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

Issue Date October 2008
Volume 19
Issue 4
Page Numbers 95-109
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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.