Africa Day: Appraising the continent over the past decade

Nigeria’s elections in 2019 saw a peaceful transfer of power, demonstrating the continent’s commitment to democratic processes.


heyOver the past decade, Africa has seen significant changes, from advances and regress in democracy to elections to the struggles of its youth. From the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to reforms and regressions in the health and education sectors, Africa’s progress deserves both recognition and critical analysis.

This article provides a high level performance assessment in these key areas over the past 10 years.

Democracy and elections:

Many African countries have taken commendable steps in strengthening democracy and holding credible elections.

According to Ibrahim Index of African GovernanceThe overall governance score improved by an average of +1.7 points across the continent between 2010 and 2020.

Several countries saw peaceful transitions of power, such as Ghana in 2016 and Nigeria in 2015 and 2019, demonstrating the continent’s commitment to democratic processes.

However, there were notable reports of violent voter intimidation and suppression during the 2023 elections in Nigeria, in which opposition parties Contested election Election results and re-run called.

In Zambia, the 2011 and 2016 elections demonstrated the country’s commitment to democratic principles. The 2011 elections marked the first peaceful transfer of power from one political party to another since the country’s independence in 1964.

The change demonstrated Zambia’s commitment to democratic norms and set a positive example for other countries in the region. After a decade of misrule by the Patriotic Front, however, the 2021 general elections will test the resilience of the country’s democratic institutions.

The campaign period was marred by incidents of violence by police and restrictions on freedom of expression, raising concerns about the overall credibility of the electoral process.

These challenges highlight the need for sustained efforts to strengthen democratic institutions, ensure a level playing field for all candidates, and promote inclusive political dialogue to address grievances.

However, despite these challenges, Hakainde Hichilema regained power and Zambia is moving towards democratic consolidation and broad-based development. recent afrobarometer survey data Indicates citizens having a positive perception about the country’s level of democracy.

Zimbabwe’s ruling party (since 1980), in contrast, committed significant human rights violations during the 2018 elections, and there are ominous signs of doing so again ahead of this year’s elections.

Given the extent to which the ruling party has infiltrated and co-opted the opposition, and tightened the noose On voluntary private organizations and the media, it is questionable whether the country should consider holding elections in 2023.

Challenges such as corruption, unequal access to resources and political polarization remain across much of the African continent.

The graph below shows the relationship between two governance variables – government effectiveness and citizens’ ability to hold their governments to account – and per capita income.

On average, better governance drives increased wealth. Scores on both axes are scaled from -2.5 to 2.5. Note that some countries in sub-Saharan Africa have scores above 1.

The African Union’s African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which has been ratified by many countries since 2012, includes promoting the rule of law, respect for human rights and “holding democratic elections to institutionalize legitimate authority”. There are extensive provisions for representative government as well as democratic transitions of government”.

Furthermore, it binds signatories to best practices in the management of elections, and crucially acknowledges that unconstitutional changes of government (coup d’état) are a “threat to stability, peace, security and development”.

Likewise the Charter stresses the importance of implementing the President term limit To strengthen democracy.

plight of youth

African youth, who comprise a significant portion of the continent’s population, face multi-faceted challenges. While some progress has been made in increasing access to education and reducing extreme poverty, the unemployment rate among youth remains worryingly high.

survey data from afrobarometer indicates that unemployment tops the list of the most important problems young Africans want their governments to address.

According to world BankWeighted average youth (ages 15 to 24) unemployment as a percentage of the total labor force between 2010 and 2020 averaged 12.5%. Inadequate job opportunities, inadequate skill development and limited access to finance hinder their full participation in economic development. premature deindustrialization It is also reducing the opportunities for unskilled labor to be absorbed into the economy.


The launch of the AfCFTA in 2021 marked a historic milestone for Africa’s economic integration. By creating a single market and enabling the free movement of goods, services and people, the AfCFTA has the potential to drive economic growth through promoting intra-African trade and attracting foreign investment.

FCFTA Covers 1.3 billion people with a combined GDP of $3.4 trillion and a projected income growth of $450 million by 2025, which would make it the largest free trade zone globally.

However, successful implementation of the AfCFTA requires addressing infrastructure gaps and reducing tariff and non-tariff trade barriers.

For example, inadequate transport infrastructure and border delays continue to hinder trade flows. To unlock the full benefits of this ambitious initiative, African governments must commit to comprehensive reforms, including harmonizing regulations and developing efficient transport networks.


Africa’s healthcare sector has improved significantly over the past decade, yet substantial challenges remain.

Some countries’ responses to COVID-19 demonstrated resilience, collaboration and progress in health infrastructure. afrobarometer findings point out that in countries such as Sierra Leone, most citizens strongly believe that their government has done a good job of responding to the pandemic and that the country’s experience with Ebola outbreaks has made it better equipped to deal with COVID-19. prepared in a manner.

According to World Health OrganizationBetween 2010 and 2020, average life expectancy in Africa increased by 3.9 years.

However, insufficient funding, limited access to quality healthcare, and the burden of communicable diseases, such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis, continue to hinder progress.

For example, in 2020, about 90% of the world’s malaria cases were reported in Africa. African governments, with support from international partners, must prioritize healthcare investments, strengthen primary health care systems and increase access to essential medicines and vaccines, ensuring no one is left behind.


Education is vital for sustainable development and empowering citizens. Progress has been made in increasing primary school enrollment rates, improving gender equality, and expanding access to higher education.

According to UNESCOThe net enrollment rate in primary education in sub-Saharan Africa increased from 78.8% in 2010 to 83.8% in 2019.

However, challenges such as poor quality education, high dropout rates and limited access to vocational and technical training remain.

To build a knowledgeable and skilled workforce, African governments must prioritize investment in education, enhance teacher training programs and adapt curricula to meet the demands of the changing job market. Bridging the digital divide is also important, as access to technology and digital literacy are becoming increasingly essential to education.

Educational strategies need to be coupled with sensible industrialization strategies that provide linkages between education and employment opportunities.

While progress has been made, it is important to acknowledge that much more needs to be done to ensure inclusive and sustainable growth across the continent.

African governments, international partners, civil society and the private sector must collaborate and scale up their efforts to address existing barriers.

By investing in strong institutions driven by good governance, empowering youth, supporting economic integration, improving healthcare and prioritizing education, Africa can pave the way for a brighter future, unlock its full potential and Can change the lives of its people.

Africa’s projected population growth – 2.5 billion by 2050 according to United Nations projections – driven by falling mortality and high fertility, presents a significant opportunity for the global economy.

The dynamism and potential of Africa’s youth will be central to driving future economic growth and productivity, on which the future of the global economy will depend. depends more, The next decade holds immense potential for Africa, and with the right policies and collective action, the continent can realize this potential.

Chrissy Dube is Head of Governance Insights and Analytics at Good Governance Africa.

McBride is project leader for the Data for Governance Alliance at the Mapani Justice and Reconciliation Institute.

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