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Essay: Democracy and development in Africa – what are the missing links?

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The last two decades of the 20th century witnessed renewed hope about the birth of democracy in Africa. The process was actively supported by most segments of society; labour, students, market women, rural dwellers, and the lumped elements, which saw in it the prospects of reversing the trend of political despair and disillusionment that hitherto, characterized political life in Africa (Adejumobi, 1999:34). The orgy of political genuity tyranny and dictatorship while having its own clientele and beneficiaries had negative and suffocating effects on the majority of the people. The political space was contrived, entrepreneurial creativity and ingenuity stifled, and the logic of differences, of social pluralism, cultural divergences and identities, suppressed. The opening up of the political space constitutes an uncompromisable part of the democratic agenda of the African people.
The democratic aspiration of the African people is not only confined to the arena of political democracy ‘ of elections, and granting of civil and political rights ‘ but involves the demand for economic empowerment, better living standards, and adequate social welfare. Indeed, for the majority of the people, democracy is meaningful only when it delivers socio-economic goods. In other words, political democracy must be linked to socio-economic development. The deteriorating social welfare and living standards of the people in spite of the vote for democracy is gradually undermining the confidence of the people in the new democratic order.
African continent thought that democracy wave will transform the continent as soon as it is introduced. The reality has dawn the continent whereby the expectations tend not to see the light. This paper will seek to establish the missing links between democracy and development in Africa.
The questions that this paper would try to answer are;
i. What is the correlation between democracy and socio-economic development?
ii. What are the missing links between democracy and development?
iii. How can the triple elements of economic growth, equity and social welfare be promoted in a democratic order?
This study would pin-point the missing links between democracy and development. These links are the main ones that make democracy impossible in terms of its application to Africa. As a result, this will contribute in terms of provision of important information for use by policy makers in planning, designing, and implementation and evaluation of policies and strategies both in the public and private sectors.
Literature Review
This study reviews two categories of literature ‘ Democracy data and Development data that has been done by other scholars that is relevant to the study. In this literature, the main contending issues in this literature revolve around the Democracy ‘ Development Debate. The intellectual debate on the linkage between democracy and development has witnessed some twists and turns driven by the currents of global political changes.
In the 1960s and 1970s before the current democratic upsurge, the focus of the debate on the connection between democracy and development was on how the latter constitutes a prerequisite for and enhances the former. That is under what mode of economic system and stage of economic is development and democracy consummated? Conversely, under what form of economic system is democracy not likely to take root and grow? The economy was treated as an independent variable and the polity, dependent. The attempt was to explain why democracy exists in some countries and not in others.
The two dominant intellectual paradigms in the social sciences all this period, the modernization and the Marxist theories, share a common ground on the interface between democracy and development, albeit from different standpoints. The modernization theory contends that democracy corresponds with the industrial phase of capitalist development . Capitalist development promotes features like structural differentiation, secularism, bureaucratization, urbanization and individualism, all of which engenders a new logic of power and ‘ethics of governance’, of liberal democratic politics. The social structure which industrial capitalism foists reinforces democratic values. Liberal democracy is viewed as an outcome, and not a cause of economic development.
In the Marxist and Neo-Marxist conception, the centrality of the economy to the mode of politics was also emphasized. The economy was considered as the sub-structure of society, which determines the superstructure that includes the polity. As such, liberal democracy was conceived as the limited form of democracy possible under industrial capitalism. ‘Backward’ and agrarian societies do not have the prerequisites for democratic practices. Neo-Marxist paradigm prioritizes the issues of economic underdevelopment and dependency as the prime political agenda for Third World countries to resolve.
Essentially, the effect of the intellectual currents of the 1960s and 1970s was a de-prioritization of democracy on the agenda of the Third World countries. Democracy was considered a secondary priority for these countries, since in any case it could hardly evolve in those contexts. The concern was to be with the issue of economic development, after which democracy may logically follow. This was the intellectual crest on which political dictatorship and military rule were justified in Africa. Indeed, military rulers in Africa were eulogized by Western civil-military relations’ experts as ‘modernizing soldiers.’ Thus, the ideology of development adopted by most African rulers was a ‘dictatorship of development’, rather than the ‘democratization of development.’ Development became a political clich?? over and above which no other thing suffices.
From the 1980s when a new tide of global democratic change resonated in most parts of the world, the emphasis of academic discourse on the linkage between democracy and development shifted to the object and the purposes of democracy. That is, is democracy to be constructed as a means to an end or an end in itself? The debate centered on what Adrian Leftwich calls the development efficacy of democracy (Leftwich, 1996:4). The new discourse privileges democracy and politics as the primary factor in economic development. It turns the old argument on its head, by repudiating the theoretical prejudice that democracy is an outcome of a particular economic system and stage of development, which can be found in some societies and not in others. Democracy assumes a universal political product. The new debate centers on whether democracy is the cause and major facilitator of economic development. Democracy has become the independent variable, and economic development, dependent. The political import is that democracy can now be accepted, tolerated and promoted for all societies.
