Poverty, Inequality, and Democracy: Growth Without Prosperity in Africa

Issue Date October 2008
Volume 19
Issue 4
Page Numbers 95-109
file Print
arrow-down-thin Download from Project MUSE
external View Citation

There is a generally recognized link between governance, economic performance, and popular welfare in Africa. Authoritarian governments have generally failed to promote economic development or improvements in livelihoods. The trend toward democratization that swept the African continent in the early 1990s kindled hopes that political reform could lead to economic regeneration. However, a crucial paradox of growth without prosperity surrounds Africa’s new democracies. While political liberalization bolsters economic policy reform and enhances some of the requisites for economic performance, these improvements do not seem to foster significant reductions in poverty or inequality. This paradox presents a basic challenge for Africa’s new democracies. The paradox arises from the nature of patronage systems and institutions in countries undergoing political reform.

About the Author

Peter M. Lewis is Dr. Warren Weinstein Associate Professor of African Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), where he also serves as director of the African Studies Program. Most recently, he is coeditor (with John W. Harbeson) of Coping with Crisis in African States (2016).

View all work by Peter M. Lewis