West and Central Africa

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The region of West and Central Africa has seen better years. As in the past, Central Africa continues to be characterized by violent conflicts, oil-exporting economies, and authoritarian rule. In West Africa, many democratic achievements have come under threat from the impact of controversial reforms, particularly in the area of electoral law. In terms of infection numbers, the region has weathered COVID-19 fairly well so far. However, the long-term social and economic consequences of the pandemic are expected to be severe.

The region, which had still been classified as “poor but democratic” in the BTI 2020, has lost its democratic momentum. Autocracies now make up the majority of the 22 countries in West and Central Africa. In West Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Nigeria became autocracies due to insufficiently free and fair elections, and the Malian government was overthrown in a military coup. Central Africa’s wealth in natural resources and the resulting export revenues make it easier for some of the continent’s longest-serving presidents to consolidate their autocratic rule.

The state of economic transformation is very limited or rudimentary in 17 of the region’s 22 countries. Due to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the oil-exporting countries, in particular, saw their GDP fall in 2020. The social consequences of the pandemic are severe, as only a few countries have social security systems.

In addition to structural challenges, autocratic tendencies across the region also undermine good governance. Indeed, most policymaking efforts are severely compromised by the autocrats’ desire to maintain power. Added to this are the burdens of violent conflict and terrorism.

How the countries of West and Central Africa continue to develop will be determined above all by how they deal with three major challenges. The first is bridging the gap between the younger generation and the aging political elites. The second challenge is to contain the violence and terror in the Sahel region, and the third is to successfully deal with the social and economic consequences of the pandemic.

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Matthias Basedau
Regional Coordinator West and Central Africa
    Charlotte Heyl
    Regional Coordinator West and Central Africa

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