Political Liberalization and Democratization in Africa: Lessons from Country Experiences

Political Liberalization and Democratization in Africa: Lessons from Country Experiences

Political Liberalization and Democratization in Africa: Lessons from Country Experiences

Political Liberalization and Democratization in Africa: Lessons from Country Experiences

Synopsis

Since the late 1980s, Africans have been engaged in efforts to transform their societies and provide themselves with more effective governance and economic structures. Unfortunately, most of these efforts have not progressed beyond simple elections. The contributors to this volume provide strategies that Africans can use to deepen democracy, improve resource allocation, and enhance their ability to coexist peacefully.

Excerpt

The contributors to Political Liberalization and Democratization in Africa: Lessons from Country Experiences are all Africans with one overwhelming desire: to see Africa extricate itself from the periphery of global affairs and rise to take its rightful place in the new global economy. To do so, Africans must engage in institutional transformation to provide themselves with laws and institutions that (1) enhance peaceful coexistence of population groups; (2) adequately constrain state custodians and effectively prevent them from engaging in opportunistic behaviors; (3) promote and nurture entrepreneurship and hence, wealth creation; (4) protect individuals and their property and enhance citizens' ability to use their talents, skills, and resources productively; and (5) provide structures for the sustainable management of the environment. To arm themselves with these institutional arrangements, Africans must undertake the reconstruction and reconstitution of the postcolonial state through democratic (i.e., people-driven, participatory, inclusive, and bottom-up) constitutionalism. In the companion volume to this book, The Transition to Democratic Governance in Africa: The Continuing Struggle (Praeger, 2003), several African scholars explore, at great length, issues of governance and peaceful coexistence and provide policymakers with practical suggestions on how to reconstitute the state and make it more relevant to the lives of the people. In the present volume, we continue that discussion and take a critical look at the experiences of several countries at democratic transition. The primary objective of the analyses is to determine how best to proceed with the continent's transition to democratic governance and economic systems that enhance wealth creation and sustainable development. Throughout, the contributors emphasize the fact that it is impossible to deal effectively with Africa's intractable social, economic, and political problems by utilizing the same anachronistic, unresponsive, highly centralized and corrupt governance structures that have been employed, since independence, to exploit and oppress the people. Hence, the call by all contributors for state reconstruction to provide transparent, accountable, and participatory governance structures and resource allocation systems that guarantee economic freedom.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The completion of this project would have been impossible without the input, cooperation, and assistance of many colleagues, students, and institutions.

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