Good jobs and economic growth top the priorities of African citizens, but government performance on these issues lags, according to new Afrobarometer findings from across the continent.
While Botswana is widely recognized for its unbroken series of successful elections stretching back to independence in 1966, analysts have long pointed to low levels of political participation and a weak civil society as barriers on its path toward a strong democracy (Democracy Research Project, 2002; Mpabanga, 2000; Holm, Molutsi, & Somolekae, 1996; Mfundisi, 2005).
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Botswana has long been considered a leader in democratic practice, ranking among Africa’s best performers with regard to good governance, the rule of law, and respect for civil liberties.
This paper asks whether a country’s choice of electoral system affects the methods citizens use to try to hold their government accountable. A large body of literature suggests that electoral system type has an impact on voting behaviour, but little work has been done on its effects on other strategies for democratic accountability, such as contacting an elected representative and protesting. Using data from 36 African countries, we find that the type of electoral system has a significant relationship with these forms of participation.
While personal insecurity in Africa is typically associated with civil wars, crime is actually a far more common threat to the continent’s citizens. Rates of homicide, sexual assault, and property crime in Africa are often far higher than global averages. Despite such threats, many Africans do not report crimes to the police.
In this paper, we provide evidence on how the provision of social infrastructure such as reliable electricity can be leveraged to increase taxation in developing countries, particularly sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). First, using comprehensive data from the latest round of the Afrobarometer survey, we estimate, via the instrumental variable approach, the effect of access and reliability of electricity on tax compliance attitudes of citizens in 36 SSA countries.
In addition to the growing number of African states that conduct regular elections and embed democratic principles in their constitutions, evidence comes from survey-based research that most Africans support democratic values and reward governments that adhere to democratic rules (Mattes & Bratton, 2007; Bratton & Mattes, 2001). However, in many countries, citizen demand for democracy is not met by supply of democracy (Mattes & Bratton, 2016) as governments, once elected, fail to respect the norms of democratic governance (Gyimah-Boadi, 2015).
Round 7 questionnaire for Botswana.
In his final State of the Nation Address, delivered in November 2017, President Ian Khama offered a positive economic outlook for Botswana, citing a recovery to 4.3% growth in 2016 and projected growth of 4.7% and 5.3% in 2017-2018 (Khama, 2017). But while reporting some gains in employment and training programs, he was less bullish about job creation than he had been a year earlier, when he promised “job creation … increasingly linked to private sector growth, with government playing an enabling role” (Khama, 2016).
Afrobarometer Round 7
Survey in Botswana, 2017.
In any economy, balancing expenditures, revenues, and debts is a delicate and often politicized task. Competing interests and priorities buffet those tasked with planning a viable and stable national budget. For any state, taxes raised from individuals and businesses are a central plinth supporting the provision of services, the maintenance of infrastructure, the employment of civil servants, and the smooth functioning of the state.
By a 2-to-1 margin, Batswana support the freedom of the media to publish without government interference, according to the latest Afrobarometer survey.
Freedom of information is one of the yardsticks that measure the extent to which a country is transparent and willing to subject itself to public scrutiny. The role of the media in this regard is paramount as it not only keeps the population knowledgeable but also helps hold the government accountable.
Because of a perceived risk of repressive action, some survey questions are likely sensitive in more autocratic countries while less so in more democratic countries. Yet survey data on potentially sensitive topics are frequently used in comparative research despite concerns about comparability.
At a glance
Trust in Independent Electoral Commission: Batswana have lost significant trust in the IEC, down 9 percentage points since 2014.
Electronic voting machines: A majority of Batswana doubt the need for voting machines but agree with other reforms.
Political party funding by state: Citizens demand public political party funding.
Viability of political opposition: A majority now see the opposition coalition as presenting an alternative vision and plan to the ruling party.
A majority of Batswana are not convinced of the benefits of switching to electronic voting machines for the 2019 elections and say the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has not sufficiently consulted the public on the issue, a new Afrobarometer survey shows.
A majority of Batswana say opposition parties offer a viable alternative vision and plan to the long-time ruling Botswana Democratic Party, according to the 2017 Afrobarometer survey.
The 2019 elections are widely seen as an important test for the opposition, which has been gaining strength under its Umbrella for Democratic Change coalition.
State funding of political parties in Botswana remains a contested issue and after 50 years of independence, a law providing for the funding of parties has not been enacted. This is in spite of the countless calls from stakeholders including civil society and opposition parties to provide for such a law to fund political parties in order to level electoral competition and enhance democracy.
As Botswana approaches 2019 elections that will determine President Ian Khama’s successor and challenge the half-century rule of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) a bill requiring the use of electronic voting machines has sparked increasing controversy.
In most African countries, substantial barriers still inhibit citizens’ access to justice, a new Afrobarometer analysis finds.
Based on a special access-to-justice module in national surveys in 36 African countries, the sobering report identifies long delays, high costs, corruption, the complexity of legal processes, and a lack of legal counsel as major obstacles for citizens seeking legal remedies.
Dozens of African countries regularly conduct national and local elections.
Each election picks a winner.
But beyond winners and losers, the quality of each election also shapes how people feel about their political system in general.
Free and fair elections make people want more democracy.
Elections tainted by repression, fraud, or violence have the opposite effect.
So how good are Africa’s elections?
Afrobarometer surveyed more than 53,000 citizens in 36 countries, in every region of Africa.
A decade-long upward trend in African citizens’ demand for democracy has ended with a downward turn since 2012, according to a new Afrobarometer analysis.
But despite warning signs of a democratic recession, public demand for democracy remains higher than a decade ago, and most Africans still say they want more democracy than they’re actually getting – a good basis for future democratic gains.
One important factor: the quality of elections. African countries with high-quality elections are more likely to show increases in popular demand for democracy.
- On average across 36 African countries, China is the second-most-popular model for national development (cited by 24% of respondents), trailing only the United States of America (30%). About one in 10 respondents prefer their former colonial power (13%) or South Africa (11%) as a model.
- Across 36 African countries, fewer than half of respondents say they trust their MPs (48%) and local councillors (46%) “somewhat” or “a lot.” Among 12 public institutions and leaders, MPs and local councillors rank eighth and ninth in public trust.
Only half of Africans trust their national electoral commissions, and many fear violence and unfair practices during election campaigns, according to a new report by Afrobarometer.
- Across 36 countries in 2014/2015, Africans express more trust in informal institutions such as religious and traditional leaders (72% and 61% respectively) than in the formal executive agencies of the state (on average 54%).
- That said, people find certain executive agencies, such as the national army and the state presidency, to be quite trustworthy (64% and 57% respectively), especially when compared with legislative and electoral institutions (47% and 44% respectively).
Political and civic engagement by African youth is declining and is particularly weak among young women, according to new Afrobarometer survey findings.
The findings, which are being released on International Youth Day 2016 (August 12), show African youth are less likely than their elders to engage in a variety of political and civic activities, including voting, attending community meetings, joining others to raise an issue, and contacting leaders. Young women express significantly less interest in public affairs than young men.