Africa’s Inconvenient Truth

‘Transparency and accountability? We can get around to those later.’


Last month, The Times Africa Correspondent Jerome Starkey used the occasion of Robert Mugabe’s 92nd birthday to shine a brief but penetrating light on two regrettable patterns: the cyclical nature of the African ‘strongman’ who ‘swaps his bush fatigue for a smart suit’ and proceeds to replace one tyranny with another under the guise of liberation; and the open arms of the foreign donors who will invariably meet him – keen for peace, and prosperity, whatever the particulars, and thrilled to find the new leader (‘such a charming man’) is ‘someone they can do business with’.


In 2013, around 6.3 million children under five – five children a minute – died from poverty related diseases, 2.9 million of them in the WHO African Region. Prosperity doesn’t trickle down from corrupt coffers. The lifeblood of democracy – the rule of law, representative government, strong institutions, and a thriving private sector – cannot be an afterthought on the path to progress, as the seminal Why Nations Fail demonstrates. As Starkey observes, ‘Africa’s march towards democracy has stalled’. Accountable aid and long-term nation building is the only way forward.


  • Learn lessons from Kofi Annan about the three pillars of a healthy and sustainable democracy: peace and security; inclusive development; rule of law and respect for human rights.

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