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Past Special Report
SPECIAL REPORT
Has Democracy Enhanced Development in Africa?
Conrad John Masabo
December 14, 2017
Whether democracy guarantees development and whether development depends on democracy remain hard to answer questions to any looking outside the continent for inspirations. From the East, we find examples of significant development without the blue prints of modern state democracy or liberal democracy while in the west we find significant contribution of the values of democracy to development endeavors. This article discusses this paradox and suggests that for Africa it is imperative to take the two on board.


Introduction

World over, the implication of modern states democracy—simply democracy on development or the relationship between democracy and development are among things hard to set the dichotomy or establish causal-relations. While in the West one is likely to project the relationship between democracy and development, progress and peoples wellbeing, that nexus is hard to get in the East. For example the significant developments that China has demonstrated of the last three decades seem to suggest that development do not necessarily depend on the practice of democracy. Without establishing often praised liberal democracy manifesting in multiparty system, China have managed to climb the development ladder from just being the developing country, third largest economy to second surpassing other relative democracies in the east such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore. This leaves a paradox when we think of how Africa should proceed into its way to democracy and development. One of the many unanswered questions that remain, is should Africa imitate the West or the East? Obvious it is challenging to delineate as we are yet to witness. Although some countries have embraced multiparty system, the system have not helped beyond the mechanism of endorsing the very leaders that the people would like to get rid of and no significant initiatives to development have been made. In countries where strict control have witnessed we are also yet to see it leading to development. What is likely to be in the future is what I nickname the African move towards republican monarchy where, incumbents are busy preparing their sons and wives to take over power after they relinquish from the their positions.

As such, development, democracy, and the need for stability are among the many dilemmas facing Africa today. And as Ambrose argued in 1995, “Africans are overwhelmingly convinced that the root cause of their dilemma is the absence of good governance and accountability of their leaders. Therefore, Africans expect democracy to replace guns with butter; poverty with plenty and want to life of hope and dignity” (Ambrose, 1995: xvi). That is why there was greater development enthusiasm in Africa over the waves of democratisation processes of the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, we did forget that democracy though an important development ingredient, it does not guarantee development but rather enhances it by setting important stepping stone. In the long run the latter facilitates the former, as such making these components complementary and interdependent to one another.

The essay sets forth to delineate the fact that though democracy does not guarantee development; democratic principles are key to development on one hand and that on the other hand development greases the course of democracy—democratisation and democratic consolidation. In demonstrating this synergy; first I shall provide an analysis of these two variables—democracy and development, then present the gist of the argument, and lastly a conclusion.

Contexualization of democracy and development

Development and democracy are among contested concepts in the political science and related social sciences. For example, from its etymological meaning of the Greek root words making the concept democracy, demos meaning people and kratein meaning to govern, the concept have assumed other meanings which have made the concept one of the contested concepts in political arena in and among the academia. Observers of democracy and democratization generally tend to choose, implicitly or explicitly, among four main types of definitions: constitutional, substantive, procedural, and process-oriented (Tilly, 2007: 7). This entails that there a varieties and various ways of organizing the polity. Under the democratic organisation of the polity there are several forms in which democratic organisation can be undertaken. Of all, two forms can be identified namely direct democracy and indirect or representative democracy. This essay favours, the procedural definition in which “democracy is explained in terms of essential procedures governing the election and behaviour of the government officials” (Handelman, 2006: 24). Though weak it may be, procedural democracy is important to development. Because governments in procedural democracies are accountable to the people, and they are less vulnerable to revolution and other civil unrest” (Handelman, 2006: 25) a key point in Africa whose her development course suffers greatly from mismanagement and rule by the strong men!

On other hand, development may be understood as “modernisation minus dependency” (Mazrui and Mhando, 2013: 338). The obvious fault in many definitions, however, has been a tendency to over emphasise one aspect on the expense of others. As such, equating development to economic growth or development undermine other components of development such as cultural, social, political, greater freedom, self confidence and self-reliance to mention but only a few. Development cannot be limited to mere economic growth. In order to be authentic, it must be integral, that is, it has to promote good of each individual and the whole person (Pope Paul VI, 1967). Thus, “development as a multi-faceted process concerns various dimension of human consciousness” (Tarimo, 2005:12). Working closer to Pope Paul VI’s definition, Nyerere in 1968 attempted a comprehensive definition of development. He underscores that “development means the development of Roads, building, the increase in crop output and other things of this nature are not development; they are only tools of development” (1968:26). Since development is defined as modernisation minus dependency; then, what is modernisation and dependency? In this context modernisation is change that is compatible with the present stage of human knowledge, seeks to comprehend the legacy of the past, is sensitive to the needs of the future, and is increasingly aware of its global context. [And] Dependency could mean either surplus need or deficit control. [For example] Country B is dependent on country A if country B needs country A more than the other way around…[Or] Country B is dependent on country A if country B has less control over the relationship than country A has (Mazrui and Mhando, 2013: 338). Thus ending dependency is key to development and call for the interplay of other dimensions of development especially “Culture as a lens of perception, as a means of communication, as a basis of stratifications, as a spring of motivation, as a standard of judgment, as a pattern of production and consumption and as the foundation of identity” (Ibid, 351).

