Challenges to Democracy in Africa [August 2016]

FNF & Partnering Members Gather in Johannesburg
Feature13.09.2017Ekaterini Georgousaki

The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom’s partners from several countries in sub-Saharan Africa got together on the 15th of August 2016 for a two day gathering in Johannesburg. The aim was to discuss some of the challenges against democracy on the continent. This included analysing challenges facing fair and free elections, economic growth, addressing poverty as well as identifying threats faced by independent institutions. 


The participants of the first panel agreed that in order to verify whether elections were free and fair, it was crucial to have both various sources of verification and, in particular, an independent electoral oversight body. Furthermore, it was discussed that corruption may not only occur at the top level (e.g. the Independent Electoral Commission in South Africa), but in some instances it could occur at the levels on the ground.

“The toxic nexus between political power and personal wealth must be broken”. In the second panel discussion, it was pointed out that it is in very few African countries where one could become wealthy independently of political power. This needed to change in order to enable not only economic growth in the short term, but to also enable economic development in the long term. Secure property rights were identified as a prerequisite for economic growth.

The great importance of independent institutions, with a focus on the judiciary, was discussed in the last panel. The independence of crucial institutions was threatened by several factors, such financial dependence and the fact that their heads are often appointed by the executive. Independent, strong institutions are key to a successful democracy, or, in the words of Barack Obama, “It is time Africa replaced the culture of strong man, with the culture of strong institutions.”