If democracy will develop in Africa, we have to get more people included along the chain, the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, has said.
Explaining that democracy evolved from the Latin word ‘demos’, which meant self-rule, he said: “At the heart of democracy is inclusive government – people making decisions about their own well-being.”
Speaking as the special guest at the launch of a book titled: Democracy Works. Rewiring Politics to Africa’s Advantage, in Accra yesterday, Dr Bawumia stated that “at the end of the day, we need to make sure we include everybody in this development process.”
“If you are developing a country or democratic institutions which are so important; to survive, inclusiveness must be there and that is why you have to educate the people. You have to make sure that the people have the right to information, so that they can participate effectively in the democratic process,” he urged.
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Praising the four authors of the 266-page book, who include a former President of Nigeria, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, the Vice-President said the book was very rich and cited a lot of practical lessons on how Africa could initiate development policy prescriptions to maximise the benefits from democracy.
A section of the participants at the launch
The other authors are the President of the American Jewish University, Mr Jeffrey Herbst; a former Finance Minister of Zimbabwe, Mr Tendai Biti, and the Head of the Brenthurst Foundation, Dr Greg Mills.
Dr Bawumia said the book also challenged the orthodoxy that “democracy alone has what it takes to enhance economic progress” and argued that “democracy is not destined, neither is it cast in stone.”
He said from his assessment of the book, there was also “the sense that if democracy has to be inclusive, then to sustain democracy in Africa, we have to make sure that we try to get people more included as we proceed with the democratic spirit.
“Anytime people feel excluded, there is a threat to the survival of democracy and this is why we need to pay attention to education, health, agriculture, financial inclusion, giving identity to the right to information, to macroeconomic stability and to jobs. These are the sort of things that will produce more inclusive democratic development,” he posited.
Gen. Obasanjo, for his part, said “there must always be dividends of democracy for all citizens of a country, irrespective of position, affiliation, tribe or religion.”
Saying he appreciated the American definition of democracy as government of the people, by the people and for the people, he noted that although democracy was the first recognised system of governance for most African countries, there were no two countries where the democratic system was the same.
He said the premise of the book was that the economic challenges facing Africa were massive and needed an effective governance system to deal with them.
Dr Mills said the book demanded an end to business as usual in terms of development decisions and politics, among others, which was why it was satisfying that Ghana had embarked on a journey beyond aid.
Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, a former President of Nigeria, speaking at the book launch in Accra
He explained that Ghana was chosen for the launch of the book because it had always been seen as the standard bearer for Africa, adding that the book illustrated the complexity of the democratic process and the making of different choices.
Dr Mills said empirical evidence showed that democracy was the best choice for Africa because it was better equipped to address the sort of challenges confronting the continent today “because it allows for peaceful change in leadership, the production of new ideas, checks and balances in the system, civil society and the media, respects human rights and values and reduces vulnerability and economic volatility”.
He, however, cautioned that democracy did not guarantee success but made it more likely to achieve, adding that an Afro Barometer poll report indicated that about two-thirds of Africans preferred democracy to other forms of governance.