Modernization, Democracy, and Islam

By Shireen T. Hunter; Huma Malik | Go to book overview

19
The Roots of Sub-Saharan Africa's
Modernization and Democratization
Dilemmas

Chuka Onwumechili

Although sub-Saharan Africa is home to 310 million Muslims, in the studies dealing with the causes of the slow rate of the Muslim world's modernization and democratization the region has received little attention. Yet an analysis of the region's successes and failures in the areas of modernization and democratization across the religious divide can shed light on the underlying causes of the Muslims world's modernization and democratization shortcomings and the relative role of religious and cultural factors in this respect. This is because despite some gains in development and modernization such as urbanization, literacy, and growth in communication networks, including an increase in the number of Internet users (see Table 19.1), the region's socioeconomic indicators present a depressing picture and per capita incomes remain low (see Table 19.2).'

The region's record in democratization is also mixed. In the late 1980s, subSaharan Africa was affected by what Samuel Huntington has described as the third wave of democratization. However, with few exceptions, this democratization trend was short-lived; in some cases it was short-circuited by military or paramilitary interventions, or both, and in others it became the victim of civil strife or state breakdown. Therefore, the experience of the sub-Saharan countries, including those with large Muslim populations (see Table 19.3), forms an important part of the Muslim world's overall modernization and democratization experience. Such an analysis will also allow for a balanced assessment of the actual or potential role of Islam, or some interpretations of it as espoused by various Islamist groups, without falling into the trap of cultural determinism.

In light of the above, the purpose of this chapter is (1) to identify those factors that have been responsible for Africa's modernization and democratization shortcomings irrespective of religious factors; (2) to identify factors specific to those African nations where Islam is the majority religion; and (3) to assess the

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