Africa, a continent of immense potential and diversity, has been plagued by issues of bad governance for decades. While progress has been made in some regions, challenges persist. In this article, we delve into the causes and effects of bad governance in Africa and explore potential solutions to address these issues.
To put into a clear perspective, there is the inability to manage the resources of the people in a country and consequently, the country herself. A Government is the machinery by which law and order is maintained in all affairs of human existence. Thus, the absence of good governance is simply utter mismanagement characterised by arbitrary leadership, lack of regard for the law, institutional failures and so on. In its parts, Africa (represented by countries) has been bedeviled by leaders who are no longer in tune with the purpose of forming a government and good governance.
Bad governance emanates from various factors and this article will briefly elaborate on the trend of bad governance in Africa by highlighting the causes of bad governance, the effects and recommend possible solutions.
Causes of bad Governance In Africa
With the multiplicity of laws and institutions with local and international influence, African States should have the wherewithal to be the pacesetter for fair and balanced governance. However the contrary is the reality. The following are the possible root causes of bad governance in Africa:
1. Absence of Accountability: The relationship between the government and the people governed rests on accountability on the part of those who were elected by the people to serve the nation in any capacity. When the leaders no longer care about the opinions of the people in respect of decision making, there is a breakdown of that cordial relationship.
This results into making of arbitrary decisions, taking questionable actions which are more often than not contrary to the interests of the populace. This has been the common trend of most African Leaders especially in the political realm.
2. Corruption: This has undoubtedly been the biggest problem facing African countries. But how can one describe corruption? There are many variations of corruption. As far as governance is concerned, corruption is when a leader uses his position to place himself and chosen individuals at a higher advantage than others without merit.
It is when a political head misuses his office to ascribe benefits to himself. When there is corruption in a system no matter how insignificant, it will gradually destroy the integrity of the government. Corruption is easily noticed when law enforcement agencies are paid off by a person just to avoid prosecution. Also when a sitting judge with evident facts to sanction a government official, takes the opposite side of Justice.
Corruption is seen when a government leader illicitly flows government revenue into a private account. These are just few examples of what corruption entails. It is rather surprising that developing countries which are more in number in the African continent are filled with corrupt leaders. Thus, there is no proper governance where the government is corrupt with lust for power, wealth or fame.
3. Disregard of the Rule of Law: On the 6th of December 2019, a prominent Nigerian journalist and activist, Omoyele Sowore was arrested during his trial before a court of law by some security operatives who were identified as DSS.
This is an instance of the degrading system of democracy and another layer of bad governance. It will be marked in history as the day that the regard for the rule of law, human rights, the Constitution and the Judiciary were threatened by the same people who were to uphold and defend them.
When a person in authority begins to act outside the scope of his powers, there is the certainty that what follows next will be the trend of horrendous administration. African governments especially in some countries have little or no regards for the law, court decisions and fundamental human rights. The issue of corruption can be attributed to the election of non credible leaders into different offices. This brings us to the next points.
4. A Failed Democracy: Africa has suffered the brunt of Western colonization in the past. So when the era of self Independence was ushered in, most States were faced with the challenge of building a government where the people and the elected governors are accountable to one another. Unfortunately, the situation we encounter in African States is nothing more than a failing Democracy.
There is hardly free and fair elections or the government reforms electoral laws to suppress competition during elections. At the end, elections and appointments are smeared with tribalism and nepotism.
Government is no longer of the people, by the people or for the people. Now leaders who bear important responsibilities only think more of how any action benefits themselves.
5. Incompetence in Leadership: One of the factors behind bad governance in African States is the unappealing sight of the political sector filled with nonchalant leaders. Politics here should be addressed in a wider and more general view.
A good political structure is one that is built upon the regard for persons qualified to lead to be afforded the right opportunity to justify the qualification. In simpler words, if a person is entitled to appointment or to run for an election, the person should not be restricted because of gender, ethnic or religious background and other insignificant considerations.
Nowadays, the picture of the government is drawn by the actions of most leaders who do not even have the right capacity or capability to make quality decisions. And this can be easily traced to the fact that key positions in a country are given to those who share the same religion, tribe, gender or other background with the appointer. This ultimately birthes weak political structure and bad governance.
6. Marginalization: So much has been discussed about discrimination in respect of persons and it is imperative to mention that discrimination can be on a large scale. When a group of persons within a country are segregated in certain privileges that other groups have, the end result will be an ineffective government.
It may be marginalisation of a tier, arm or institution of government or any people with ethnic or religious ties. By this, the government will not be able to act transparently and indiscriminately which will result to poor and unfair management of the resources leading to brutal rebuttals from the group concerned.
Effects of bad Governance: Africa as a case study
Let us examine the ramifications of bad governance in light of current realities in Africa:
1. Poor Economic Growth: Studies have shown and proven that where there is bad management of resources and bad governance of people in general, the economy of any country will sink. The instances are numerous. It is the duty of government to provide for the peace, security and welfare of its people.
