Sub-Saharan Africa holds the promise of a bright future buoyed by economic growth – but prosperity will only be achieved if the good governance practices supported by Westminster Foundation for Democracy are widely adopted.
Achieving the sustainable development goals is not guaranteed as Africa’s countries face a period of rapid change. The spread of social media and an active press reflect citizens’ growing engagement in issues like the sharing of revenues from natural resources. Protecting, promoting and representing the rights of marginalised groups is becoming increasingly important. To be successful, governments have to respond to citizens’ needs.
But the African political context remains concerning. Dominant leaders and political parties are closing the political space. State and democratic institutions are frequently weak and the opposition often has limited room for manoeuvre. Insecurity, instability and conflict are common. Corruption, often linked to political patronage, party financing and rent-seeking from extractive industries, is driving up the cost of politics.
Westminster Foundation for Democracy believes strong parliaments and political parties are fundamental ingredients in tackling all these challenges. Doing so can help ensure all parts of society benefit, strengthening social cohesion and reinforce positive trends like acceptance of election outcomes and women’s participation in politics.
Our long track record in both East and West Africa, stretching back to WFD’s establishment in 1992, gives us the relationships and access which are essential to successful programmes. Political parties across Africa have built their representative, institutional and civic functions in part thanks to the WFD-funded sister-party support provided by their British counterparts. WFD’s parliamentary programmes has helped citizens by building on our access to parliaments’ leading figures and to UK expertise. Africa’s countries face common challenges but WFD’s detailed context analysis work means interventions are tailored to achieve the biggest impact. Parliaments have asked WFD to return with more programmes across Africa as a result.
In the three years to 2018 we are rolling out a new wave of programmes taking forwards democracy-strengthening work in countries which have previously benefited from our work. Supporting the devolution process is a large part of our work in countries like Kenya, Mozambique and Democratic Republic of Congo. Regional alliances like the East African Green Federation and the Liberal Alliance Network continue to benefit from our support. And in Ghana we are rolling out our new integrated programme concept, which utilises our unique combination of parliamentary and political party expertise to help Ghana’s parties function more effectively within the context of the parliament in Accra.
Across the continent, improving the performance of parliaments and parties can support policy, accountability, representation and citizen participation. Strengthening democracy is how African countries can lay those foundations, and Westminster Foundation for Democracy stands ready to support this work.