Professor E. Gyimah-Boadi: Executive Director of Afrobarometer. One of the co-founders of Afrobarometer, Professor Gyimah-Boadi is also the Executive Director of the Ghana Center for Democratic Development. He is professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science at the University of Ghana, Legon.
Reason for hope, impetus for action: citizens’ perceptions on ACDEG priorities
Among the many ways to measure progress towards a vision as rich and ambitious as the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG), the perceptions of average citizens must be counted as one of the most important.
Despite warning signs of a democratic recession, public support for democracy is stronger than a decade ago, and most Africans say they want more democracy than they’re actually getting.
Many Africans are skeptical of the management and quality of elections in their countries.
Based on Afrobarometer data, Transparency International estimates that nearly 75 million Africans paid a bribe in the past year – some to escape punishment by the police or courts, but many to get access to basic services.
Access to justice
Weak public trust, high perceptions of corruption, and difficulties encountered when engaging with the courts make access to justice a challenge in many African countries.
Freedom of association
Eight in 10 Africans feel at least “somewhat free” to join any political organisation they want.
Amid growing concerns about restrictions on media freedom, Africans overwhelmingly support an independent media that holds government accountable.
Contrary to common portrayals, Africans express high degrees of tolerance for people from different ethnic groups (91%), people of different religions (87%), immigrants (81%), and people living with HIV/AIDS (68%).
If weakening demand for democracy, low trust in electoral commissions, declining youth engagement, and perceptions of increasing corruption are cause for concern, they are also calls to action, fired by hopeful findings: Africans do want more democracy than they are getting. Most want high-quality elections and a free news media. Most want a strong fight against corruption, and think they can do their part.
Giving voice to ordinary citizens, public-opinion survey findings can point us toward problems and opportunities. Highlights that scratch the surface push us to dig deeper into millions of data points illuminating differences and trends by country and region, gender, age group, and other factors – all ready to be mined by those working for a more democratic, equitable, and inclusive Africa.
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