When those in authority divert the objective to selfish interests, there will be mismanagement of resources which will cause trusted investors to withdraw their investments leading to scarcity of options to make up for the losses. This is why Africa has been relegated to the background. The supposed giant of Africa, Nigeria, is still a good example. Gone are the times when the dollar rate was equivalent to Nigeria’s currency rate in Naira.
It tells a lot about how far leadership has failed the country. Currently, there are massive unemployment rates, increased poverty and the like which was not the case many years ago. Not even the admired natural resources are worth heavy investment because the bad reputation of the country has defeated the reason why there should be.
2. Breakdown of Civilization: Civilization is what Government was established to create in form. The result of untrustworthy leaders who are not capable or accountable to say the least makes the people unwilling to continue with the leadership.
As earlier mentioned, the Government-Citizens relationship is one built on trust. The people come together to divest their self independent powers to certain individuals who can further progress and protect their interests.
If those certain individuals are not living up to expectations, the people or citizens have the right to protest against the government. This has been and will continue to be the case even in stable countries. The citizens will no longer find it necessary to bend to the laws of the land if those same laws are not above the leaders.
People express their opinions aggressively by destroying government properties, blocking traffic ways, even as far as releasing people from prisons, resulting to absence of law and order. Where good leadership breaks down, Civilization breaks down as well.
3. Weak Political /Governmental Structures: In the eyes of the people within and outside the country, there is an apparent fragile political structure due to the incompetence of leaders. It is not a good image of a country that it cannot produce capable individuals who will enhance the will of the Government by promoting social and economic development.
The fact is that a country is not only known or acknowledged for the resources it has but by the competence to manage the resources. It is tragic to notice that when there is a conversation of most respected nations in the world, hardly will anyone in these contemporary times bring up any African State. This is once again due to the fact that there is total lack of confidence from the citizens and non stakeholders around the globe that an African State is capable of managing resources let alone earn a place in world recognition.
Bad governance has led to internal conflicts where there are usually uprises from within the country clamouring for secession; a testament of what the political structure looks like. Note that this also applies to institutions established by the government in terms of their inability to rightly act because of the weakness of the creating entity.
Possible solutions to bad Governance in Africa
Having highlighted the reasons behind bad governance and the consequences, this article will attempt to recommend possible solutions which should also be considered feasible as well.
1. The Government should be more accountable to the people. Accountability is one aspect of governance that if lost, can cause a breakdown of law and order. The leaders, whether appointed or elected, should represent the interests of the entire nation in all their functions and not only when it benefits their religion, tribe and so on.
2. There should be increased transparency among the Government and its institutions. When the administrative heads and Governmental leaders are more transparent in their actions, that will automatically be a proactive step to stop corrupt practices in their dealings. On this note, the government should put in stringent measures to proscribe corruption from anyone put in the position of leadership.
3. Institutions for building competent leaders should be established and if already established, should be increasingly financed. As everyone knows, bad leadership equals bad governance. This is not to say that there have been no or there are no good leaders in Africa.
The issue is whether this will be a seasonal experience. Institutions should be created solely for the purpose of training men and women to be useful, industrious and competent leaders in any sector that has their interests. There are some that have been established for that purpose but lack the necessary financial boost. They should be financed and monitored by the Government at regular basis.
4. Parliamentary measures should be enforced to put an end to corruption among governmental leaders. The issue of corruption is arguably the most pressing concern in Africa. This is why all hands should be on deck to fight against it in order to protect the future of democracy.
The Legislature, being the law making arm of government, should enact laws that not only penalises it but ensure that no one will be an exception. There are laws in existence but are silent in certain matters which gives political governors loopholes to escape. That should be addressed sooner than later. Good governance rests on the rule of law over the governed and the Government.
5. There should be regard for the fundamental rights of citizens particularly the right against discrimination. All genders, ethnic, religious and tribal personalities should be considered when making decisions. They should also be afforded opportunity to work in key positions in government from the local level to the federal level as long as they are qualified.
6. Lastly, there should be no tolerance for incompetent leadership in any office in Government. This statement stands true: Show me your leader and I will tell you what your country will be. A good leader is a competent leader.
Especially when it comes to appointment, there should be no allowance for favoritism on any angle in respect of a person who is not qualified for the position. Not even ethical standards should be the sole basis of appointment. A competent leader should be holistic because governance is not just one sided.
There is no question that good governance furthers social and economic progress within a country. Having examined Africa as a case study, it is bizzare to think that things will go back to normal in a few years. However it is a hopeful wish that the government of the day will understand the reason for its creation and act appropriately.
Bad governance ruins the capacity of any people, exposes a country to civil unrest, diminishes the reality of democracy amongst other things. The opposite is true when the leaders are capable enough, competent, transparent and accountable. By taking the right steps to ensure change, Africa can once again be the citadel of realized dreams and opportunities that the entire world will have no choice but to acknowledge.