Over fifty-five years after independence, many African countries have still been debating how important democracy might be to Africa’s development. This article reviews some of the benefits and demerits of democracy to Africa and assesses whether democracy is necessary or a sufficient condition for development. The article points out that democracy promotes political and economic freedoms (benefits). It also indicates that, although political freedoms may lead to economic freedoms the converse is not always the case. The article concludes by addressing how democracy might create conditions for good governance and development and implications for further research and policy directions for African governments.
Following Dickens Olewe's (2019) report on the BBC " Is Africa going backwards on democracy?" which indicates that, " more and more elections are being held in Africa, however analysts dismiss many as being 'lawful but illegitimate'. Although studies show that a majority of Africans still want to live in democracies, an increasing number are looking to alternative, autocratic models ". And during a recent discussion on some of Africa’s problems with an eminent African academic we were confronted with the question how important is democracy to Africa’s development.
To critically answer this question, one needs to explain the meaning of democracy, establish whether democracy is a necessary or sufficient condition for Africa’s development; point out whether political freedoms necessarily lead to economic freedoms; analyze the merits and demerits of democracy to Africa’s development and implications for research and policy development.
However, it is important to indicate that, although this paper seeks to discuss the benefits and demerits of democracy to Africa’s development one is not oblivious of the varying democratic processes taking place on the continent. While some countries like Ghana, South Africa, Botswana, Senegal, have made great strides toward improving the democratic process and governance structures other countries like Zimbabwe, Egypt, Kenya, Chad, Sudan, Somali, are far behind (Cheeseman 2019).
Nevertheless, the problems discussed in this paper do capture an appreciable number of the problems facing the African continent on the democratic front. In addition to this, the paper is significant because it places more emphasis on how Africans themselves can find solutions to their own problems without unduly depending on foreign direct investment - a case many African development experts and scholars have placed less emphasis on.