Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Democratization in Africa: Retrospective and Future Prospects

04 December 2009 - 05 December 2009 | Conference

University of Leeds

About the conference

Almost two decades have passed since the 'third wave' of democratization began to roll across Sub-Saharan Africa in the early 1990s. While the holding of regular elections has become relatively well-established in many countries, perhaps most successfully in Ghana, electoral processes have also been deeply flawed in recent instances such as in Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. It is unclear how many African states are moving closer to 'democratic consolidation', or instead inhabit the 'grey zone' between democracy and autocracy as 'defective democracies' or 'electoral authoritarianism'.

It is thus timely to reflect back on the relative successes and shortcomings experienced and to look forward to future prospects for democratization on the subcontinent.

  • How does multi-party politics actually work on the sub-continent and how democratic are African 'democracies'?
  • Does a democratic façade merely conceal authoritarian leadership?
  • Do results merely reflect an ethnic or religious census?
  • Are 'winner-takes-all' elections and centralised governments the best frameworks for Africa, or do broad coalitions and/or federalism provide a better way forward?

It is also appropriate to ask broader questions about the nature of democracy in Africa:

  • Is democracy only seen in liberal and procedural terms and is this simply the 'democracy of alienation', as suggested by Claude Ake? Or are there prospects for more substantive forms of democracy that place participation and socio-economic inequalities at the centre of analysis?
  • To what extent is democratic sovereignty a sham, with economic policy still dictated by international financial institutions and Western governments?

These questions will provide the basis of this two-day conference to be held at the University of Leeds in December 2009. The conference is being organised by Dr Gabrielle Lynch and Professor Gordon Crawford of the School of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) and the Leeds University Centre for African Studies (LUCAS).

For conference enquiries please contact Dr Karen Cereso, LUCAS administrator, email: African-Studies@leeds.ac.uk

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