PP11: Demand for democracy is rising in Africa, but most political leaders fail to deliver

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Policy papers
Bratton, Michael and Richard Houessou

Africans express growing attachment to democracy according to citizen attitude surveys conducted by the Afrobarometer in 34 countries1. Seven out of ten Africans prefer democracy to other political regimes, and the proportion of deeply committed democrats (that is, those who also reject authoritarian alternatives) has risen steadily over the past decade.

These insights run counter to an emerging view that the impetus for democratization on the African continent has stalled. Influential analysts have suggested recently that “political reform left Africa ‘too democratic’ given the level of income… [and] that the continent has begun to regress to its expected level… by becoming less democratic.” Others have pointed to a global trend of “democratic retreat” that is driven in Africa by China’s economic expansion and the Western security response to spreading Islamic jihad.