Coups cannot thrive in a Freer and Prosperous Africa

Africa’s rise has consistently been truncated by repressive governance, large-scale centralised government, extractive institutions, and headstrong leaders who see politics as an avenue to harvest their loot by hook or crook. 

Long before Covid-19 and the Russia- Ukraine war the building blocks of an effective, and inclusive society in many African countries were often ignored, leaving many Africans to suffer injustice, indignity, corruption, and exploitation by their leaders.

Recently, an increasing number of African economies have hit rock bottom and tail-spinned into ceaseless coups. It seems out of the 416 attempted coups globally since 1950, Gabon’s coup is not enough to seal Africa’s place as the continent with the most attempted and successful coups hitting a record high of 214.  There are fears some African countries are waiting their turn.  

Regional economic groups such as The Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) should be proactive in calling out leaders who are democratically elected but sow seeds of discord, poverty and ultimately autocracy when in power.

Today, there is a growing number of young Africans who no longer find Africa as a hub for human flourishing. According to the African Youth Survey 2022 published by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, 44 % of young Africans between the ages of 18 to 24 years who consider moving abroad gave “economic reasons”. 41% are yearning for “educational opportunities,” and 25% “want to experience something new and different.”

In a related story, about 16 million young Africans are facing unemployment and in Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa at least 75% of the youth think that their governments do not care about their needs according to the 2019 Ibrahim Forum Report. This is a scar on human development.

Does this suggest Africans no longer want Democracy? Certainly no. Africans hate tyranny. According to a weekly Afrobarometer by the Washington Post, “Only 4 in 10 Africans (42 percent) say elections in their country are effective in ensuring that representatives to parliament reflect the views of voters. The same proportion think elections enable voters to remove leaders who don’t do what the people want”

However, keeping democracy alive is an uphill battle. Suffice it to say the ruling elites have hijacked Africa’s political economy and it has been structured in a way that it keeps producing ramshackle gangs, presided over by political thugs, financed by cronies, and benefitted by foot soldiers, political stooges, and monopolistic fee-collecting cabals. 

Of course, one cannot downplay foreign interference and the role of external authoritarian regimes in derailing democracy in Africa. For example, in 23 countries where Russia has been active in undermining democracy, 11 of these have since remained major hotspots for conflicts. Here we see a gradual loss of sovereignty, weakened voices, and little or no self-determination.

This has led to widespread agitation, insurgency, hardship, poverty and misery. 

All these suggest the cascading problems of Africa stem from both endogenous and exogenous factors. Tackling these challenges will require a more united front of active citizens resilient and focused on compelling governments to prioritize and work in the interest of Africans by addressing critical socio-economic problems such as unemployment and underemployment, health, infrastructure/roads deficit, fallen standards of education, water supply, crime and insecurity, poverty, famine, mismanagement of the economy, power crises, corruption, food scarcity and barriers to trading.

Regional economic groups such as The Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) should be proactive in calling out leaders who are democratically elected but sow seeds of discord, poverty and ultimately autocracy when in power. That way, ECOWAS would not have to resort to military intervention to reverse coups.

And it rings true as ever what the renowned Ghanaian economist George Ayittey once said, -the secret to economic prosperity in Africa is not hard to find. Three words unveil this secret: “peace, infrastructure, and economic freedom”.

Emmanuel Acquah is the co-founder & CEO of Africa Centre for Entrepreneurship and Youth Empowerment (ACEYE). Peter Bismark Kwofie is an executive director at the Institute for Liberty and Policy Innovation (ILAPI). Franklin Cudjoe is the founding president & CEO of IMANI Center for Policy and Education (IMANI Africa).

Photo by James Wiseman via Unsplash.