Recent Books: Africa: Democratization in Africa: Challenges and Prospects/Governing Africa's Changing Societies: Dynamics of Reform

By van de Walle, Nicolas | Foreign Affairs, January/February 2013 | Go to article overview

Recent Books: Africa: Democratization in Africa: Challenges and Prospects/Governing Africa's Changing Societies: Dynamics of Reform


van de Walle, Nicolas, Foreign Affairs


Democratization in Africa: Challenges and Prospects EDITED BY GORDON CRAWF ORD AND GABRIELLE LYNCH. Routledge, 2012, 304 pp. $125.00.

Governing Africa's Changing Societies: Dynamics of Reform EDITED BY ELLEN M. LUST AND STEPHEN N. NDEGWA. Lynne Rienner, 2012, 243 pp. $58.00.

These two collections assess the prospects for positive change in sub-Saharan Africa. Crawford and Lynch survey the region's political progress and generally find it wanting. Although they concede that two decades of democratization have resulted in some improvement in political and civil rights, they argue that only a few countries in the region can really be considered fully democratic; most are little more than authoritarian regimes that occasionally hold rigged elections. The region has enjoyed strong economic growth in recent years, but the growth remains uneven and fragile and has resulted in increasing inequality and more polarized politics. The book also details the endemic state corruption, feckless political parties, growing ethnic conflict, and lack of basic security that hamstring sub-Saharan Africa, concluding that the region needs much more political reform. They criticize Western donors as mostly uninterested in deepening democracy and African elites as content with the status quo and therefore suggest that positive change is unlikely. …

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