Deepening democracy through effective public spaces in Africa - reality or fallacy

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • Abstract:

    Over the years, there has been an increasing call for the deepening of democracy through the democratisation of governance processes across the continent, the extent to which this has been translated to practice through viable and authentic means needs to be further engaged. Democratic governance is in theory characterised by the existence of genuine public spaces that allow for a vigilant, strong and robust state and civil society engagement. This process ensures that government remains connected to the people and conducts its activities in a way that benefits the majority of the people. In theory, these ideals may exist but in reality, are these forums really available for community/citizen participation? Even when they do, are they able to significantly shift government policy? Or are they stage-managed, not been fully optimised or even hijacked by proxies who seek to ensure that the decision-making structures of society serve the objectives of the local elite? The article reflects on the efficacy of selected public spaces or forums that are available to citizenry for making inputs into policy processes. Africa’s record has been somewhat mixed, ranging from the disenfranchisement of civil society in democratic processes, the harassment of the media, suppression of public opinion and the high-jacking of public spaces. The article will draw on specific scenarios from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Nigeria. It will identify and critique selected forums or public spaces, reflect on their value-added to democratic processes and lastly identify enabling or hindering factors for quality policy engagement.