The Democratic Awakening in Africa, 1990-1995

By Richard Joseph

In the first essay of the Africa Demos Forum, Dr. Richard Joseph introduces the Forum and recalls its inspiration, the Africa Demos bulletin of the Carter Center of Emory University. In reflecting on the pioneering work of Africa Demos, Dr. Joseph sets the stage for the Forum’s essays on key topics and specific country experiences in democracy-building. The Forum will promote an active exchange of information and ideas.

Ghana Election 3 Dec. 1992. Anthony Allison Ghana Election 4 Dec. 1992. Anthony Allison

Ghana General Elections, December 1992
Photo Credit: Anthony Allison

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Strategic Priorities in Contemporary Africa: Part III

By Richard Joseph

In the third of a three-part series for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Dr. Richard Joseph examines Africa’s “prismatic narrative,” in which African developments must be viewed “through the prism of how key dimensions interrelate and the complex interplay of local, regional, and global factors.” The article can be read below or on the Chicago Council’s website.

At the time of the G8 and NATO summits, Africa has assumed greater importance in global hopes and concerns. Accelerated growth and development, democracy, and the containing of organized violence are central themes of the new African security agenda. Two decades ago, African issues, except for the export of crude petroleum and other minerals, could be bottled up within the continent. That is no longer the case. Major discoveries of oil, gas, and coal are making the continent more significant in meeting global energy needs. Abundant and underutilized land will steadily contribute to global food supplies. And expanding economies will continue to provide increased opportunities for investors. It is the physical security side of the African ledger, however, that poses the greatest challenge. How this is tackled will greatly affect progress in other areas.

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Beyond Prebendalist Systems: State, Democracy and Development in Africa

By Richard Joseph

The following introductory remarks come from the final talk in a three-part series by Prof. Richard Joseph, delivered at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at Stanford University on April 25, 2012. The remarks can be read below. The accompanying PowerPoint presentation can be found here, and video of the talk is available for viewing here.

The notion of prebendalism came to me fairly suddenly, in 1978-79, while conducting research in Nigeria on the transition to civilian rule after over a decade of military government. I first advanced the concept in a 1983 article that became a book chapter; and it featured centrally in my 1987 book, Democracy and Prebendal Politics: The Rise and Fall of the Second Republic. In September 2011, a conference was convened in Lagos, Nigeria, to discuss the book and the continued significance of prebendalism in Nigerian political, social and economic life. A volume edited by Wale Adebanwi and Ebenezer Obadare, Democracy and Prebendalism in Nigeria: Critical Reinterpretations, is now in preparation.[1]

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Strategic Priorities in Contemporary Africa: Part II

By Richard Joseph

In the second of a three-part series for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Richard Joseph discusses Africa’s “disaster narrative.” The article can be read below or on the Council’s website. The first article, on the “progress narrative,” can be found in the AfricaPlus archives.

It would require the skills of a master carver to capture the radically different faces of the African continent. Reports of political instability, state erosion, gross abuses of government power, and appalling human catastrophes appear alongside stories of remarkable economic advances. This has been the case for many years. In November 1993, for example, IMF director Michel Camdessus characterized the 20-year decline in Africa’s per capita growth rates as “the sinking of a continent.” Less than three years later, he stated that an economic recovery was underway—an analysis now confirmed. Camdessus warned, however, that the recovery would not occur in “countries ravaged by war, fratricidal conflicts, and serious political upheaval.”

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Strategic Priorities in Contemporary Africa: Part I

By Richard Joseph

In the first of a three-part series for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Richard Joseph examines Africa’s “progress narrative.” The article can be read below or on the Council’s website.

Three narratives about Africa can be seen in contemporary media reports: a progress narrative, a disaster narrative, and what I call a prismatic narrative. The first narrative emphasizes the sustained growth, accompanied by poverty reduction and other social gains, that is now evident in about a quarter of the continent’s 55 countries. The disaster narrative was recently captured by Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times: “Many parts of Africa are clearly sinking deeper into violence, chaos, and obscurity.” The prismatic narrative can be seen in a report of the Africa Progress Panel chaired by Kofi Annan: “Progress, stagnation, and discouraging regression continue to co-exist on the continent.”

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