Globalization and Democratic Governance in Africa: An Assessment

George A. Genyi, Pauline A. Akpa


There is an established linked of a mutually reinforcing kind between globalization and democracy. This interdependence is desirable for both movements that have driven the dynamics of experimentation with globalization that has inevitably spurred democratization in Africa since the 1980s. Globalization has reached its climax in the 21st century dating back to the industrial revolution; that accelerated the economic typology of global economic integration. Towards the end of the 19th Century, economic globalization gained speed and with the collapse of the former Soviet Union as consequences of perestroika and glasnost, globalization then spurred political reforms in favour of democracy. Between globalization and democracy is a complex wave of interdependence. At the behest of political reforms as an integral part of structural reforms of the 1990s, they impacted significantly on institutions and economic restructuring has also impacted the rule of law and respect for human rights (Mubangizi 2010).

The intensification of integration of world economies as exemplified by free trade, massive movement of finance capital and interactions facilitated by technology is the process of globalization. These specific processes create a global market by intensifying competition. These have economic, social, technological and political components (Stiglitz, 2002) Brysk, 2002; Mubangizi, 2010). Globalization has in all its ramifications raised complexities and contradictions in its wake but especially for democracy in Africa.

The democratic resurgence of the 1980s was couched to eliminate authoritarian rule in Africa which appeared in the form of one party system or military rule. In the 80s, many countries in sub-Saharan Africa were straddled on the authoritarian continuum of military dictatorship or one party rule with the characteristic violation of human rights, lack of respect for the rule of law and arbitrariness in governance that was widespread due to lack of accountability and transparency. The democratization process spurred by globalization was designed to enthrone democracy as a system of rule in which political leaders or representative of the people would be chosen by the electorates, and in that contractual engagement would be accountable and responsive to the needs, interests and wishes of the people. Democracy entails on the minimum respect for rights of the people and the guarantee of equal opportunities for majority of the people (Mubangizi 2010, p.4). This broad conception of democracy reflects Huntington’s conservative and minimalist approach that it is a political system that “its most powerful collective decision-makers are selected through fair, honest and periodic elections in which candidates freely complete for votes, and in which virtually all adult population is eligible to vote” (1991, p.40). Due to population dynamics and the complex nature of modern life, it is no longer possible for all adult citizens of a country to vote. But beyond this limitation, contemporary liberal democracy still resonate the antiquitic flare that it is built on an egalitarian idea of ruling and being ruled in turn (Shapiro and Hacker-Cordon 1999). Schmitter and Karl (1991, p.247) conceptualizes democracy in this characteristic framework of ruler-ruled relationship thus:

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