Economic growth and development

Authored by: Peter M. Lewis

Routledge Handbook of Democratization in Africa

Print publication date:  July  2019
Online publication date:  July  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138081246
eBook ISBN: 9781315112978
Adobe ISBN:


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In the decades following independence, the majority of African states were ruled by military or single-party regimes. By the 1980s, a severe economic downturn affected much of the continent. Both conceptually and empirically, authoritarian rule and poor development outcomes seemed to be closely interwoven. During the 1990s, political liberalization and reform swept the continent, leading to new questions about the role of democracy in economic development. A lineage of democratic theory and comparative political economy stressed the positive interplay of democracy and markets. In the following decade, accelerating growth contributed to a narrative of “Africa Rising” through democratization and economic reform. However, a contrary perspective criticized the assumptions of a “Washington Consensus” around the virtuous cycle of economic and political liberalism. As economic growth in Africa has slowed after 2014, the relationship between governance and development is being reassessed. While a growing set of empirical studies has affirmed strong associations between democratic quality and economic growth, several competitive democracies have faltered, and a small set of authoritarian developmental states have charted strategies of economic transition. The quality of state institutions, commitments of leadership, and political coalitions substantially influence development outcomes, and these elements of governance are not necessarily dependent on regime type. Although democracy seems a more reliable path toward economic resilience, current discussions of development encompass alternative pathways to economic change.

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