Africans' surprising universalism

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • Abstract:

    Africa is a latecomer to democratization. In terms of timing, Africa has followed rather than led other continents in giving birth to the reform movements that have installed elected governments, multiparty systems, and more open societies around the world. Since many African countries are dependent on foreign aid, they have also experienced weighty external pressures to liberalize. One should not automatically conclude, however, that the impetus for reform comes from outside the continent rather than from within. If political liberalization were a Northern idea being foisted on an unwilling South, then certain empirical facts should follow. One would expect Africans to 1) be unaware of the concept of democracy; 2) have distinct cultural understandings of its content; 3) be unsupportive of regimes based on competitive principles; 4) prefer alternative political regimes; and 5) be unsatisfied with the performance of democratic regimes in practice.