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Public Seminar: The Future of Democracy in Africa, 1 December 2016

Public Seminar: The Future of Democracy in Africa, 1 December 2016

In conjunction with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and the Hanns Seidel Foundation, hosted a public seminar looking at likely scenarios for the consolidation of democracy on the African continent. The meeting was attended by 61 people, including the Chairperson of the Hanns Seidel Foundation, Prof Ursula Männle, who was visiting from Munich. The main speaker was Dr Jakkie Cilliers, Head of African Futures and Innovation at ISS, and the respondent was Prof Robert Mattes, Director of the Democracy in Africa Research unit at the University of Cape Town.

Dr Cilliers argued that Africa has made steady progress in democratisation. According to one measure, the number of countries on the continent that could be classified as ‘free’ or ‘partly free’ has grown from 17 in 1988 to 34 in 2015. The number of elections also showed an increase over time, although it was still the case that elections do not necessarily translate into democracy, especially given the number of regimes that manage to manipulate elections in their favour.

Prof Mattes, while not disagreeing with Dr Cilliers’ findings, noted the need for analysts to avoid being either “Chicken Little” or “Polyanna”. In other words, there was no need to fear that the sky was about to fall on our heads in Africa, but neither should we fall into unwarranted and naïve optimism, believing that, left to its own devices, democracy in Africa would simply continue to make progress.

The conclusion of the presentations was that “democracy advances human well-being and plays an important role in sustaining growth and stability. Its future in Africa appears positive despite efforts by governing elites to frustrate its substantive progress.”


L-R: Dr Jakkie Cilliers, Prof Robert Mattes, and Adv Mike Pothier (Research Co-ordinator, CPLO)