Term Paper: Africa's Political Crisis Most African

Pages: 10 (2649 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature - African  ·  Buy This Paper

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] Africa is in need of improved political leadership, but not a stronger or bigger state. For Africa to succeed in its post-independent state, it needs leaders who can rise above their ethnic origins and who will create a sense of fair play and rules that apply to all ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Democratic processes would accommodate the development of this sense of fairness.

The government has a key role to play in building a stable, democratic nation, as does the international community. The government must invest in education and health to populate the civil society with independent and activist citizens. It must also create a safe and impartial judicial system to protect private property and contracts, as well as develop effective rules for private competition and mobility in all sectors of the economy -- labor, capital and trade. It must open markets for countries that cannot develop on their own. Finally, it must create stable macroeconomic policies and financial markets.

Since the mid-1990s, more than two-thirds of sub-Saharan African countries have been implementing government policies along these lines. And in 1995 and 1996, these countries showed growth rates of 5% per year. Countries implementing International Monetary Fund (IMF) programs grew even more rapidly.

IMF programs provide currency support for developing countries -- on the condition that these countries meet certain targets for reducing budget deficits, money supply and inflation. However, IMF programs are ineffective if local politicians decrease budget deficits by reducing education and health expenditures for the poor rather than decreasing subsidies for elite urban hospitals or increasing taxes on the rich.

They may also be ineffective if central banks are corrupt or incompetent to manage the money supply. Thus, bad policies by elitist governments often cause IMF strategies to fail.

Shifting to Democracy

Governments in independent Africa face the challenge of living in a nation that is largely characterized by instability. However, instability involves much more than Africa's high turnover of state and national officials. The current state of crisis and instability reflects the dictatorial nature of African regimes, which often fail to represent the interests of the citizens, preventing African development. For Africa to compete on a global level, it has to create some type of stability in terms of the long-term durability of the governments and equality of representation of the people. In short, Africa must lead towards becoming a democratic nation.

When African colonies gained their independence, the new African governments were "dictatorial (Chazan, 1999)." The Europeans basically deserted their colonies, leaving no one behind that was equipped to run a democratic government. The retention of colonial borders increased the difficulties of creating a government representative of the people. Colonial borders combined different ethnic and linguistic groups, so there were many difficulties in trying to fairly represent so many different groups with varying opinions.

In addition, it was hard to translate the military tendencies and structures of Africa's pre-independence rebel groups into civilian government. Despite their good intentions towards liberal democracy: "Many leaders of nationalist movements were neither secure enough in their position nor firm enough in their commitment to liberal ideologies to maintain these arrangements" (Chazan, p. 178). Independence leaders were reluctant to give up their power. For African citizens, who were caught in a cycle of dominance from colonization for so long, it was easy to get caught in a similar cycle of domination through dictatorship.

The post-independence dictatorships were internally unstable. Within the most abusive forms of dictatorship, the government was entirely subjective to the whims of its leader (Chazan, p. 152). Those whims caused erratic plans for the country, which were promoted or dropped at will (p. 152). For this reason, Africa's economic and social development had no clear direction. In addition, abuse of the public caused frequent depositions of African leaders by coup d'etat (p. 153). Dictatorial regimes not last long, and there was no sense of continuity between the ruling patterns of successive leaders.

Unfocused governance and repeated, rebellious turnover of leaders stagnated Africa's development. Strengthen a declining economy, initiating social programs, and other forms of development take time, as leaders must learn what methods produce results, how to institutionalize those methods among the general population, and how the benefits of those changes will affect the nation. Development does not occur overnight, and the lack of continuity between successive regimes and the rapidity with which they took over failed to allow adequate time for the necessary changes to progress. Also, development is a slow process, not a comprehensive renovation of policy. The early African independence leaders were extremely anti-colonialism, so they wanted to change the entire system at once, completely eradicating colonial influences. However, they lacked the means and knowledge to do so.

The continuity of governments that often seems indicative of the stability needed for development is not a sign of representation of the people. Many early African leaders, following an ideology Chazan refers to as "political pragmatism," were interested in maintaining colonial ties for the purpose of maintaining and developing the economy (p. 162). "Emphasis was placed on continuity rather than change, on the emulation of the Western model of development, and on the nurturing of private initiative in the capitalist mode," (p. 162).

Preservation of colonial ties could provide the continuity necessary for a more stable government. However, regimes based on this philosophy still did not equally represent Africa's citizens. Regimes based on political pragmatism were often lead by the elite classes in Africa, which consisted of Africans who had at least partially assimilated into the colonial system. This group wanted to "confine their anti-colonialism to the elimination of colonial political presence but hardly the colonial influence in other spheres (p. 162). African under elite rule was, in many ways, similar to Africa under colonialism, as it did not represent the needs of the people. This type of neo-colonial rule maintained the gap between the government and the people, making it more difficult for officials to be held accountable to the people they served.

Conclusion

In this light, African stability depends on both durability of the government and representation of the people. The situation in Africa today is improving. Today's rulers are becoming more convinced that the government should be responsible to the people. According to Chazan, African leadership is shifting from personalization to routinization, which indicates "the emergence of some constraints on authority" (p. 174).

Even though authoritarian rule still exists, "the weight of political processes has...slowly shifted from the leaders themselves to the procedures they have put in place" (p. 175). This means that methods of governance are slowly improving, so that even if the rulers continue to change, the procedures may stay the same, in a democratic fashion. This continuity, combined with the idea of responsible governance, means that there is hope for Africa's future.

Bibliography

Ahmed-Rufai, R. (2001). The Road to an African Union.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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