African business, politics and lifestyle
Africa still crying for freedom?
“Sub-Saharan Africa: Year of Regression”. That was the heading used by U.S.-based rights group Freedom House in its survey of political freedom in the world published this week.
Of course the Freedom House survey pointed to the coups in Guinea and Mauritania as well as the situation in Zimbabwe, whose elections were condemned by many countries and where the crisis shows no sign of lessening, but there were plenty of other names on the list too:
Senegal – long held up as an example of democracy in Africa – dropped from “free to partly free” because of “a growing authoritarian trend”.
Nigeria suffered a drop “because of the ruling party’s increasing consolidation of power and marginalization of the opposition”.
Measuring freedom might sound like an abstract concept, but investors have cited improvements in governance and democracy, among other reasons, for increased interest in Africa as a whole in recent years. Countries that do better on those scores may find it helps to increase prosperity too.
Twelve of the 48 countries in the survey fell according to the group’s indicators. On the other hand, the report pointed to what it saw as positive developments in Angola, Ivory Coast, Zambia and Comoros.
“Sub-Saharan Africa has seen notable increases in freedom over the past generation, making these recent setbacks all the more disheartening,” said Arch Puddington, Freedom House director of research.
Is it fair to say freedom is on the decline in Africa? Ghana’s election seemed to get 2009 off to a better start that some of last year’s elections on the continent. Is there reason to think that this year may be better overall?