and not grounded in the African intent, articulation and focus. In a trenchant critique of the World Bank's "democracygood governance" project, Yash Tandon (1996) argues that it is a cause, which is self-serving, opportunistic and designed to serve the interest of capital within the context of neo-liberal

economic ideology. As Tandon poignantly puts it:

4 Whosegovernance? It is certainly not governance on behalf of the common people. Itis a governance on behalf of a couple of hundred industrial and bankingtransnationals who are draining Africa's natural resources at enormous profitfor themselves, a couple of thousand African billionaires who have tucked awaytheir ill-gotten gains in Western banks, a couple of million white settlers whostill own farm lands, mines and tourist resorts in Africa, and a couple ofmillion black intermediaries who are acting on behalf of their foreigncompanies. That is the rough arithmetic of those who benefit from the richresources ofAfrica.(Tandon, 1996:27) This constitutes the league of class and social forces promoted and sustained by the “invisible market” logic of structural adjustment and its governance agenda. In other words, good governance for the African people is not a complement to structural adjustment, rather, it is a normative political value, which negates SAPs and aims to reconcile state-society relations with the provision of social welfare and material betterment for the people.

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