Whats the status of Democracy in Africa?

Map comes from Freedom House 2010.  Legend is green for free, purple for unfree and yellow for partly free.

Subject is Cato Institute report on state of liberal democracy in Africa by Tony Leon.

Gist:  Economic reforms are what will drive the emergence of liberal democracies on the continent.  Why?  All liberal democracies are also market-oriented economies.

Recent positive trends include (from Daniel Posner and Daniel Young, UCLA):

  • Democracy is increasingly seen as only legit form of government in Africa (What?  No Beijing Consensus?)
  • Elections are now the norm, not the exception
  • Elections are now increasingly contested, often vigorously
  • Lifetime rule is disappearing (since 2000 we see longtime leaders gone in Malawi, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and ten others).
  • Of the 18 presidents who bumped up against two-term limits in recent years, not one went extra-constitutional, 9 stepped down, three tried and failed to change constitution, and the six who were successful all got their 3rd terms.

Still, the report concludes, “presidential power remains a key impediment to democratic deepening.”

Best short-term fix:  governments eliminate current restrictions on media.
No mention of China’s impact, but I come away from the piece more optimistic about Africa’s future.

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