Democracy is not a bottle of Coca-Cola: Western-style elections have cost Africa billions of dollars but what have they achieved? Time to be bold and reconsider.

Author:Muzawazi, Kwume

One of the icons of African independence, Julius Nyerere, famously said "Democracy is not a bottle of Coca-Cola which you can import". He was warning against the stampede to embrace Western notions of the government of the people by the people, which began in the late 1950s and continues now. Africa has never paused a moment to ask what the best political system is for Africa, in accordance with our history, culture and particular situations.

It's been 60 years of Africa's experiment with the Western doctrine of what is democracy, and that is long enough to warrant an evaluation. Sadly, those 60 years have proved that there is no relationship whatsoever between what the West says is democracy and African development.

To run their elections, African countries are increasingly importing very expensive technology they call the BVR system (Biometric Voter Registration) from China--a country that does not itself hold elections.

We have witnessed America's military adventurism in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan on the grounds of what former US President George W. Bush termed "the spread of freedom and democracy". The result? These three countries are now humanitarian crisis centres with no light at the end of the tunnel.

In any given year, there are more elections happening in Africa than in Europe. Elections in Africa are more expensive than elsewhere in the world per capita; they take more people to organise and are a logistical nightmare. Even more interestingly, there are countries such as China, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar whose people have never heard of elections but enjoy the highest quality of life and development.

The cold facts on the ground are so worrying that Africa needs to urgently organise a summit of summits on the scale of the 1945 Pan-African Congress held in Manchester to answer the historic question: why is it that the more elections we have organised since 1957, the more we have got poorer as a continent? Yes it's a provocative question, simply because the maths is questionable.

Astonishing cost

Now to the cost. In 2017, the Kenyan Ministry of Finance reported that Kenya had spent $650m on that year's disputed presidential elections. In the 61 years between 1957 and 2018, Africa has held approximately 220 presidential elections, 370 parliamentary elections and 130 referendums. The...

To continue reading