The Synergy

Thus, all that said where is the synergy? Two scenarios can be identified. But before going into details it must be underscored that “Although development theorists are right in assuming that increases in per capita income lead to increases in popular demand for political power, they have consistently underestimated the ability of oppressive governments to thwart those demands” (de Mesquita and Downs, 2005:78). In the first instance is the role of democracy to development and second is role development to democracy. As regards to the former and As opposed Lipset (1959) who treated development as dependent variable and democracy independent variable; synergy between democracy and development can first be underscored in what Claude Ake (2000) called “conduciveness of democracy to development.” One is by Grossman and Noh (1990) which suggest that; “democracy insures accountability of rulers to the ruled” and second is that of Olson (1991) who postulates that, “democracy protects property, especially from state and so encourages accumulation to the benefit of growth” (Claude, 2000: 78). In the latter instance developments enhances democracy because rising levels of economic security bring a growing emphasis on a syndrome of self-expression values—one that gives high priority to free choice and motivates political action. Beyond a certain point, accordingly, it becomes difficult to avoid democratization, because repressing mass demands for more open societies becomes increasingly costly and detrimental to economic effectiveness. Thus, in its advanced stages, modernization brings social and cultural changes that make the emergence and flourishing of democratic institutions increasingly likely (Inglehart and Welzel, 2009:38).

Conclusion

In Africa as elsewhere this unquestionable relationship between democracy and development have had a negative correlation as well. For example while the developmentalism ideology of 1960s/1970s in Africa was detrimental to democracy, while the democratic influence of 20th century have led to economic downfall and state collapse. The former gave rise to dictators such Banda, and Rawling Museveni (see Mkandawire, 2013: 30-33) while the latter is leading to unstable and failing states as such Egypt and Libya. Thus harmony among and between them is necessary as they complement each other.


References

Ake, C. 2000. The Feasibility of Democracy in Africa. Dakar: CODESRIA.

Ambrose, B. P., 1995. Democratisation and Protection of Human Rights in Africa: Problems and Prospects. Westport: Praeger Publishers

de Mesquita, B. B. and G. W. Downs. 2005. Development and Democracy. Foreign Affairs, 84 (5), pp. 77-86, from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20031707, [Accessed on August 17, 2014].

Handelman, H., 2006. The Challenge of the Third World Development, 4th ed. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc.

Inglehart, R. and C. Welzel. 2009. How Development Leads to Democracy: What We Know About Modernization. Foreign Affairs, 88 (2), pp. 33-48, from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20699492, [Accessed on August 17, 2014].

Mazrui, A. A. and L. L. Mhando. 2013. Julius Nyerere: The Africa’s Titan on Global Stage: Perspectives from Arusha to Obama. North Carolina: Carolina Academic Press

Mkandawire, T., 2013. Fifty Years of African Independence. Personal Reflection. Dar es Salaam: Mwalimu Nyerere Professorial Chair in Pan African Studies and Mkuki na Nyota Publishers Ltd.

Nyerere, J. K., 1968. Freedom and Development. InK. Nyerere, Man and Development. Dar es Salaam: Oxford University Press, 1974, pp. 25-41; Also See J. K. Nyerere, Freedom and Development: A Selection from Writings and Speeches 1968-1973. Dare s Salaam: Oxford University Press, 1973, pp. 58-71.

Pope Paul VI, 1967. Populorum Progressio. Washington, D. C: Catholic Conference.

Tarimo, A., 2005. Applied Ethics in Africa’s Social Reconstruction. Nairobi: Acton Publishers.

Tilly, C., 2007. New York: Cambridge University Press.


Conrad John Masabo is a Tanzanian and a PhD student, Department of Politics, East China Normal University
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