“Friday Night Lights” for African Politics scholars

At the African Studies Association annual meeting in Washington;

the African Politics Conference Group

Tonight in Washington–important African Politics event

Wednesday, January 14 from 6 – 8 pm

American University
School of International Studies

Celebrating the launch of Dr. Carl LeVan’s new book, Dictators and Democracy in African Development: The Political Economy of Good Governance in Nigeria. Click here to RSVP for this social event being hosted by the Comparative and Regional Studies Program.

Special guests include: Congressman John Conyers,
and former U.S. Ambassadors to Nigeria:
Princeton Lyman
John Campbell
Robin Sanders
Howard Jeter

What are the conditions for good governance in Africa, and why do many democracies struggle with persistent poverty? Drawing on a study of Nigeria since independence, I challenge conventional explanations for government performance such as regime type and oil wealth. Using veto players theory and original data from extensive field research, I link the political structure of the policy process to divergent outcomes across two broad categories of public policy. This generates a dilemma with important implications for African countries struggling with institutional trade-offs presented by different regimes.

Carl has been a good friend to me and the blog as a teacher of African Politics and been very kind to help me learn. Anyone interested in events in Nigeria and the upcoming elections would do well to meet Carl and read his timely new book.

Check out his homepage and Development for Security blog here.

“Is there a generation gap in Africa today?”–Washington event Thursday

Carl LeVan, a “friend of the blog” and African democracy specialist from American University, is leading an interesting roundtable at the Institute for Policy Studies tomorrow in Washington:

Young Voices and New Visions from Africa

Roundtable at the Institute for Policy Studies, 1112 – 16TH Street NW

12:30 – 2:00 on Thursday, October 11

In a public discussion with young bloggers, students, and activists from Africa, IPS Associate Fellow and American University Professor Carl LeVan will ask, is there a generation gap in Africa today? Please join us at the Institute for Policy Studies for a roundtable discussion on African diaspora democracy. Is the real significance of the so-called ‘youth bulge’ an emerging generation gap between citizens and leaders? How do young people confront negative stereotypes of Africa in the US, while also challenging the hard political realities back home?  This free, public dialogue will include:

·         Jumoke Balogun, a Nigerian-American blogger and public relations expert with the Service Employees International Union

·         Mame-Khady Diouf, a Senegalese intellectual from the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars

·         Kizito Byenkya, an Associate Fellow at the Open Society Institute and co-publisher of Compareafrique.com

·         Michael Appau, a Ghanaian student at Georgetown University

·         Estelle Bougna Fomeju, a Cameroonian student at Sciences Po in Paris

Click here for more information about IPS, or to view the event via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

New Academic Work on African “Power Sharing” from Carl LeVan at American University

I wanted to take time to commend to your reading list a forthcoming article entitled “Power Sharing and Inclusive Politics in Africa’s Uncertain Democracies” to appear in the January issue of “Governance: an International Journal of Policy, Administration and Institutions” available through Carl LeVan’s blog.

I won’t try to summarize in a blog post but let me offer some quotes that may intice you to take time to read the paper for yourself:

The power of elections to serve as a democratizing agent evaporates though when political authority can be negotiated independent of institutions. Without the possibility of political turnover, leadership selection yields neither uncertainty about outcomes nor institutional credibility for the process. Power sharing pacts in Kenya and Zimbabwe offer a cautionary tale because they serve as substitutes for political liberalization rather than engines for it. . . . .

. . . .

In other words, African cultural norms appear to embrace an expectation of democratic competition which empowers citizens. Elite bargains therefore drive a wedge between politicians and citizens. The international community exacerbates this preference gap when it provides an element of legitimacy externally that (corrupt) elections fail to bestow internally.

. . . .

. . . mandated inclusion formally weds governments to unsustainable levels of spending. Power sharing emerges as resource distribution, rather than an aggregating device for for formulating a shared policy agenda. . . .

. . . .

The international community shares a measure of complicity. It buttresses institutional capacity by praising decent elections in Ghana and Zambia and then it undermines institution building by renegotiating the rules or by relying on presumed virtues of self-proclaimed democrats. Julius Nyerere, independent Tanzania’s first president once said “Leadership cannot replace democracy.” Supporting African democracy now requires strengthening institutions with the capacity to formulate competing interests and the courage to respect the risks inherent in certain levels of competition. As donors weigh the competing foreign policy goals mentioned in the introduction, they should respect the differences between strengthening democracy and the post-9/11 predisposition for strengthening states. Post-election pacts oftern promote the latter at the expense of the former, and this distinction should not be lost in the discourse on institution building.