Democratic Rankings in Sub-Saharan Africa

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Pictured: By Arturo de Frias Marques (Own work)

Malawi A cheetah in Malawi is Rosemary Laurent. In an article by the Clinton Foundation, Rosemary was used as an example of one of the members of the Takondwa Club. The Takondwa Club is part of a Clinton Development Initiative called the Anchor Farm Project.   The Anchor Farm Project “provides training, fertilizer, and seeds to farmers in Malawi, including more than 11,000 women.” Through clubs such as the Takonwa Club, the members gain a support network to finish projects successfully according to the Clinton Foundation.   Rosemary is mother of six and is active in the club. The Clinton Foundation reported in their article called, Five Stories of Successful Women and Inspiring Mothers that Laurent said,

“Women should not solely rely on their husbands for their livelihood. They should join farmer groups and learn a lot from these groups, access credit facilities and engage in farming business. That way a woman and her family progress faster.”

She is just one cheetah helping her country move towards the protection of women empowerment, reducing poverty and agricultural and economic sustainability.  

Pictured: By Pete Vowles of the DFID

Republic of Congo Because malaria impacts the Republic of Congo so drastically, I decided to read about individuals that have helped the country move forward in the fight against this deadly disease.   On the NetsforLife website, I read about Elize. After spending time and money helped her children who had contracted malaria on multiple occasions, she took it upon herself “by cleaning up standing pools of water and other breeding grounds for the malaria mosquito. She also received an insecticide-treated net to protect her children,” according to NetsforLife.  She is helping her country change the way malaria impacts them. She is taking preventative measures and taking a lead. By doing this, she becomes an example for her family, friends and community and also becomes a monument to the valuable work that women can do. By my understanding of cheetahs, they bring about change to their communities by acts of leadership like this example.

In Chapter 3 of Emerging Africa, the author talks extensively about how democracies are critiqued and ranked. I explored several sites to see how Malawi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo ranked and found that the Congo was cited as one of the countries that stepped backwards on the scale of emerging democracies. One way they judge the democracies in order is by the amount of competitiveness the elections garnish. A few others are the amount and scale of basic civil liberties in the country, civic institutions that act as watchdogs to the government and the rights to free speech, assembly and press are among the others. Here are a few of my findings:

On the Freedom House website, they judge the democracies by a “rights-based index.” This measures both civil and political rights in the country. After the scores between these rights are averaged, Freedom House comes to a “Freedom Status” that is used to rank the countries by democratic freedom.

  • The Freedom House ranked the Congo “not free,” a 6.0 on a scale from 1-7 (7 = WORST). They gave the country 6 on both the scales for civil liberties and political rights.
    • Some reasons for this ranking:
      • Persecution of journalists and human rights avocates
      • Membership in the transparency initiative, EITI, was suspended
      • Lack of preparation for elections
      • Questionable legitimacy of results
    • The Freedom House ranked Malawi, “partly free” a 3.5 on a scale from 1-7 (7 = WORST). They gave the country 4 on the scale for civil liberties and 3 for political rights.
      • Some reasons for this ranking:
        • Cashgate Scandal in Oct. 2014
        • Crisis in legitimacy of political leader, Banda, as Malawi’s Vice President
        • Intimidating the opposition during registration to vote
        • Media bias towards the government

On the Polity IV Index website, they judge democracies by the institutions that are within the country. This is where they focus on facts and numbers of competitive elections; watchdogs to the government; and length of a term in office are among the factors enabling Polity IV to rank countries.

  • The Polity IV Index ranked the Congo 23/25 on their fragility index
    • Reasons for this ranking:
      • Very low economic effectiveness rating
      • Low political and social effectiveness
      • Low social, political and security legitimacy
      • Average security effectiveness
    • The Polity IV Index ranked Malawi 16/25 on their fragility index
      • Reasons for this ranking:
        • Very low economic effectiveness
        • Low economic and social effectiveness
        • Average political legitimacy and social effectiveness
        • Fairly high security and political legitimacy
        • High security effectiveness

In Chapter 10 of The End of Poverty, Sachs talked about how the Western intervention in Africa’s politics have contributed to the corruption we use as a scapegoat for their economic instability. Sachs says that while corruption doesn’t help economic growth, it isn’t the main cause for the economic turmoil that the continent has seen in the last century.   The author compares the levels of corruption in Africa to countries in Asia and then measures its rate of growth. They are not correlated. Sachs says the three primary challenges for economic development in Africa are: “disease, drought and distance from world markets.”   The distance from world markets impacts the ability to trade and sell goods. On a macro level, the countries did not have the sufficient navigable water ways for trade or the telecommunications to succeed in the global market but on a micro level, the villages did not live in close enough proximity to set up markets and specialize in particular products and agricultural fields.   Disease and drought are two natural causes for economic distraught. Having an infrastructure like a health care system and city water systems are some ways that developed countries fight these economic development obstacles but that countries in Africa did not have access to as Sachs writes in his book.

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