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Popular demands for social justice in Africa, as in the rest of the world, are often embedded  in calls for better governance (Gray & Khan, 2010), which often include transparency and  accountability. Przeworski, Stokes, and Manin (1999) define political accountability as the  capacity of citizens to exert control over their leaders through institutional sanctions,  especially through elections. Lindberg’s (2009) attempt to simplify the concept of political  accountability resonates with Ohamadike (2022), who defines political accountability as the  link between citizens (the principal) and government or public officials (the agents) tasked  with safeguarding the rights and aspirations of the populace. This link forms a social contract  upon which the agents (government or public officials) can be held accountable for their  actions, with the principal having the privilege to impose sanctions on the agents, which can  include removing them from their positions of power.  

Political transparency and accountability complement one another, but popular support for  these ideals varies widely at the country level in Africa. Both ideals can be considered  “matching parts” in governance (Hood, 2010). Transparency entails making government  information accessible to the public, which gives citizens the knowledge needed to hold  officials accountable. Accountability, on the other hand, requires that public officials justify  their actions and decisions, which can be done by adhering to the citizens’ demands  (Armah-Attoh, Ampratwum, & Paller, 2014). Addressing citizens’ demands is important for  government to remain popular and relevant to the people.  

Although experts have long connected transparency and accountability with strong  government performance, citizens vary in how much they prioritise or even support these  concepts. One factor that might impact how citizens form these attitudes is economic well being. This question – the impact of economic performance on attitudes about  accountability and transparency – is underexplored.  

We argue that lower levels of economic development are associated with higher citizen  support for accountability and transparency. Due to the pervasive poor economic outlook in  most African societies, much of the citizenry is gruelingly aware of deep-seated government  corruption and poor government responsiveness to citizen needs, which they often feel  powerless to tackle (Franz, 2012). Citizens of less-prosperous economies might perceive  transparent and accountable governance as a means to address urgent economic issues,  allowing them to get more from their government. Conversely, economic prosperity can  incentivise individuals to back a government that seems to be achieving results  independently, diminishing citizens’ insistence on changes, such as government  transparency and accountability. This perspective emerges from trust in the government’s  competence, which could cultivate complacency regarding the necessity of transparency  and accountability. To test this hypothesis, we conduct a multilevel logistic regression analysis  using data from the Afrobarometer Round 8 survey. We find that economic factors  significantly influence attitudes. Citizenship in a prosperous African country is associated with  lower support for transparent and accountable governance, whereas living in a less affluent  country is associated with heightened prioritisation. 

This paper is structured as follows: Part 2 discusses the research methodology, covering the  data, data sources, and analytical techniques. In the results section, findings from a sample  of 48,084 Africans are presented. Concluding discussions follow in Part 4. 

Nnaemeka Ohamadike

Nnaemeka Ohamadike is a data analyst and researcher in the Governance Insights and Analytics  programme at Good Governance Africa.

Emmanuel Chukwuebuka Orakwe

Emmanuel Chukwuebuka Orakwe is a lecturer at Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike,  Nigeria.