The Growth-Governance Puzzle in Africa

by Richard Joseph

Why did sub-Saharan Africa experience such a prolonged economic downturn starting in the mid-1970s? And why has it experienced such a sustained economic upturn since the mid-1990s? A consensus did emerge that the former trend was caused by bad governance, bad policies, declining investments, and unfavorable terms of trade. But what accounts for the positive growth rates over the past two decades, and why are they seen under such a diverse array of political systems? Finally, will African countries grow out of mass poverty, or will we see a new equilibrium of economic expansion without structural transformation – the latter understood as increased productivity, more and better-paid jobs, diversified exports, and vastly improved infrastructures? While we have become more aware of the growth-governance puzzle, resolving it remains elusive.

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Dilemmas of Democracy and State Power in Africa

by Richard Joseph

We begin the fifth year of AfricaPlus with discussions of two paradoxes in sub-Saharan Africa: the durability of both democratizing and authoritarian governments; and the expansion of economies despite their tepid structural transformation. Such dilemmas suggest the need for vigorous theorizing and debate, and their alignment with efforts to strengthen state capacities, build democratic institutions, promote entrepreneurship, and enhance economic governance.

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New Paradigms and Pathways: Democracy, Development, and the Mitigation of Conflict

The terrorist atrocities in Paris on November 13, 2015 tore through the frayed fabric of global order. A synchronized operation was mounted in the heart of a western democracy with access to the most sophisticated intelligence technologies. Earlier that day, I spoke to a few hundred teenage students in Chicago, Illinois. Following the talk, they asked challenging questions, including: “What did I mean by the ‘sameness’ of all human beings that can be learned during collaborative real world experiences?”; and, simply but poignantly, “What causes conflict?”[1]

Two days later, I read about the program, “Social and Emotional Learning” (S.E. L.), available to thousands of American elementary school students. It has had remarkable results. Participating students “become more aware of their feelings and learn to relate more peacefully with others”. [2]Empathy and kindness, research shows, can be fostered, and school children can imbibe “the concept of shared responsibility for a group’s well- being.” At the end of my talk, I had told the students that they were learning to be “builders of democracy, engineers of shared prosperity, and mitigators of social conflict.” It turns out that these attributes can be more actively cultivated than I had assumed.

Sadly, millions of young people worldwide are being trained differently, to be instruments of autocracy, destroyers of livelihoods, and perpetrators of atrocities. To meet this grim challenge, new paradigms and pathways are needed. The belief that democracy, inclusive development, and conflict mitigation constitute a virtuous cycle that can steadily gain traction is countered today by a vicious cycle in which enmity, violence, and even suicide are extolled.

I wondered if my talk would go “over the heads” of the middle teenagers, and whether it could compete for attention with their electronic gadgetry and playfulness. These concerns were quickly dissipated. The points made in my brief remarks could, of course, be presented in greater depth and complexity. [3] New paradigms and pathways that connect treasured values with real-world experiences, and which can be clearly communicated to many age groups, are urgently needed. [4] We must redouble our efforts to meet this challenge.

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American-Nigerian Cooperation: An Uncertain Start to the Buhari era

The hope that the July 20 meeting between President Barack Obama and President Muhammadu Buhari would heal the rift between their countries concerning the fight against Boko Haram was not fully realized. Two days later, Mr. Buhari reiterated at the United States Institute of Peace the same charges as the administration of his precedessor, Goodluck Jonathan. His blunt criticism has been widely reported: “unwittingly, or I dare say, unintentionally, the application of the Leahy Law Amendment by the United States government has aided and abetted the Boko Haram terrorists.” Back home in Nigeria, there were official claims that Mr. Buhari’s comments were misconstrued. His contradictory remarks at USIP could be attributed to Mr. Buhari’s reliance on appointees of Goodluck Jonathan in key administrative and diplomatic posts. To his credit, the Nigerian president did call for the observance of international human rights law, and the protection of local communities, in the military campaign against Boko Haram. He also articulated what we have called a “revitalized narrative”: the need for democratic governments to foster inclusive growth, developmental governance, anti-corruption, and counterterrorism, while also advancing political liberties and human rights. As American and Nigerian policymakers work to remove the kinks in American-Nigerian strategic cooperation, we provide an edited transcript of a July 20 interview of Richard Joseph by Jerome McDonnell (NPR/WBEZ). It began, appropriately, with a discussion of the rift between the U.S. and Nigeria and concluded with a call for President Obama to pay a state visit to Nigeria.

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Challenges Confronting Buhari in Nigeria

Part II. Advancing Economic and Constitutional Reforms

Rotimi T. Suberu

In the second part of Professor Suberu’s sober analysis of the challenges confronting Muhammadu Buhari and the APC government, he dissects the myriad problems posed by the mismanagement of the country’s extensive oil and gas resources. Equally significant, but seldom appreciated, is the great experiment in democratic constitutionalism represented by the Nigerian federation. Professor Suberu is an outspoken advocate of a moderate and incremental approach to constitutional reform. He outlines the failure to enact many of the cogent proposals recommended by legislators, commissions, and a national conference. Will Buhari and the APC implement the fundamental changes in political and economic governance promised to the Nigerian electorate? Major hurdles must be surmounted including managing a grand coalition party. According to the author, both cautious optimism and reasonable pessimism are warranted. Continue reading

Challenges Confronting Buhari in Nigeria

Part I. Political Inclusion, Violent Conflict, and Corruption

Rotimi T. Suberu

On the eve of the highly anticipated meeting between U.S. president Barack Obama and Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, on July 20, 2015, Professor Rotimi Suberu has written a magisterial review of the major issues confronting the new Nigerian government. This important document is being published by AfricaPlus in two parts. The first concerns the challenge of meeting the demand for equitable participation in the affairs of government by the country’s diverse identity groups, reducing persistent violent conflict especially by Boko Haram, and reducing corruption that has crippled many institutions. The second will cover economic policies to expand growth and reduce pervasive poverty, and incremental reforms of Nigeria’s federal constitution and government practices. Professor Suberu contends that the euphoria which greeted Buhari’s election and the successful operation of the voting system, will soon give way to insistent demands for the fulfillment of electoral promises.

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Obama, Buhari, and African policy dilemmas

by Richard Joseph

In his inaugural speech as Nigerian president on May 29, 2015, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari memorably declared: “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”. He has already taken drastic action to reduce corruption in the oil sector and even cut his official salary and benefits. Just days before his July 20 meeting with U.S. president Barack Obama, Mr. Buhari replaced his country’s top military and security leaders. They had been criticized for incompetence and human rights abuses in the fight against Boko Haram. These actions and others set the stage for an agenda-setting meeting between the two leaders. Soon afterwards, Mr. Obama will leave on his third presidential trip to sub-Saharan Africa with stops in Kenya and Ethiopia. Richard Joseph discusses the significance of the Obama-Buhari meeting, the need to reframe American policies towards Africa, and hopes for a new era in U.S.-Nigeria relations.

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