Takeaways from the second Summit for Democracy.
The second Summit for Democracy is now fully behind us. As pro-democracy actors get down to fashion and shape their post-summit engagements, Secrets Known takes time to reflect on some of the takeaways.
The subject of political finance is gaining traction and attention in Africa. Governments, citizens, and other key stakeholders are beginning to appreciate that unregulated political party and campaign financing is one of the fundamental problems of democracy in Africa. The too much money that flows in politics in African countries is creating “government of the rich, for the rich, and by the rich” at the expense of the cardinal democratic principal of inclusion.
Democracy is about citizen inclusion. There cannot be democracy if half the population is excluded from participating in democratic processes as voters, candidates, political commentators, domestic observers, polling agents, etc. Citizens are the harbinger of democracy. Democratic renewal must be an everyday activity.
African countries must build functioning and effective state systems that can support democracy. Unfortunately, most states in Africa are fragile, they are absent from the lives of their citizens in the welfare sense. When their citizens become active and demand better services, the governments/regimes that manage the state get the feeling that their very survival is under threat, hence often responding with over-the-top actions. This is why.
Poor-quality elections in Africa are threat multipliers to the tenets of democracy. Undemocratic elections in Africa threaten freedoms of speech, expression, association, and assembly.
Africans must generate consensus about the bigger national goal or agenda that should be achieved through elections. Democracy must be reconciled with the bigger national socio-economic development goals. Many more people can get out of poverty under democracy than under autocracy. This is because autocracy concentrates economic power in the hands of regime cronies and supporters.
African governments must find ways to ensure that young people can participate,
speak and be heard, engage, and use their creative energies for the good of their countries and the continent in general, and also to ensure their presence at the decision-making table. Governments must facilitate their effective participation in democratic processes. Africa will benefit immensely by capitalizing on the democratic dividend of a growing youthful population.
Media-related threats have no future in a democratic Africa. African governments must increase media freedom, safety and security for journalists in their respective jurisdictions. African leaders must also promote open and safe digital spaces and governance devoid of internet shutdowns, cyber censorship, attacks, misinformation, and disinformation.