Skip to main content

Developments in African Governance since the Cold War: Beyond Cassandra and Pollyanna

  • Hazel McFerson

Twenty years ago, most African countries seemed permanently mired in malgovernance and repression. The end of the Cold War triggered two contrasting developments: governance improvement associated with the end of superpower competition, and deterioration caused by the resurgence of suppressed ethnic conflicts. Based on a variety of evidence, three subperiods can be identified: fragile governance progress from 1989 to 1995; backsliding associated largely with civil conflict between 1996 and 2002; and resumption of progress in recent years. These broad trends mask major intercountry differences—with Ghana the best-known case of improvement and Zimbabwe the worst case of reversal. Overall, African governance is now somewhat better than it was two decades ago. However, the progress is fragile, and improvements in administrative and economic governance have lagged behind those on the political front. Consolidating democracy will thus require institutional capacity building through a combination of appropriate civil society efforts and constructive external pressure to strengthen accountability.


Il y a vingt ans, la plupart des pays africains semblaient enfouis pour de bon sous les problèmes de mauvaise gestion et de répression. La fin de la guerre froide a déclenché deux impulsions contradictoires: une amélioration de la gestion gouvernementale associée à la fin de la compétition des superpouvoirs, et une détérioration causée par la résurgence des conflits ethniques. Trois périodes peuvent être identifiées si l'on se base sur les sources disponibles: Le progrès gouvernemental fragile entre 1989 et 1995; la régression due largement aux conflits civils entre 1996 et 2002; et le retour du progrès dans les dernières années. Ces tendances générates masquent des disparités majeures entre certains pays, comme le Ghana, cas modèle d'amélioration, et le Zimbabwe, à l'autre extrême des cas de régression. De façon générale, la gestion gouvernementale en Afrique est meilleure qu'il y a vingt ans. Cependant, le progrès effectué reste fragile, et les améliorations au niveau administratif et économique restent à désirer comparé aux améliorations du domaine politique. La consolidation de la démocratic va ainsi nécessiter un mouvement institutionnel demandant à la fois des efforts de la société civile et une pression constructive provenant de l'extérieur pour renforcer le niveau de déontologie gouvernementale.

Hide All
Achebe, Chinua. 2000 (1983). The Trouble with Nigeria. Oxford: Heinemann.
Afrobarometer. 2009. Neither Consolidating nor Fully Democratic: The Evolution of African Political Regimes, 1999–2008, Briefing Paper No. 67, May.
Ake, Claude, 1996. Democracy and Development in Africa. Washington, D.C.: Brookings.
Alence, Rod. 2004. “Political Institutions and Developmental Governance in SubSaharan Africa.” Journal of Modern African Studies 42 (2): 163–87.
Bhagwati, Jagdish. 2010. “Why International Assistance Does Not Alleviate Poverty.” Foreign Affairs 3: 13.
Balogun, M. J. 1997. “Enduring Clientelism, Governance Reform and Leadership Capacity.” Journal of Contemporary African Studies 15: 237–60.
Boas, Morten, 1998. “Governance as Multilateral Development Banks Policy: The Cases of the African Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank.” The European Journal of Development Research 10 (2): 117–34.
Chiwandamira, Lyndlin, and Makaula, Monica, eds. 2006. Perspectives on African Governance. Johannesburg: Institute for Democracy in South Africa.
De Speville, Bertrand. 2008. Hong Kong Policy Initiatives against Corruption. London: Development Centre of Organisation and Development, January.
De Witte, Ludo. 2001 (1999). The Assassination of Lumumba. London: Verso Publishers.
Ferguson, James. 2006. Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
French, Howard W. 2009. “Lost in Uganda.” New York Times, August 2.
Glenny, Misha. 2008. McMafia: A Journey through the Global Criminal Underworld. New York: Random House.
Green, Matthew. 2008. “Unbroken Line.” Financial Times, November 5.
Gyimah-Boadi, E. 2009. “Another Step Forward for Ghana.” Journal of Democracy 20 (2): 138–52.
Huntington, Samuel P. 1991. “The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century.” Journal of Democracy 2 (2): 1234.
Kaufmann, Daniel. 2009. “Aid Effectiveness and Governance: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” Development Outreach, World Bank Institute, February.
Kaufmann, Daniel, and Kraay, Aart. 2008a. “Governance Indicators: Where Are We, Where Should We Be Going?Policy Research Working Papers no. 4370. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.
Kaufmann, Daniel, Kraay, Aart, and Mastruzzi, Massimo. 2008b. “Governance Matters VII: Aggregate and Individual Governance Indicators, 1996–2007.” Policy Research Working Papers no. 4654: Washington, D.C.: World Bank.
Kurtz, Marcus J., and Shrank, Andrew. 2007. “Growth and Governance: Models, Measures, and Mechanisms .” Journal of Politics 69 (2): 538–54.
Kurtz, Marcus J., and Shrank, Andrew 2007. “The Worldwide Governance Indicators: Answering the Critics.” Washington, D.C.: World Bank Institute, February.
Lewis, Peter. 2008. “Growth without Prosperity in Africa.” Journal of Democracy 18 (4): 95109.
Linz, Juan J., and Stepan, Alfred C.. 1996. “Toward Consolidated Democracies.” Journal of Democracy 7 (2): 1433.
McFerson, Hazel. 1992. “Democracy and Development in Africa.” Journal of Peace Research 29 (3): 253–74.
McFerson, Hazel 2009a. “Hypercorruption in Resource-Rich African Countries.” Third World Quarterly 30 (8): 1529–48.
McFerson, Hazel 2009b. “Measuring African Governance: By Attributes or By Results?Journal of Developing Societies 55 (2): 253–74.
Moyo, Dambisa. 2009. Dead Aid. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.
Nairn, Moises. 2009. “The Devil's Excrement: Can Oil-Rich Countries Avoid the Resource Curse?Foreign Policy, August 24.
Nairn, Moises. 2007. “What Is a Gongo?Foreign Policy, May/June.
Nairn, Moises. 2006. Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats Are Hijacking the Global Economy. New York: Anchor Books.
Pretorius, Joelien. 2008. African Politics: Beyond the Third Wave of Democratisation. Capetown: Juta & Co.
Rakner, Lisa, and van de Walle, Nicolas, 2009. “Opposition Weakness in Africa.” Journal of Democracy 20 (3): 108–21.
Rotberg, Robert I. 2009. “Governance and Leadership in Africa: Measures, Methods and ResultsJournal of International Affairs 62 (2): 113–26.
Rotberg, Robert I., and Gisselquist, Rachel. 2008. Strengthening African Governance: Ibrahim Index of African Governance: Results and Rankings. Cambridge, Mass: World Peace Foundation
Schedler, Andreas. 1998. “What Is Democratic Consolidation?Journal of Democracy 9 (2): 91107.
Sen, Amartya K. 1981. Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

African Studies Review
  • ISSN: 0002-0206
  • EISSN: 1555-2462
  • URL: /core/journals/african-studies-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 25 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 126 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 18th August 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.