When the fragility of the institutions of the african States is being questioned - The Point

"Africa does not need strong men but strong institutions" : this statement made by the ex-us president Barack Obama during his visit to Ghana in 2009 is still

When the fragility of the institutions of the african States is being questioned - The Point

"Africa does not need strong men but strong institutions" : this statement made by the ex-us president Barack Obama during his visit to Ghana in 2009 is still relevant today. In fact, even if the situations are obviously contrasting, Africa remains a continent where States are particularly fragile and where this meta-institution of democracy still leaves much to be desired. In fact, Africa is, of all the continents, the one that has the least good scores according to indicators from Polity IV and Freedom House. In addition, the low quality of economic governance translates into a corruption. To go further, it is necessary to see the elements available in our contribution to the collective work to Improve the effectiveness of the State in Cameroon and in several of our studies on the Constitutions in Africa, corruption and the quality of public expenditure.

An observation : the sad state of institutions in Africa

the work of The 1993 Nobel Prize in economics Douglass North and his co-authors on the Violence and social orders provide a simple explanation of the embeddedness of African countries in a dynamic institutional negative. This work decouples the companies "open access" (open access societies, OAOs) and "limited access" (limited access orders, LAOs). Open access models, specific to the States whose institutions are the most effective, are characterized by the following traits : a political and economic development ; a positive economic growth ; a civil society which is diverse and vigorous, with a large number of organizations ; a State of giving a large place to the decentralization ; a fabric of social relations impersonal, including rule of law, respect of the right to property, justice and equal treatment of all individuals.

Many african countries, in contrast, correspond to the model with limited access to North and his co-authors describe as : an economy with slow growth, particularly vulnerable to shocks ; a political regime operating without the consent of generalized constituents ; a centralized State ; a predominance of social relationships organized on a personal mode, which relies on privileges and the social hierarchy ; the laws applied on a case-by-case basis ; property rights are fragile ; and the premise that all individuals are not equal.

All the nations that currently have relatively strong institutions have at one time in their history-known companies "closed access" before moving on to " open access ". Several African countries have not yet experienced this transition. Sixty years after independence, the institutions of many of the States of the continent, are still at an embryonic phase of their development. However, some countries, such as Botswana, Senegal, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana to mention only those positioning themselves as references african.

A multiplicity of factors explains the situation

Several factors explain the delay in the institutional development in Africa. The story, of course, puts a large weight. Most of the colonies in Africa were colonies of extraction that have produced inadequate institutions. These systems have shaped the structure of institutional governance during the colonization and even after independence have continued to have an impact on the quality of african institutions.

in addition, some authors have established that the ethnic fragmentation of the continent is the tragedy of Africa. This fragmentation can, in any case, explain the level of corruption, since it is common that a responsible business considers that it is primarily his duty to help his race. The central african Republic provides an instructive example where the tensions between the communities or ethnic groups have contributed, in large part, to fuel the violence and the collapse of the State and its institutions.

Another factor is overwhelming, the wealth of the continent in natural resources. Supporters of the theory of the curse of natural resources justify the cross-institutional performance of African countries by the richness of its soil and sub-soil : the desire of powerful States to take ownership of the natural resources of Africa is fueling a continued political instability, which in turn does not promote the emergence of better institutions. And the rents from the exploitation of resources are the instruments of corruption of the political leaders of the opposition – a phenomenon that ensures the sustainability of political regimes, autocratic. In the Great Lakes region, notably in the democratic Republic of the Congo, the natural resources are also, in large part, to the base of the instability in the country.

the role of The political leaders

The institutional reforms in Africa are often conducted by those in power in the optical to serve their own interests. It seems illusory to seek to have good institutions, neglecting the importance of political leaders. For the past few years, the economic literature recognizes the importance of the characteristics of the political leaders in the economic performance of African countries. The story of the emergence of good political institutions of the two african models, namely Benin and Ghana, gives several lessons in this regard. Benin is a country that has experienced several coups d'état in its political history. But he ended by producing a national conference successful and democratic alternation repeated.

Nicéphore Soglo (center), president of Benin from 1991 to 1996, defeated in 1996, greet the crowd during a meeting of campaign to Cotonou for the French presidential elections of march 2001, where it will be again defeated. © ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

The scenario is similar in Ghana, and after several coups and chronic political instability, seems to have settled on a transition to democracy is often cited as an example.

In these two countries, the progress has been made possible by strong men. Benin president Mathieu Kerekou and the Prime minister, Nicéphore Soglo, who have led the country towards the adoption of a new Constitution that began the democratic transition. In Ghana, the seizure of power by Jerry Rawlings has led to the adoption of a new Constitution in 1992.

The role of Parliament

In a democracy worthy of the name, the Parliament plays a crucial role. In France, for example, the constituent Assembly has put an end to the monarchy and a society of classes and proclaimed the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. In the United States, as elsewhere, the Parliament office of counter-power and plays a central role in the consolidation of democracy.

In Africa, on the contrary it is often the inefficiency of Parliament and has blocked the various States in the sphere of the" closed access " and prevented them from building institutions for better quality. Illustration : since the beginning of the years 2000, fifteen of the sixteen countries that have amended the article of the Constitution on the limitation of the number of mandates of the president have approved this amendment by a vote of Parliament.

In both the cases of Benin and Ghana, the Parliament has also played a leading role. Indeed, advances have been made possible thanks in particular to strong men and a Parliament that has been able to adopt effective rules.

© Fayez Nureldine/AFP

The providential man or the sting of the people

The political history of several countries in Africa shows that the attempts of institutional change driven by the bottom have not always been crowned with success. However, it should be noted that some applications of this type, that is to say, from the people, have had issues in favour (Algeria, Burkina Faso, Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, etc.) without being necessarily followed by the emergence of good institutions.

hence the need for men angel bearers of an ideology that is open according to North, facing towards the establishment of strong institutions that conform to the societies of open access and non-closed. This will help build a strong democracy, to prevent corruption and to play for the economic agents a decisive role in the construction of a strong civil society and media, strong and independent. The providential man and the effectiveness of parliament seem, therefore, central elements in likely to position african States on a trajectory of institutional development is irreversible.

* Joseph Keneck Massil is a teacher. He is a researcher in political economy, law, institutions and development. Member of the laboratory CEREG, University of Yaoundé II, he is also a research associate of the CEMOTEV of the University of Versailles in France.

Date Of Update: 15 July 2020, 09:33