Carolyn Logan

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Members of the Goringhaicona Khoi Khoin Indigenous Traditional Council and protesters from the surrounding communities hold placards during a picket in Cape Town, South Africa, against the construction of the new Africa headquarters for U.S. retail giant Amazon on Nov. 12. (Shelley Christians/Reuters)

African citizens are raising their voices. In just the past three months, protesters have taken to the streets to demand democracy in Eswatini and to show their opposition to anti-democratic power grabs in Tunisia and Sudan. Since April 2017, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has recorded more than 70 episodes in 35 African countries of protests focused on issues ranging from police brutality and presidential third-term attempts to covid-19 restrictions.

Citizen participation and government responsiveness are cornerstones of democracy. In the first installment in this Afrobarometer series in anticipation of the Biden administration’s Dec. 9-10 Summit for Democracy, we reported that African citizens are committed to democracy — even if they aren’t getting as much of it as they want.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of the opposition Democratic Alliance party cheer at a rally last month in Cape Town, South Africa, ahead of local government elections. (Mike Hutchings/Reuters)

Earlier in this pre-Summit for Democracy series, we reported that across 34 African countries recently surveyed by Afrobarometer, demand for democracy is strong and resilient. The same can’t be said for Africans’ confidence that they actually live in well-functioning democracies, leaving a “democratic disappointment” gap. Today we dig deeper into those continentwide public opinion averages to uncover a surprise: Some of the most negative trends — both in how much democracy people say they are getting and how much they want — are happening in the continent’s up-to-now leading democracies.

Washington-based think tank Freedom House identifies nine African countries as “free” on its Global Freedom Index.…  Seguir leyendo »

People queue outside a polling station in Thokoza, east of Johannesburg, on Nov. 1. (Themba Hadebe/AP)

Two recent electoral contests have renewed optimism in Africa about the transformative power of elections.

In August, challenger Hakainde Hichilema’s victory over Zambian President Edgar Lungu gave democracy advocates hope of reversing the country’s seeming slide into authoritarianism. And just last week, local government elections in South Africa energized opposition supporters and shocked the ruling African National Congress, which fell short of 50 percent of the vote for the first time since the country’s transition to majority rule.

Both of these polls demonstrated that fair elections can serve as the foundation for political change, and perhaps lead to progress against corruption and flagging development.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Chinese-backed railway in Mombasa, Kenya, in 2017. (Khalil Senosi/AP)

Over the past two decades, China and Africa have dramatically expanded their political and economic ties. China’s leading role in development financing has some observers concerned about political influence, economic power and debt.

Washington-based think tank Freedom House gives China a score of 9 out of 100 on its Global Freedom Index, compared to 83, 90 and 93, respectively, for the United States and former colonial powers France and the United Kingdom. Unlike Western donors, China doesn’t condition its assistance on political agendas such as the promotion of democracy and human rights.

Democracy advocates worry that Africa’s fledgling democratic governments’ ability to turn to China’s condition-free resources may make it harder to promote democratic and accountable governance across the continent.…  Seguir leyendo »

A sunglasses seller walks past a billboard showing coup leader Col. Mamady Doumbouya in Conakry, Guinea, on Sept. 11. Doumbouya’s special forces seized President Alpha Condé in a Sept. 5 coup, promising to form a unity government. (John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images)

Less than a year into his controversial third term in office, Guinea’s president, Alpha Condé, was ousted last week in a military coup. Citing rising corruption and poor economic performance, coup leader Col. Mamady Doumbouya, once a confidant of the president, promised a “national unity government” and a “new era for governance and economic development.”

Doumbouya’s pledges suggest he may have been listening to the complaints of ordinary Guineans. An Afrobarometer survey in November/December 2019 signaled that Guineans were increasingly unhappy about mounting corruption and economic mismanagement in their country.

But the findings also show that Guineans are resiliently pro-election, pro-democracy and anti-authoritarian.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman cleans debris outside the Dube Village mall in Durban, South Africa, on July 17, after several days of looting and unrest. (Guillem Sartorio/AFP/Getty Images)

Former South African president Jacob Zuma’s imprisonment for boycotting an inquiry into high-level corruption has triggered protests and looting on a scale not seen since the apartheid era. The army is in the streets, and more than 200 people are dead.

Zuma was forced to resign the presidency in disgrace in 2018 when he lost the backing of his party, the long-dominant African National Congress (ANC), amid widespread allegations of corruption and abuse of power. The last Afrobarometer public opinion survey conducted during his tenure revealed growing popular disaffection with his rule — his approval rating dropped sharply, to 34 percent, as more and more South Africans perceived that levels of corruption were on the rise.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters against former South African president Jacob Zuma demonstrate outside the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg on March 25. (Denis Farrell/AP)

Although access to information laws offer at least some protection for people’s right to information in about half of African countries, the pandemic has highlighted how weak these protections still are in practice.

