Africa: democracy on trial

Africa votes massively. There have been 630 presidential and legislative elections since 1990 on the continent. But can we therefore take democracy for granted? The manipulation of the polls is still frequent, the disputes of the results are followed by social tensions, the mandates are not respected. But governance is also approximate, fundamental freedoms are fragile: it is therefore above all “substantial democracy” that is generally missing, except for some uplifting experiences.

Based on a synthesis of numerous works and his own experience, the former diplomat, today an essayist and academic Peter Jacques sheds light on three decades of political evolution, painting a portrait of Africa with contrasting configurations and challenging new “outside the ballot box” social dynamics stemming from civil society. Are some heralds of other ways of governing?



To the polls, Africa!
Voting has a history
The time of possibilities (1960-1990)
The opening moment (1990-2010)
The balance time (2010-2020)
The return of the military?

The “anomalies” of procedural democracy
The paradox of uncertainty
Electoral Cycle Management
the role of money
Our turn to eat!
Electoral commissions, what independence?
Remarks, how effective?
Parallel controls, what relevance?
Vote in times of pandemic

The elections, a bargain?
The vote, an imperfect market?
The recording, a ritual of rhythm?
A vector of violence?
Ethnic votes?
The middle classes: what political position?
The diasporic vote: what weight?

election fatigue
The Doubtful Validity of the Transition Thesis
Violation of term limits
addiction to power
The autocrat and his trap
partisan exuberance
The possibility of alternation.
The “Return of the Kings”
election fatigue
When the belly is empty, the urn sounds hollow!
The limited inclusion of young people, but the growth of women
Eat less fast and less alone!

Four political configurations
A typology based on six synthetic indicators
Limits of the typology exercise

A democracy to (re)invent
The affirmation of civil society
citizen’s broom
digitized interaction
Control outside the polls
New role models
Towards a binary democracy?


The author:
Peter Jacques
he was Ambassador of France (Kenya, Ghana, Democratic Republic of the Congo), Director of Development of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France, Head of Cooperation Mission (Burkina Faso, Cameroon). He is currently president of the Group of Initiatives (France), professor at Sciences Po-Paris, senior economic adviser at ESL-Gouv, expert associated with the Jean-Jaurès Foundation and member of the scientific council of the Avril Foundation. He is, in particular, the author of The Africa of possibilities, the challenges of the emergency (Karthala, 2016); The Encyclopedic Dictionary of Sustainable Development (Humanities, 2021); Agricultural and food sovereignty in Africa: the reconquest (The Harmattan, 2021).

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