Good Govn.-ACOA Conference

Vladimir Antwi-Danso (PhD)
Legon Centre for International Affairs (LECIAD)
University of Ghana
[email protected]/
[email protected]
at ACOA Conference, Accra, May 16, 2013
The concept of “governance” is highly contested
and indeed its definition and application are not
without problems.
Since its appropriation into the development
discourse in the late 1980s, “governance” has not
just become associated with its normative partner,
“good”, but it is also highly politicized.
“Good governance” has come to be associated with
a set of technocratic variables pertaining to the
functioning of a government.
However, the parameters for measuring good
governance are mixed and difficult to universalize.
No Water-tight Definition
World Bank Definition:
Governance – The Ruler and the Rules
Good Governance The Ruler, The Rules and
UNDP: Good governance is, among other things,
participatory, transparent and accountable. It is also
effective and equitable. And it promotes the rule of
law. Good governance ensures that political, social
and economic priorities are based on broad consensus
in society and that the voices of the poorest and the
most vulnerable are heard in decision-making over
the allocation of development resources
In basic terms, ‘Good governance’ is
characterized by participation, transparency,
accountability, rule of law, effectiveness, equity,
Contextually therefore, Good governance refers
to the management of government in a manner
that is essentially free of abuse and corruption,
and with due regard for the rule of law.
There is generally a consensus, and especially in
Africa, today that the concept of ‘democracy’ is
intrinsically linked with “governance”, which of
late has been given a normative tag ‘good’.
Contemporary understanding of governance as a
system of organizing society takes into account the
relationship to democracy, development, state
effectiveness, and the market.
From this perspective, “governance” is defined in
terms of state-society relations and internal
structures and processes within government as a
principal organ of the state.
In this sense, democracy becomes a sub-set of
Usually, universal adult suffrage and/or
constant elections, the presence of a
constitution and institutions of governance, are
the quickest pointers to democracy and good
But these mean nothing, if these parameters
have not been steeped in socio-cultural and
historical specificities, and especially if they are
not intended for some specific goals.
Democracy as means and democracy as goals
Mazrui’s four goals of democracy: First is to make
the rulers accountable and answerable for their
actions and policies. Second is to make the citizens
effective participants in choosing those rulers and in
regulating their actions. Thirdly, to make the society
as open and the economy as transparent as possible;
and fourthly to make the social order fundamentally
just and equitable to the greatest number possible.
‘Accountable rulers, actively participating citizens,
open society and social justice – those are the four
fundamental ends of democracy’
How to achieve these goals has elicited different
Democracy then becomes a kind of contractual
system with underlying moral obligations,
where the authority of the state is based on the
consent of the people, what is often noted in
the literature as the ‘social contract’.
The social contract then merely spells out the
means for achieving the goals of democracy.
This is because socio-cultural and historical
relativities shape the means for achieving the
goals of democracy
Separation of Powers
Institutions of Governance
Freedoms and rights (of
speech, association, etc)
Frequent Elections
The Presence of Democracy
Good, visionary Leadership
Prudence in Economic
Probity and accountability
Dialogue and Transparency
Participation in the process by
the socio-economic partners in
Provision of basic needs of the
Adherence to global best
‘Good governance involves the creation of the conducive
socio-economic, legal, political and institutional
environments to foster the state’s material strength; to
free people from the evils of abject poverty, preventable
diseases, ignorance, squalor and idleness; to provide the
citizenry with the voice to choose those who rule over
them, to hold those in power accountable when they do
not work for the greater good, to demand transparent
structures and to fight down socially regressive policies,
and to treat every citizen equal without regard to
gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and creed” –
The nexus between governance and
development has been explicitly identified by
the World Bank. In the 1992 report entitled
“Governance and Development”, the World
Bank set out its definition of good governance
as “the manner in which power is exercised in
the management of a country’s economic and
social resources for development”
One big issue about the system of governance and
democracy in Africa concerns its relationship to
The crucial question that always comes to mind where
there is talk about democracy and development has been
the issue whether Africa is underdeveloped because it is
primarily undemocratic or Africa is undemocratic
because it is primarily underdeveloped? Which is cause
and which is effect?
