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Nature of politics in Africa is changing

- By Wits University

Dr Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Africa, delivered the 2015 Harold Wolpe Memorial Lecture.

In Africa, civil society claims and agitations, if consistent and sustained, may begin to reshape not only the character of politics but also the nature and essence of the state.

This is according to Dr Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Africa. He delivered the 2015 Harold Wolpe Memorial Lecture, titled: Diagnosing African Politics, at Wits University on Friday, 9 October 2015.

“Politics is still perceived as a ‘do or die’ affair in which politicians and political parties stake virtually everything in the accumulation and retention of power. This makes elections a discounted value in promoting meaningful change in governance. Often the winner-takes-all syndrome prevails. Negotiation of political power is associated to access to public resources. However, the rise and flourishing of civil society portends a good omen for democratic politics in Africa. The possibility of accountability from below is increasing by the day as citizens’ demand for rights and opportunities,” Lope said.

Tackling a wide range of views on how Africa shaped its political self, Lopes said it remains a “continent in transition … (where) both domestic and external forces are impacting on the nature of its politics and economy”.

While democracy in Africa remains “fragile and tenuous, and the possibility of many reversals lurks”, there are some consensus that the nature of politics is changing in Africa.

“Citizens’ political participation is on the increase, there is better observance of the rule of law, political freedom is widening, conflicts have largely receded, and with increasing political stability and predictable political environment, steady economic growth has been posted,” he said.

Albeit slowly, institutions of democracy such as parliament, the media and civil society, are gradually checking power excesses by leaders and government officials, he added.

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