In addition to limiting access to information, governments have harassed and arrested activists and journalists for releasing statistics or other information on covid-19 in Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and elsewhere on the continent.

Many African countries — including leading democracies such as Botswana and Namibia — still lack laws protecting access to information. And where laws do exist, they vary widely in quality, implementation and enforcement.

Do citizens believe in their right to information?…  Seguir leyendo »

Women lined up to cast their votes on Feb. 23, 2019, in the village of Tumfafi, near Kano, in northern Nigeria. (Ben Curtis/AP)

In one of Africa’s most democratic countries, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa recently used his weekly newsletter to praise unelected traditional leaders, who “support and drive development in their communities” and help address critical issues facing the country, including economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The role traditional leaders would play in modern Africa has not always been clear. As the democratic openings of the early 1990s replaced autocratic rulers with elected governments across much of Africa, “modernists” argued there was no longer a place for traditional leaders. Amid concern that chiefs — almost always male and unelected — would undermine democracy and perpetuate discrimination, especially against women and youths, opponents either expected the institution to wither away or openly called for it to be restricted or abolished.…  Seguir leyendo »

People affected by the pandemic-related downturn line up in May to receive food donations near Laudium, South Africa. (Themba Hadebe/AP)

In this year of covid-19, the ability of societies to work collectively to respond to the pandemic has taken center stage. In fact, popular compliance with public health measures may be one reason for Africa’s relatively low coronavirus infection and death rates.

Analysts study social bonds precisely because they believe that cohesive societies — marked by strong positive relationships across social groups, and between social groups and the government — will be more capable of solving shared problems and promoting well-being and development.

How strong or weak are social bonds in Africa? Scholars have long studied ethnic division on the continent and its implications for political and military conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »

Guineans began voting on Oct. 18 to choose their next president in the first high-risk round of an election that marks the start of a busy electoral cycle in West Africa (John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images)

While the coronavirus’s toll in Africa has been less severe than many analysts initially feared (South Africa being the major exception), the Gates Foundation and others have warned that the pandemic may wipe out years of progress in fighting poverty and improving health around the world.

These setbacks are likely to increase pressures on African governments. Even before the pandemic, citizens were already demanding urgent action on jobs and health, and growing increasingly critical of their countries’ overall direction, Afrobarometer public attitude surveys show.

The new biweekly Friday Afrobarometer series, starting today in the Monkey Cage at The Washington Post, will explore these and other critical current topics, helping to explain Africans’ democratic aspirations and economic ambitions that will mark policy engagement with Africa well beyond the coronavirus pandemic.…  Seguir leyendo »

Malians supporting the overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta gather to celebrate in the capital, Bamako, on Aug. 21. (Baba Ahmed/AP)

In Mali, after weeks of large-scale demonstrations demanding that President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta resign, the military settled the matter. Amid international condemnation of last week’s coup deposing Keïta, thousands of Malians celebrated in the streets.

With a military junta running the country, are Malians ready to give up on democracy? Here’s what Malians themselves have to say, based on a recent Afrobarometer survey.

The March-April 2020 survey revealed textbook conditions for a popular uprising as well as strong popular trust in the military — factors that may explain why many Malians seem to welcome, or at least accept, a coup as the country’s best chance to escape a downward spiral of corruption, poor services and economic failure.…  Seguir leyendo »

Local volunteers hand out bread to residents of the Booysens informal settlement during a bread distribution organized by a grass-roots organization in Johannesburg. (Michele Spatari/AFP/Getty Images)

The coronavirus pandemic is challenging governments in Africa, just as it is around the globe. Many Africans already assess their public officials skeptically, wary of corruption, coercion and inadequate care for ordinary people’s physical, social and economic welfare, as our research on citizens’ experiences and evaluations shows. How African governments respond to this crisis — whether with compassion and respect or corruption and coercion — will influence their citizens’ trust in government for years to come.

The rule of law vs. reality

In general, Africans see their governments as legitimate. In Afrobarometer Round 7, which collected data from more than 45,800 respondents across 34 African countries between late 2016 and late 2018, more than three-quarters (78 percent) of respondents said that people must always obey the law, including majorities in all 34 countries.…  Seguir leyendo »

A mobile phone in Umande village in Nanyuki, Kenya. (Njeri Mwangi/Reuters)

Today is International Women’s Day, an occasion to celebrate progress toward gender equity and assess the road still ahead. According to the United Nations, equal access to the Internet and other information and communications technologies is a key gender equality goal. That’s because it offers women an avenue through which they can claim rights and act on social, economic and political opportunities — whether starting businesses, getting education, finding jobs, obtaining health care, finding banking and other financial services, or joining in a wide variety of activities.

Digital gender divide

But in Africa, there’s an online gender gap — and it may actually be widening.…  Seguir leyendo »