There is yet another dimension: stability. Stability is a
socio-political precondition for both sustainable
development and durable democracy.
Africa’s three greatest needs therefore, are democracy
(good governance), stability, and development, the two
being the basic canvass for crafting the contours of the
In the African setting, governance problems have
been the main bane in stability and development.
According to Julius Ihonbvere, governance in Africa
has been at best neo-patrimonial and at worst clientilist
and predatory. True, Africa has produced some of the
most grotesquely predatory leaders the world has
ever known.
Nationalist leaders who ushered Africa into
independence did not change the neo-patrimonial
pattern of colonial rule – a government-led
discriminatory economic development that avoids
the growth of local entrepreneurial capacity.
They also pursued clientilist policies that assured
continued support for their rule.
Dictatorship was the order, while in later years, mere
predation – imprudence in economic governance,
including massive corruption, profligacy, and theft –
symbolized Africa’s governance style.
It is against this background that Africa has seen lots
of civil-military cycles and a host of civil wars, some
of which are yet to abate.
Indeed, the failure of democracy and economic
development in Africa are due, in large part, to the
scramble for wealth by predator elites who have
dominated African politics since independence. They
see the state as a source of personal wealth
There is high premium on the control of the state,
which is the biggest and most easily accessible source
of wealth accumulation.
The people in power and those who seek power use
all means to attain their goal. This includes fostering
ethnic sectarianism, propaganda, and political
Competition for control of the state, whether
between the military and civilian classes or between
civilian political parties, is invariably ferocious and
generates instability.
Many of the apparently senseless civil conflicts in
Africa are due to the battle for the spoils of power.
Certainly, an underlying cause of many of the
manifestations of bad governance in Africa,
including political repression, corruption and ethnic
sectarianism, is the endeavour by the ruling classes
to be and remain part of the global elite despite their
nations’ poverty.
Improving and sustaining growth in developing
countries is a challenge not only because economic
policies to promote and sustain growth are
difficult, but more because these need to be
supported by governance capabilities, which in
African countries are correspondingly weak.
The experience of successful developers suggests
that growth-promoting governance was important
Generally, states in Africa are incapacitated as
instruments of development because ruling
classes, including people in and outside of
government, are motivated by objectives that have
little to do with the common good.
Scholars and practitioners such as Joseph Stiglitz and
Amartya Sen, have presented intricate arguments
demonstrating the causal connections between
governance and democracy on growth and
Bad governance, even if it does not lead to
instability, may create economic dislocations:
corruption, high inflationary trends, fiscal deficits,
high unemployment rates, etc., which in turn may
foster political upheavals.
Such political upheavals cause a reduction in state
capacities, especially in growth
According to one influential study, civil wars reduce
GDP per capita at an annual rate of 2.2 percent
relative to estimates of the trend likely in the absence
of conflict
The Farce of Democracy in Africa
Africa’s Dysfunctional Political Systems
The Leadership Deficit
The International Moral Decadence
Africa’s search for stability has been tortuous and with
very little success because democracy and good
governance have been elusive. Governance has at best
been neo-patrimonial and at worst predatory.
The support from the international community has
been a prescriptive one-size-fits-all model of
democracy and governance.
A key lesson however, is that governance is contextual.
While it is possible to identify concepts and principles
of governance that are universal, they make no sense
without adequate contextual reference.
In Africa the leadership deficit has not helped matters.
Most of Africa’s leaders are short-termist, profligate,
corrupt and greedy, radar-less and predatory.
Democracy is about organizing society in a way as to
allow for participation and inclusiveness; it is about
roles in the building of a just and equitable society.
As such, the contractual obligation of each is defined.
Against this background, constitutionalism and
institutionalism are inevitable to ensure equity,
probity, and accountability. These are missing in
Where in Africa some semblance of democracy and
good governance may be observed, consolidation has
been a problem and reversals have been observed in
several countries.
Until Africa finds the right keys, instability, resulting
from mis-governance, will continue to derail
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