The August 2016 local government elections in South Africa sent an earthquake through the political class when the African National Congress (ANC) lost power in three major cities of the country. Coalition governments led by the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) took over the economic powerhouse, Johannesburg; the administrative capital and seat of the Presidency, Pretoria; and the biggest city in the Eastern Cape and the country’s vehicle-manufacturing hub, Nelson Mandela Bay.
In contrast to sub-Saharan Africa, where many countries experienced political liberalization during the late 1980s and early 1990s (Bratton, 1997), the authoritarian regimes of North Africa were largely able to resist popular demands for transformation by introducing limited, topdown reforms. In Tunisia, there were some improvements to political freedoms after Zine El Abidine Ben Ali took office in 1988 and was elected as president the following year in the country’s first election since 1972 (Abushouk, 2016).
Access to justice for all citizens has long been recognized as a cornerstone of democracy, good governance, and effective and equitable development. Its centrality has recently been highlighted in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG16), which calls for all societies to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels” (United Nations, 2016).
Following decades of authoritarian rule, multiparty democracy re-emerged in a “wave” of democratization in sub-Saharan Africa during the early 1990s. Twenty-nine countries in the region held founding elections – first competitive elections after an authoritarian period – between 1989 and 1994, of which 16 led to full democratic transitions (Bratton, 1997). Notable successes include Namibia (1989), Cape Verde (1991), Ghana (1992), and South Africa (1994), which a generation later are ranked among Africa’s politically “free” countries (Freedom House, 2016).
In many parts of Africa, access to and quality of medical services remain poor (Deaton & Tortora, 2015; KPMG, 2012; Lowell, Conway, Keesmaat, McKenna, & Richardson, 2010; Streefland, 2005). While economic growth in recent decades has fostered improved health care on the continent, weak funding, brain drain of trained professionals, and ongoing battles with diseases such as TB, HIV, diarrheal diseases, and malaria as well as recurring epidemics such as Ebola continue to put immense pressure on medical systems in many countries (Ighobor, 2015; McKay, 2015; Chothia, 2014).
Judging by media headlines, democracy appears to be under stress everywhere from leaders like Vladimir Putin in Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, and Yoweri Museveni in Uganda. Yet social scientists know there is often a mismatch between what can be gleaned from news reports or social media and real, underlying trends. To take just one example, media attention to wars in Syria and Iraq suggests rising conflict around the world.
Nothing kindles democracy’s energies, anxieties, hopes, and frustrations like an election. The quality of an election can spell the difference between a cooking fire and an explosion.
If a successful election can calm and focus a nation (e.g. Namibia 2015), a disputed election can tear it apart (e.g. Burundi 2015, Côte d'Ivoire 2010, Kenya 2008).
African Youth Charter outlines young citizens’ rights and responsibilities, affirming that “youth are partners, assets and a prerequisite for sustainable development and for the peace and prosperity of Africa” (African Union, 2006, p. 2). Article 11 of the charter gives every young citizen “the right to participate in all spheres of society” and mandates that states encourage youth activism and ensure gender equity in political representation and participation (p. 6). Among responsibilities, the charter cites full participation in civic duties such as voting in elections and volunteering.
On 30 September 2016, Botswana will mark its 50th year of independence from the United Kingdom, a significant occasion for both celebration and reflection. An important part of this reflection has focused on Botswana’s transition from National Vision 2016, the blueprint that has guided the country’s development for the past two decades, to National Vision 2036, in tandem with the global move from the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals (Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, 2016a).
Over the past two decades, the threat posed by violent extremist groups that espouse fundamentalist religious narratives has grown substantially across Africa (Hallowanger, 2014). The colonial era and the undemocratic rule that characterized many post-independence governments generated anti-Western and jihadist movements across the Middle East and the wider Islamic world (Moore, 2016). These movements advocate conservative religious rule as a cure for modern societies’ social ills.
Access to health care gained the spotlight on national and international development agendas when the 1978 Alma Ata Declaration outlined a strategy for achieving universal access to primary health care by the year 2000 (World Health Organization, 1978). The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set targets for improving health-care delivery by 2015, and the United Nations’ new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which took effect in January 2016, extend and supplement those with ambitious targets aimed at ensuring healthy lives for all.
Botswana is Africa’s oldest continuous democracy, having enjoyed decades of peaceful multipartyism since independence in 1966. However, this success is tempered by growing concerns that the country’s remarkable stability has come at the cost of further political development. Significant weaknesses in Botswana’s democracy include low civic participation, relatively weak opposition and civil society sectors, and a lack of incumbent turnover in 11 consecutive free and fair elections.
Though Africa has recorded high levels of economic growth over the past decade, previous Afrobarometer surveys of citizens found little evidence that this growth had reduced levels of poverty in any consistent way (Dulani, Mattes, & Logan, 2013). However, new data from Afrobarometer Round 6, collected across 35 African countries, suggest a very different picture.
