News

Democracy Matters - Episode 93: Advocating Democracy in Africa


by Carah Ong Whaley

 
header_democracy_matters_episode_93.png

SUMMARY: Tamara White, a research and project assistant in the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, joins us to discuss the state of democracy in Africa.


More sub-Saharan Africans live under fully or partially authoritarian states today than at most points in the last two decades. In its 2021 report, Freedom House rated only eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa as free. Of these eight, half are small island states. The number of African countries that Freedom House rated “not free” grew from a low of 14 in 2006 and 2008 to 20 in 2021. Among sub-Saharan countries considered “partially free,” increasingly populist governments are suppressing opposition groups, postponing elections, eliminating term limits, and abusing human rights to maintain power.

Democratic decline has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has given heads of state greater leverage and pretext to postpone elections in countries including Somalia and Ethiopia, and to muzzle opposition in countries including Uganda and Tanzania. Resistance to authoritarian repression has been met in some countries with severe violence, including in Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Nigeria. 

Despite these negative trends, young Africans are becoming more politically active and are using digital and social media as a means of organizing for political power and to protest repressive regimes. #EndSARS protesters organized in Nigeria to demand police reforms. In Uganda, presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, better known as Bobi Wine catalyzed a People Power movement; and in Ghana, Twitter users instigated a national discussion on illegal small-scale mining. Pro-democracy efforts in Eswatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, have also increased. 

In this episode, Tamara White, a research and project assistant in the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, joins us to discuss these trends and what might be done to strengthen democratic practices and institutions.

Links in this episode:

Back to Top

Published: Thursday, December 2, 2021

Last Updated: Thursday, April 28, 2022

Related Articles