Values File

This claim is as seductive as it is misguided even if

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Unformatted text preview: se. DEMOCRITIZATION WILL HELP WITH AFRICA'S DEVELOPMENT Claude Ake, director of the Center for Advanced Social Science at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Rethinking African Democracy, THE GLOBAL RESURGENCE OF AFRICAN DEMOCRACY, 1996, pg. 66 A third argument ties the issue of democratization to economic development, asserting that the quest for democracy must be considered in the context of Africa's most pressing needs, especially emancipation from "ignorance, poverty, and disease." The pursuit of democracy will not, it is argued, feed the hungry or heal the sick. Nor will it give shelter to the homeless. People must be educated and fed before they can appreciate democracy, for there is no choice in ignorance and there are no possibilities for self-fulfillment in extreme poverty. This claim is as seductive as it is misguided. Even if it were true that democracy is competitive with development, it does not follow that people must be more concerned with improving nutrition than casting votes, or more concerned with health than with political participation. The primary issue is not whether it is more important to eat well than to vote, but who is entitled to decide which is more important. Once this is understood, the argument that democracy must be sacrificed to development collapses into the arbitrary insistence that we ought to decide for the peasants of Botswana and Burkina Faso whether they should prefer better health or the right to vote. In any case, Africa's failed development experience suggests that postponing democracy does not promote development; during the past decades of authoritarianism, Africa's standard of living has been falling steadily, and its share of world trade and industrial output has been declining. Poverty in both relative and absolute terms is worsening so rapidly that sub-Saharan Africa's share of the developing world's poor will have grown from 16 percent in 1985 to 30 percent by the end of the century. The average grow...
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