Posted by Michael Drapper, Marketing Executive
Today, as Nigeria goes to the polls for its fifth quadrennial general elections since the 1999 return to democracy, it is clear that the country, and Africa as a whole, is in a period of rapid change. Now, as in Nigeria, some two-thirds of countries on the continent have embarked on comprehensive democratic transitions, in diverse forms, with varying degrees of maturation. Crucially, there is broad recognition among African elites that participatory and democratic processes are standards or benchmarks for judging them, as shown by the establishment of the African Union, the New Partnership for African Development, and the African Peer Review Mechanism. The improved political climate reflects important economic and social changes as well. Since the mid-1990s, economic growth in the majority of African countries has been strong, surpassing 5% per year in fifteen countries on the continent. For a number of these, higher growth has been accompanied by diversification of their economies and exports.
Africans actors deserve the credit for much of the observable change. Western aid agencies, Chinese mining companies and UN peacekeepers have played their part, but the continent’s main driver of change appears to be its own people. Across the continent a palpable sense of hope abounds from rural to urban communities and across the generations. The ability of governments to play a mediatory role between global capitalism and the domestic, intra-state arena is being transformed, as states exhibit increasing capacities and resources as well as different levels of social and political motivation. While it is true that most African states are responding to the external pressures of the International Financial Institutions, their governments still bear responsibility for promoting an approach to development and on this they appear to be doing a little better, especially in economic management and striking peace deals.
Whether what we are witnessing is a third liberation of the continent – the first from colonialism, the second from autocratic indigenous rule, and now something far different – remains to be seen. Understanding the evolving reality is the central aim of Ashgate’s new Contemporary African Politics series. This series seeks original approaches to furthering our understanding of the ensuing changes in contemporary Africa. It will look at the full range and variety of African politics in the 21st century, covering the changing nature of African society, gender issues, security, economic prosperity and poverty, to the development of relations between African states, external organisations and between leaders and the people they would govern. The series aims to publish work by senior scholars as well as the best new researchers.
If you have a proposal you would like to submit for consideration, please email Rob Sorsby, Senior Commissioning Editor, at RSorsby@ashgate.com. For more information on submitting a proposal, please visit www.ashgate.com/authors.