In this year of COVID-19, the ability of societies to work collectively to respond to challenges has taken center stage. In fact, early public support for and adherence to public health measures has been cited as one factor explaining Africa’s far lower per-capita infection and death rates compared to other global regions (BBC, 2020).
China’s relationship with Africa, formalized in the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), has received considerable attention and debate. Critics consider it lopsided and exploitative, giving China access to natural resources, jobs for its labourers, and markets for its traders while undermining efforts to promote democracy and human rights on the continent, exacerbating corruption, and creating unsustainable debt (Green, 2019; Brautigam, 2010; Shinn & Brown, 2012; Albert, 2020). But others see it as more multifaceted with benefits for both sides (Mugabe, 2015; Brown, 2012).
“We’re all in this together” is a mantra of the COVID-19 crisis as leaders and activists argue for global and all-of-society responses to the pandemic (e.g. World Health Organization, 2020; African Union, 2020). At the same time, public fears have highlighted social fissures through acts of intolerance and violence against Chinese people, citizens of Asian descent in many countries, and even Africans in China (e.g. DW, 2020; Guy, 2020; Kandil, 2020; Al Jazeera, 2020).
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In September 2019, a bill was tabled in Malawi Parliament proposing a constitutional change from a unitary to a federal system of government (Nyale, 2019). The bill was referred to the Legal Affairs Committee of the House for further scrutiny and is expected to be back on the floor for deliberation once the committee prepares its report.
Education is a powerful tool to fight poverty, enable upward socioeconomic mobility, and empower people to live healthier lives. But while the global adult literacy rate continues to increase, from 81% in 2000 to 86% in 2018 (World Bank, 2019), the challenge of access to quality education remains particularly severe in Africa. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, globally one out of five children aged 6-17 years were not in school; more than half of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Constitution of the Republic of Malawi (1995) stipulates that “every person shall have the right to assemble and demonstrate with others peacefully and unarmed.” In the aftermath of the 2019 general election, the country has been engulfed in a series of protest marches. Led by the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) of civil society organizations, the protesters continue to demand the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) members on charges that they mismanaged the election (Chauluka, 2019).
Two-thirds of Malawians say that when faced with threats to public security, the government should be able to impose curfews and set up roadblocks to prevent people from moving around, according to an Afrobarometer survey in late 2019.
While the survey was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic threatened Africa, its findings suggest that a coronavirus lockdown, if instituted, would be respected.
More than half of all Africans go without needed medical care at least once in a given year, a new analysis of Afrobarometer survey data shows. Across the continent, citizens identify health as the second-most-important national problem they want their governments to address.
Even before the threat of overwhelming demand due to COVID-19, about one in five Africans faced a frequent lack of needed health-care services, including almost two-thirds of the poorest citizens.
More than half of Africans say their governments are failing them when it comes to one of their top priorities – the provision of clean water and sanitation services, a new Afrobarometer analysis shows. Half of survey respondents say they went without enough clean water for home use during the previous year – a particular concern considering the importance of proper hygiene for preventing the spread of coronavirus and other infectious diseases.
Economic destitution – whether measured as the frequency with which people go without basic necessities or as the proportion of people who live on less than $1.90 a day – declined steadily in Africa between 2005 and 2015. However, the findings of Afrobarometer Round 7 surveys, conducted in 34 African countries between late 2016 and late 2018, demonstrate that improvements in living standards have come to a halt and “lived poverty” is once again on the rise.
A majority of Malawians believe the quality of their elections has declined and express little trust in the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), a new Afrobarometer survey shows.
As of late 2019, a majority of Malawians considered the political opposition justified in challenging the declared results of the 2019 election, a new national survey by Afrobarometer shows. Most also saw the country’s courts as trustworthy and impartial.
Findings from the survey, which was conducted last November-December, provide insights into how Malawians perceived their courts as the pivotal legal challenge advanced and public debate continued to rage in late 2019.
Last May, Malawians went to the polls for their sixth national election since the country returned to multiparty democracy in 1994. The outcome was the most disputed election result in their history, marked by legal challenges, six months of court hearings covered live on leading radio stations, and an unprecedented series of public demonstrations led by the civil-society Human Rights Defenders Coalition demanding the resignation of commissioners of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) (Sabola, 2019; Nyondo, 2019; Chiuta, 2019).
Climate change is “the defining development challenge of our time,” and Africa the continent most vulnerable to its consequences, according to the African Union (2015) and the United Nations (UN Environment, 2019). Farmers in Uganda waiting endlessly for rain (URN, 2019), cyclone survivors in Mozambique and Zimbabwe digging out of the mud and burying their dead (Associated Press, 2019) – these images bring home what changing climate and increasingly extreme weather conditions may mean for everyday Africans.
The new Global Corruption Barometer – Africa 2019, released on African Anti-Corruption Day by Transparency International and Afrobarometer, reveals that more than one in four people who accessed public services during the previous year had to pay a bribe.
Citizens’ views and experiences of corruption
A majority of citizens surveyed in 35 African countries think that corruption is getting worse and that their government is doing a poor job of fighting it, the report indicates.
Observers now commonly assert that multiparty elections are institutionalized as a standard feature of African politics (Posner & Young, 2007; Bratton, 2013; Cheeseman, 2018; Bleck & van de Walle, 2019). By this they mean that competitive electoral contests are the most commonplace procedure for choosing and changing political leaders across the continent.
Almost all African states face pressure to deliver improved public services to their citizens. In both emerging democracies and persistent authoritarian regimes, politics profoundly shapes how states distribute public goods such as roads, schools, health clinics, and electricity access (Briggs, 2014; Dixit & Londregan, 1996; Harding & Stasavage, 2014; Kramon & Posner, 2013; Min, 2015; Weingast, Shepsle, & Johnsen, 1981).
Protection of individual rights and liberties has been on both the African continental agenda and the global agenda for decades, shaped especially by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. But the reality on the ground is often a far cry from the high standards set forth in these documents.
Africa has long been characterized as a continent of strong societies and weak states (Migdal, 1988; Chickering & Haley, 2007; Henn, 2016). This image suggests that, compared to an informal sector rich in networks of self-help, mutual aid, and private entrepreneurship, public sector institutions are ineffective at getting things done. As a set of formal structures imported during colonial rule, the centralized state for decades remained “suspended in mid-air” – that is, above society – with limited aptitude to address the everyday needs of ordinary Africans (Hyden, 1983; Boone, 2006).
By 2050, it is projected that one in every four humans will be African as the continent doubles its population, accounting for more than half of global population growth (United Nations, 2015; World Economic Forum, 2017). Even with a land mass greater than India, China, the United States, and Europe combined, and blessed with one-third of the earth’s mineral resources (Custers & Mattlysen, 2009; Bermudez-Lugo et al., 2014), will Africa be able to provide the livelihood opportunities its people demand and need?
Between 2000 and 2017, the number of international migrants from Africa grew by 67%, including many professionals opting for greener pastures in developed countries (Pathera, 2014; Wulfhorst, 2018; Pew Research Center, 2018; Chloe, 2007). In Malawi, the resulting strain on the health-care system has received particular attention, as the country loses more nurses than it trains and faces serious staffing shortages in the health sector (Masanjala, 2018).
Most Africans still want democracy, but fewer than one in six qualify as “dissatisfied democrats” who will protect against authoritarian backsliding, a new Afrobarometer study reveals.
Good jobs and economic growth top the priorities of African citizens, but government performance on these issues lags, according to new Afrobarometer findings from across the continent.
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