But the nexus between democracy and development remains contestable even in the present conjuncture. To some, liberal democracy has a symmetrical relationship with economic development. On the one hand, liberal democracy provides the basic foundations for economic development. Libertarian values of freedom of speech and association, the rule of law, multipartyism and elections, the protection of human rights and separation of powers create the institutional context and processes for economic development to take place. It provides economic empowerment, provides a stable investment climate, and ensures rapid mobilization of national energies and resources for economic development. For Africa it is pointed out that countries like Botswana and Mauritius with fast and stable economic growth rates have stable liberal democratic polity. Between 1965 and 1990, the rate of growth of the Gross National Product (GNP) per capita for Botswana and Mauritius was 8.4% and 3.2% respectively. These figures are contrasted with that of no-democratic polities like the Republic of the Congo (previously Zaire) and Nigeria (then under military rule), which had growth rates of -2.2% and 0.1% respectively for the same period.
On the other hand, economic growth is seen as a sin qua non for democratic stability and consolidation (but not necessarily it evolution). Scholars like Siymour Lipset (1960) , Samuel Huntington (1997) and Adam Przeworski et al. (1997) . Adam et al. contends that economic parameters like per capita income, rate of inflation, and level for income inequality are key elements in the sustainability of democracy. Their findings revealed that countries with less than $1,000 per capita income often have very fragile democracies, while those above $6,000 often have democratic resilience. In their conclusion, they hypothesized that democracy can be expected to last an average of about 8.5 years in a country with per capita income under $1,000 per annum, 16 years in one with between $1,000 and $2,000, 33 years between $2,000 and $4,000 and 100 years between $4,000 to $6,000 (Adam Przeworski et al. 1997: 297). India is considered to be a rare exception to the rule on the linkage between democracy, economic development and poverty.
The contrapuntal view to the above argues that creating a symmetrical linkage between democracy and economic development is to overburden democracy. Democracy is conceived to be a worthy political project in itself and should not be forcibly associated with economic development. The political context and rights which democracy provides are ends in themselves, which make for human happiness in society. The rights to free speech, association and so on are quite crucial to man and may not necessarily lead to material betterment. For example in a statistical study of about 130 countries on the linkage between democracy and economic development, Svante Ersson and Jan-Erik Lane (1996: 45-73) concluded that there is need for caution in linking democracy with economic development. They assert that the correlation between democracy and economic growth is very weak, so also is the correlation between democracy and income redistribution. Indeed, Marx Gasiorowski argues that political democracy may have a negative impact on macro-economic performance especially in developing countries. He suggests that democracy engender high inflation rate and slower economic growth in underdeveloped countries as a result of unrestrained competition for resources and pressures for fiscal deficits (Gasiorowski, 2000: 319-349).
As such, the nature of a political regime may not necessarily determine the rate of economic growth and development in a country. Authoritarian regimes in some countries have shown remarkable resilience for economic discipline and structural reforms, and thereby engineered tremendous economic growth in their countries. The bureaucratic authoritarian model in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s and the development authoritarian regimes in East Asia in the 1980s and early 1990s are instructive in this regard. What makes a difference in economic development therefore as Adrian (1996) argues is not the regime type or mode of political governance, but the nature of the state. According to him, the type of the state, whether developmental or not, is quite crucial to the object of economic development. For economic development to take place in a country, the state must be a developmental state. In order to marry the twin goals of democracy and development for Third World countries, what these countries need is a developmental democracy, a democratic state that is also developmental.
Evidently, the relationship between democracy and development is at best a very complex one. Also, there are inherent tensions and contradictions between the two lofty goals. The truth is that there are missing links or gaps between democracy and development, which have to be addressed before the former, can achieve the latter.
Bibliography (Chicago Reference Style)
Abdul, R. and Tajudeen, L., Democracy and Development, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)
Adejumobi, S., ‘Elections in Africa: A Fading Shadow of Democracy’? International Political Science Review, Vol.21, No. 1, January, pp. 59-75
Adekanye, B., The Theory of the Modernizing Soldier, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978). pp. 29-40
Adrian, F., ‘Structural Adjustment and Democratic Transition in Africa,’ Verfassung Und Recht in Ubersee. Law and Politics in Africa, Asia and Latin America, Vol.29, No. 4, pp. 415-433
Ake, C., Democracy and Development in Africa, (Washington: The Brookings Institution, 1996). pp. 45-49
Gasiorowski, M., ‘Democracy and Macroeconomic Performance in Underdeveloped Countries: An Empirical Analysis’ Comparative Political Studies, Vol.33, April, pp. 319-349
Huntington, S. ‘Democracy for the long Haul’, in L. Diamond, M. Plattner, Y. Chu and H. Tien (eds) Consolidating the Third Wave of Democracies: Themes and Perspectives, (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1997)
Lipset, S., The Political Man, (London: Heinemann, 1960)
Przeworski, A., What Makes Democracies Endure? In L. diamond et al. Consolidating the Third Wave Democracies:Themes and Perspectives, (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1997)
United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report, (Washington:UNDP, 2000)

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