Citizens’ support of democracy in Africa: a comparative perspective of Africans’ attitudes

15 Nov 2017

This paper is an exploratory study of Africans’ support for democracy as a system of government. Using two rounds of Afrobarometer surveys, the article compares Africans’ views on democracy from three African countries; Botswana, Nigeria, and Swaziland. The paper also seeks to find out if Africans’ demand for democracy is related to attitudes of fear of political intimidation and satisfaction with democracy. In so doing, the paper seeks to divert from instrumental or economic measures of support but to explore political factors that determine regime support. The paper departs from a basic premise that individual freedoms are fundamental to the functioning of democracy and as such there is a need for people to exercise their democratic rights in a free and politically conducive environment. The study finds that support for democracy in Africa’s mature democracy remains high across the two survey rounds while Africa’s former military regime show an increase in support for democracy. There is less than majority support for democracy in Africa’s absolute monarchy. Satisfaction with democracy influences Africans’ support for democracy while fear of political intimidation only influences Africans in Swaziland to demand democracy. Based on these findings, the article argues that to a certain degree, Africans support democracy because they value it as a system of governance. This study is significant because democratic experiments on the continent have largely been a result of external forces and pressures of neoliberal agenda, donor assistance and globalization. It is also important given the fact that African countries have so far fallen under different regimes that are not necessarily democratic. It is therefore essential to compare the level of support for democracy across the three regime types in order to assess what Africans think of democracy as a system of governance.