Past, present and future perspectives


It is impossible to achieve economic development without good governance. Since independence, African countries have been subjected to various forms of government, including: communism and socialism in Tanzania and Ghana; various forms of democracy in Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya and Nigeria; and quasi-military rule in many other countries. Chazan and others (1992) provided a six-fold classification, with the following categories of governance: administrative hegemonic; pluralist; party mobilizing; party centralist; personal coercive; and populist. Table 4.1 indicates the countries which fell into these groups. The 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s were periods of serious unrest in many African countries, and times when the role of governance was seriously called into question. The near-total breakdown of services, the increasing pauperization of the people, and the complete breakdown of law and order in some countries are continuing evidence of this unrest.

Table 4.1 Typology of Regimes in Africa 1951-90
Regime Type Examples
1 Administrative hegemonic Kenya, Zaire, Togo, Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Zambia,Malawi,Morocco, Nigeria
2 Pluralist Botswana, Gambia,Mauritius, Senegal
3 Party mobilizing Ghana (Nkrumah),Mali (Keita), Guinea (Sekou Toure), Zambia, Algeria (Boumedienne), Tanza-nia, Zimbabwe
4 Party centralist Angola.Mozambique, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Congo, Benin
5 Personal coercive Uganda (Amin). Central African Republic (Bokassa), Equatorial Guinea (Nguema)
6 Populist Ghana (Rawlins), Libya (Qaddafi), Burkina Faso (Sankara)
Source: Chazan and others, 1992a

Post-colonial changes in government were achieved through military interventions and through various forms of elections, many of which were merely symbolic and not designed to effect serious changes in the structure of governance. Thus, some involved competitions for office within a single party, while others involved limited multi-party participation. Only in very rare cases were elections designed to provide a mechanism for the simultaneous turnover of both leaders and regime.

Military interventions in governance led to various forms of instability, and to the rise of insurgencies, riots, and ethnic rife and rivalries. Military expenditures increased, and accounted for significant per centages of the GDP of these countries (UNIDIR 1991). The lack of focus in governance led to a breakdown of many government institutions and to wasteful duplication of efforts in the development process.

The international community intervened in many ways, including attempts to sanitize national economies through suggestions and recommendations by the IMF and the WB. There was also the influence of multinational and transnational companies, some of which are financially stronger than many African national economies. The effects of these organizations were so pervading that, in some countries, they seemed to run parallel governments. There is no doubt today that African economies need some streamlining or restructuring. What most people do not agree about is not if and when this will be done, but how and by whom it will be done.

Good governance in Africa is challenged by various issues, including the collapse of the state in countries where governance has already been weakened by strife, and where governments hardly have the capacity to govern and to maintain law and order. In spite of the fact that African leaders have adopted democracy as a key element of their agendas over the past decade, the democratic process remains challenged. Narrow political considerations, personalized power and corruption have undermined the process of democracy and responsive governance. Inequity in social, economic and political systems, including gender inequity, has been a barrier to achieving good governance. This has resulted in notably increasing disparities between rich and poor in terms of income and capabilities, and in the marginalizing of women in governance.

Poverty remains widely spread in Africa. As such, poverty alleviation represents the greatest challenge to good governance. There is also the challenge of how to manage effectively financial and natural resources, promoting decentralization based on trust, transparency, accountability and capacity.

Corruption and the theft of public funds are some of the problems which have blighted the region's governance record. Many Africans wonder how much of their stolen funds, hidden somewhere in western banks, could make a difference in terms of debt repayments and financing the region's renaissance. But, for the second time, the winds of change blew across the region, as the majority of people demanded greater accountability from their elected leaders. They called for transparency and respect for human rights.

Institutional reforms emerge as people begin to develop new forms of social consciousness and as they move to prevent the violation of human rights. When this happens, civil societies emerge in large numbers, and their influence increases and serves as a check on the excesses of national governments. Local participation in decision making also increases considerably. Efforts are made to reduce conflict-in countries where conflicts presently exist-by assisting with the provision of basic services and by breaking the poverty trap.