What Does Africa Teach Us About Imported Democracy?

By Toby Tunwase

There are many wrong ideas people have about Africa. Even right in this decade, some people still think the entire continent is a single country. Or worse still, that everyone there speaks the same language. The sad part is that some books and movies do not help people understand this beautiful continent.

Image credit: xliveafrica.com

Although Africa has its fair share of problems, there are truths we have to tell ourselves. Africa consists of the most diverse set of people in the world. From wonderful cultural heritage to beautiful landscapes, Africa boasts of nature’s blessing.

However, most of her countries do not seem to have gotten it right in terms of governance. Many of them suffer from corruption and forms of impunity.

After the colonial period, all the countries operated democracies like their imperial masters. Yet, a few years into their independence, they strolled straight into autocracy and military rule. The continent presents a perfect case of imported democracy. Particularly, the system of government was strange to many indigenes, and they couldn’t practice it effectively.

Image credit: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

What then can we learn from Africa’s experiment of democracy? First, Africa’s experience shows that changing people’s way of life can be disastrous. As such, cultures should be allowed to modify themselves at the pace of those who hold them.

Also, many laws of African countries are verbatim copies of the laws of bigger nations. Most often than not, these laws don’t reflect the African reality. We then see that imported laws or systems won’t work. They ultimately only expose the people to hardship. African leaders have much work to do. But it all starts from looking inwards and thinking up ways to rule the people through systems and laws they can relate to easily.