Southern and Eastern Africa

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Over the last 20 years, we observe two very different political and economic trajectories. Whereas stable democracies and continued socioeconomic progress have made their mark in the southern Africa, states in the continent’s east have had a rougher time of it on both fronts. However, recent changes in the leadership of eastern African autocracies have opened these countries up a bit, while growth in the south’s strongest economies has slowed.

As an advocate of reform, Ethiopia’s prime minister represents a more moderate course – at least in terms of rhetoric – taken by some autocrats. Among the region’s democracies, Tanzania and Zambia are currently struggling the most in terms of political transformation.

The recent oil and gas discoveries in eastern Africa are not exclusively good news. Burundi is currently demonstrating how an authoritarian political style can harm a national economy. Overall, the economy is growing in eastern Africa. By contrast, southern Africa’s growth engines, Angola and South Africa, are sputtering.

Although some autocracies appear to be moving in the right direction, BTI findings once again demonstrate that authoritarian rule doesn’t bode well for good governance. The best governance scores are found among democracies exclusively.

On the whole, the region of Southern and Eastern Africa faces a number of challenges in the years ahead. In eastern Africa, the political outlook suggests there will be further threats to political rights and civil liberties. And while little is to be expected of the subregion’s hard-line autocracies, authoritarian rulers in Burundi, Djibouti, Rwanda and Uganda are also likely to respond with repression to any challenge to their lifelong claim to power. The situation is considerably more promising in southern Africa. With Cyril Ramaphosa instead of Jacob Zuma as president, South Africa now has the potential to renew its democratic vigor.

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