Transitions to competitive, multiparty politics in African countries during the 1990s were jubilantly welcomed, both on the continent and internationally. Today, Africans enjoy unprecedented opportunities to vote, and many still revel in greater individual and political freedoms. But the full potential of democracy – including the promise of accountable governance – has yet to be fulfilled.
Why has democracy – or, at least, multiparty elections – so far failed to secure better governance and greater accountability? One answer concerns how Africans themselves understand the contours of new political regimes and, in particular, their own roles in a democracy. On the one hand, Africans enthusiastically support electoral politics, in principle the most direct means for influencing leaders. They do not, however, believe that elections have been particularly effective at securing political accountability. And when it comes to asserting control over elected leaders in the long intervals between elections, a substantial number of Africans do not see any role for themselves. People in African countries may have begun to transform themselves from the “subjects” of past authoritarian systems into active “voters” under the present dispensation. But at the same time, they do not appear to fully grasp their political rights as “citizens,” notably to regularly demand accountability from leaders. The Transparency and Accountability Project hosted Michael Bratton, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and African Studies at Michigan State University, to discuss the popular demand for good governance in Africa.
More about the Transparency and Accountability Toward Better Governance Series
TAP hosts a regular luncheon seminar series, entitled “Toward Better Governance: Strengthening Government Accountability in Low-and Middle-Income Countries,” which is designed to demonstrate the breadth and nuance of the issue of accountability by bringing a diverse group of experts to stimulate a richer and broader debate on promoting better governance.
To receive more information on the Toward Better Governance Series, please contact Alice Krupit.