Persistent Authoritarianism and the Future of Democracy in Africa

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This chapter first discusses some of the established literature on the effects of natural resource abundance on democratization and then shows how an empirical analysis of the relationship supports the theoretical expectations. We also reveal an under-researched aspect of the “resource curse". On the basis of data from the forty-eight African countries over the past twenty-four years (1985-2008), we find that if such cursed states, against the odds, manage to make substantial gains in terms of democracy, they are dramatically more likely than other states to backslide and revert to authoritarianism. Natural resource richness not only tends to prevent democratization but also is a major factor in democratic backsliding and erosion of democratic gains.

Finally, we move to a multivariate analysis of democratization in Africa that is based on what the literature has found to be some of the main explanatory factors. In the end, we find that three factors stand out as the main factors systematically related to democratization: repetitive elections and significant levels of aid together push democratization and sustain democracy, while the resource curse prevents liberalization and undermines democratization.

natural resources
resource curse
Publication Type: 
Book Chapter
Democratization: Doubt, Dictatorship, Diffusion, and Development
Date Published: 
January 20, 2011
Full Citation: 
Lindberg, S. & S.Meerow. (2011) “Persistent Authoritarianism and the Future of Democracy in Africa.” Chapter 7 in Democratization: Doubt, Dictatorship, Diffusion, and Development. Baltimore, ed. Nathan Brown, John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, MD. 183-211.
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