Africa’s rising middle class no ‘torch bearer’ for democracy?


Africa’s rising middle class is unlikely to be a “torch bearer” for greater democracy and social change, argues Henning Melber, Extraordinary Professor in the University of Pretoria’s Department of Political Sciences.

What is lumped together as middle classes represent at best an opaque awareness – if not about themselves (in the plural) – then at least about society and their position, aims and aspirations, he writes for Quartz. Such ambiguity explains the different political and social orientations of members of a middle class, their different roles and positions in social struggles and their difference in interests, adds Melber, editor of The Rise of Africa’s Middle Class:

The conclusions seem to suggest that there is no social force in the making, which by status and definition would indeed be the torch bearer for more democracy, participation, human rights, social equality and redistribution of wealth beyond benefiting just the group. One might call this a class interest, shared by many members of these middle classes across the continent.  RTWT

There is not a single “consolidated” (well-established) democracy in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, notes Edward Luce in his recent book ‘The Retreat of Western Liberalism’. Opposition leader Raila Odinga claimed that this week’s election in Kenya, which he lost, had been hacked by Uhuru Kenyatta’s government after the murder of Chris Msando, a senior electoral official. Neighboring Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda and South Sudan are all regressing, as is Zambia to the south, the World Weekly reports.

Afrobarometer Executive Director E. Gyimah-Boadi (right) has received the 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Peace and Social Justice in recognition of his role in advancing democracy, good governance, and economic opportunity throughout the continent.

Gyimah-Boadi, who co-founded the non-partisan research network Afrobarometer in 1999 and also serves as executive director of the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), accepted the award July 20 at the U.S. Embassy in Accra.

“Professor Gyimah-Boadi has set a lofty standard for scholarly research among the think tank community in Ghana, and across Africa,” U.S. Ambassador Robert P. Jackson said in presenting the award. “His work has helped promote democracy, good governance, and economic opportunity.

Afrobarometer and CDD are partners of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.

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