In the December 2012 Afrobarometer survey, Malians highlighted the primary causes of the serious sociopolitical crisis that their country was going through, as lack of patriotism on the part of the leaders and weakness of the State. At that time, most Malians had lost trust in the political class and in politicians. One year later (December 2013), however, a follow-up Afrobarometer survey revealed that foreign terrorists and corruption are rather the two primary causes of the Northern conflict and occupation.
In 2009, the government of Benin embarked on a series of policy initiatives to increase public access to health services, especially for pregnant women, children under age 5, and the poor.
While health coverage rates remained steady, attendance at health services increased sharply, and at first, public satisfaction with the government’s performance in improving basic health services increased as well. However, by 2014, public approval of the government’s efforts had dropped sharply. What explains this decrease in public satisfaction, despite the policy reforms?
This Policy Paper is only available in French.
How competitive are African political regimes? Why do opposition parties often struggle to gain a foothold? In many countries, an incumbent ruling party dominates the political arena, essentially reducing elections to a one-horse race and limiting day-to-day governance to a closed shop. In these countries it is unclear whether opposition political parties are sufficiently viable – either alone or in electoral alliance – to amass enough votes to win and exercise political office.
In the relatively peaceful harmonized elections of July 2013, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe overwhelmingly defeated challenger Morgan Tsvangirai, 61% to 34%. Mugabe’s party, the Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), also won 158 of the country’s 210 parliamentary seats, giving it more than a two-thirds majority in the lower House of Assembly, as well as a large majority of local council seats.
The 2000 presidential elections were a turning point in the political trajectory of Senegal. After four decades of single-party and limited multi-party rule, the country’s first true political alternation handed power to Abdoulaye Wade and ushered Senegal into the ranks of stable democracies in Africa. President Wade won re-election, with a comfortable majority, in 2007.
Some key findings from this Policy Paper:
- The latest Afrobarometer survey finds that two-thirds (66%) of Kenyans believe that their national judiciary treats people unequally. Almost nine in 10 (86%) say that ordinary citizens who break the law “never” or “rarely” go unpunished, while only 20% say that this is the case for public officials.
With 27,834 km² of surface area and a population of 10.5 million, Burundi’s population density is seven times that of Tanzania and second only to Rwanda’s on the African mainland (World Bank, 2014). Its population grows at an annual rate of 2.4%, and more than 90% of the population lives primarily on agriculture.
The provision of public goods and services is an important aspect of socioeconomic development. Access to basic services such as clean water and sanitation, health care, schooling, and transportation enhances citizens’ well-being. Access to roads and telecommunications systems lowers transaction costs, leading to improvements in trade and economic activities (Xu, 2013).
Policy Paper No. 20 is being revised. The revised paper will be available soon.
Ghana’s efforts to explore and develop the country’s oil potential, spearheaded by the Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC), culminated in the 2007 discovery of oil in commercial quantities offshore at Cape Three Points in the Western region. Three years later, production commenced at the Jubilee Field.
The post-2015 sustainable development discourse has emphasized the need for a more inclusive and participatory policy framework projecting the voices of the people in policy-making and implementation processes. Some commentators have argued that while the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have achieved some poverty reduction, the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should be better designed to enhance the living standards of the people. Yet not much has been done to create the necessary space for citizens’ voices to be heard.
Since its transition to electoral democracy in 1993, Lesotho has experienced a series of upheavals related to the electoral process. Election results were vehemently contested in 1998, when the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) won all but one of the country’s constituencies under a first-past-the-post electoral system, and a military intervention by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was required to restore order.
New data from Round 5 of the Afrobarometer, collected across an unprecedented 34 African countries between October 2011 and June 2013, demonstrates that “lived poverty” remains pervasive across the continent.
New findings from the Afrobarometer, based on surveys conducted in an unprecedented 34 African countries between October 2011 and June 2013, reveal widespread dissatisfaction with current economic conditions despite a decade of strong growth. Africans overwhelmingly reject their governments’ management of their economies, giving failing marks for job creation, improving the living standards of the poor, and narrowing the gaps between the rich and poor.
Freedom of speech is not just valuable as a democratic end in itself. It is strongly linked to popular perceptions of both media effectiveness and good governance, according to new data from Afrobarometer, collected during face-to-face interviews with 51,605 people in 34 countries during 2011-13 . People who indicate they are free to say what they think also report higher levels of trust in their leaders, lower levels of corruption, and better government performance – especially greater success in fighting corruption. Greater freedom of expression is also linked to mass media that are
A majority of people in 34 African countries condemn their governments' anticorruption efforts, according to Afrobarometer surveys of more than 51,000 people between October 2011 and June 2013.
Fifty-six percent of people said their governments have done a "fairly” or “very bad" job of fighting corruption; while just 35% say their governments have done this "fairly” or “very well". For the 16 countries surveyed since 2002, negative ratings have increased from 46% to 54% with only five countries showing a decline in these negative ratings over the last decade.