Can Democracy Deliver for Africa? Ethiopia?

Poverty and underdevelopment can be seen as a challenge to democracy, with a hungry and poorly educated electorate easily bought by politicians welding gifts and promises. Indeed, some argue that democracy is not the most stable base for economic development anyway.

Alex Ngoma, a political scientist at the University of Zambia, points to the Asian Tigers’ example, “where democracy is less of a priority and they waste less time talking – but get economic results. It’s proof that there is more than one way to get things done.”

China is consistently ranked as one of the fastest growing – and most powerful – economies on earth. Within Africa, #Ethiopia and #Rwanda are among the most successful – their growth built on a model of strong central government and limited political freedoms.

Speaking this year on the death of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister #Meles Zenawi, Rwanda’s President Paul #Kagame was clear about both countries’ lukewarm relationship with a Western version of democracy.

“Invariably, the question has been raised about whether the emphasis on development and the role of the state in it is not done at the expence of democracy and people’s rights.

“Those who disagree with or criticise our development and governance options do not provide any suitable or better alternatives. All they do is repeat abstract concepts like freedom and democracy as if doing that alone would improve the human condition. Yet for us, the evidence of results from our choices is the most significant thing.”

President Kagame is not alone in questioning multi-party democracy in the African context. Indeed, US historian William Blum in a recent book describes democracy as a Western imposition on Africa – “America’s deadliest export” and foreign policy tool.

By Mary Morgan, BBC

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