Link to the University of Pittsburgh
Link to the University Library SystemContact us link
AEI Banner

A Changing of the Guards or A Change of Systems? BTI 2020 - Regional Report Sub-Saharan Africa

Cheeseman, Nic (2020) A Changing of the Guards or A Change of Systems? BTI 2020 - Regional Report Sub-Saharan Africa. UNSPECIFIED.

[img] PDF - Published Version
Download (678Kb)


    Contrary to media depictions of sub-Saharan Africa, in many countries political change has tended to occur gradually. From 2015 to 2019, the general pattern has been for the continent’s more authoritarian states – such as Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, and Rwanda – to make little progress towards democracy and in some cases to become incrementally more repressive. At the same time, many of the continent’s more democratic states – including Botswana, Ghana, Mauritius, Senegal, and South Africa – have remained “consolidating” or “defective” democracies, with very few dropping out of these categories to become “authoritarian” regimes. Overall, only 16 countries saw their ranking in any one of the categories between the last two rounds of the BTI: this represents just 12% all cases, given that the BTI reviews 44 countries across three main categories. The main exceptions to this rule are countries that have suffered a rapid escalation of conflict (such as South Sudan in 2013), or the sudden collapse of the government (such as Burkina Faso in 2015). The current reporting period from February 2017 to January 2019 also saw significant, if not transformative, developments in a number of states including Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe – although in few of these cases was here a change to the underlying character of the political system. While Cameroon, Chad, Kenya and Tanzania have moved further away from lasting political and economic transformation, Angola, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe initially appeared to be making progress towards it. However, in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe this impression did not last beyond the end of the BTI reporting period, and the new governments of both countries now stand accused of committing similar human rights abuses to their predecessors. As this brief overview suggests, at a continental level the trajectories of different states have by and large cancelled each other out. Positive trends in some cases were wiped out by negative trends in others. Consequently, sub-Saharan Africa as a whole has witnessed no significant changes to the overall level of democracy, economic management and governance – the three main areas of performance covered in this report. Between BTI 2018 and BTI 2020 the overall level of democracy declined by just -0.04, a small shift on a 1-10 scale. There was an identical change in the status of economic transformation, and an even smaller shift in the average quality of governance of +0.01. Overall, these figures demonstrate remarkable continuity at the continental level. In almost all cases, positive trends were recorded in countries where leadership change generated hope for political renewal and economic reform. This includes Angola, after President José Eduardo dos Santos stepped down in 2017, Ethiopia, following the rise to power of Prime Minister Abiy, and Zimbabwe, where the transfer of power from Robert Mugabe to Emmerson Mnangagwa was accompanied with promises that in future the ZANU-PF government would demonstrate greater respect democratic norms and values. Sierra Leone also recorded a significant improvement in performance following the victory of opposition candidate Julius Maada Bio in the presidential election of 2018, while Nigeria has continued to make modest but significant gains in economic management since Muhammadu Buhari replaced Goodluck Jonathan as President. The significance of leadership change to all of these processes is an important reminder of the extent to which power has been personalized in many African states. It is important to note, however, that subsequent events since the end of the period under review in 2019 have cast doubt on the significance of these transitions. Most notably, continued and in some cases increasing human A Changing of the Guards or A Change of Systems? — BTI 2020 Report Sub-Saharan Africa | Page 5 rights abuses in countries such as Nigeria, Tanzania and Zimbabwe suggest that we have seen “a changing of the guards” rather than a genuine transformation of political systems. If we turn our attention to those countries that recorded negative trends, we see a very different pattern: deteriorating performance typically occurred in countries in which established leaders felt the need to adopt increasingly repressive strategies to retain control, and to subvert economic management to serve political ends as part of this effort. In some cases, this was in response to a strong challenge from the opposition (Kenya, Zambia), while in others it reflected an increase in popular unrest (Chad), and secessionist challenges to the legitimacy of the state itself (Cameroon). The only country to witness a significant decline in overall status in the absence of growing opposition was Tanzania, where the fall in the quality of governance under President John Magufuli appears to reflect more his personal leadership style and refusal to tolerate dissent than any actual increase in support for political rivals.

    Export/Citation:EndNote | BibTeX | Dublin Core | ASCII (Chicago style) | HTML Citation | OpenURL
    Social Networking:
    Item Type: Other
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > External relations > EU-ACP
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > Bertelsmann Stiftung/Foundation (Gutersloh, Germany)
    Depositing User: Daniel Pennell
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 19 Aug 2020 11:27
    Number of Pages: 32
    Last Modified: 19 Aug 2020 11:27

    Actions (login required)

    View Item

    Document Downloads