Event Background – The Age of Liberal Democracy:
Democracy, leadership, and politics have driven development in many countries for several years, but there are growing signs throughout the world that liberal democracy is now under attack.
Growing income disparities, high unemployment, widespread poverty and social injustices are creating tensions, which in some cases have led to social upheavals culminating in mass demonstrations.
Many Africans are also beginning to experience similar frustrations, which threaten to undermine the very foundations of the democratic systems they fought for and believe should create a future of hope and prosperity for them and generations to come.
The culprit in the growing disillusion with liberal democracy is the dysfunctional politics which Africa seems to be nurturing. The politics of many African countries are characterized by poor governance, a winner-takes-all culture, cronyism, nepotism, greed, corruption, and poor fiscal and monetary policy management, which lead to inconsistent and poor economic performance, and unfavourable investment conditions. This diminishes the prospects of wealth creation and livelihoods for Africans.
Africa has made little progress translating democracy, politics, and leadership, into sustained development and a fairer society. The increasing deterioration of the values that should be the bedrock of our democratic system also creates disaffection and cynicism in the average person; especially those in their productive years who see no opportunity to secure and enjoy a decent livelihood. Besides, it impacts negatively on the economic performance and development of African countries.
The Implications – The Expectations of Accountability and a Fairer Society
The economic history of much of Africa clearly demonstrates why investors have shunned countries with bad governance, economic instability and uncertainty. Responsible businesses hardly invest in undemocratic, economically weak countries and are more likely to avoid countries with weak political institutions. Indeed corrupt and unstable countries are least attractive to foreign investors.
For example, the growing trend of politics that erode the values of democracy and undermine the creation of an enabling environment for investors has frustrated Africa’s attractiveness as an investment destination, and delayed the development and the creation of widespread prosperity for the people. In the World Bank's 2020 Ease of Doing Business Report, Africa’s average score of 51.8 was well below the global average of 63, and the score of high-income OECD economies of 78.4. FDI inflows into our emerging markets were only 3.5% to the global total in 2019 in spite of the very positive outlook for Africa.
The realities in the socio-political and economic paradigm of Africa reflect (a) public frustration with the democratic process and its inability to secure consistent improvements in widespread socioeconomic well-being; (b) a wedge created by unfulfilled promises between political and corporate leaders, and citizens; and, (c) growing dissatisfaction because citizens are unable to meaningfully hold political and corporate leaders accountable. This troubled paradigm for development is now undergoing a severe test by the Covid-19 pandemic. Leadership across Africa, politics continent-wide and all our democratic systems are disrupted even as they attempt to deliver sustainable development of Africa while responding to the Covid-19 emergency.
Something must change
The path to sustainable development that meets the expectation of citizens and enterprises requires a vibrant democratic environment characterized by independent and resilient democratic institutions, and political leadership. These must demonstrate the responsiveness, conscience, and corporate and public sector leadership that deliver productivity, growth and global competitiveness in African enterprises.
We invite you to join the Ishmael Yamson & Associates 2020 Business Roundtable on an Africa-wide webinar on the theme “Democracy, Politics, Leadership and the Development of Africa” on 27th May, 2020, led by a panel of distinguished leaders.
We look forward to your participation alongside private sector players and other stakeholders, in what will surely be a stimulating discussion about the state of our liberal democracy and its impact on prosperity in Africa.
Ishmael Yamson & Associates