Africa has recorded its least average democracy index in fifteen years according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
The 13th edition index classified 167 countries (165 countries and 2 territories) in the world to different democratic categories including hybrid regime, full democracy, flawed democracy and authoritarian government. The new ranking, the Economist notes, is a measurement of the reaction of democracies to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many African countries dropped places on the index. Mali, Togo and Burkina Faso particularly standing out as notable examples of countries that dropped on their democracy index ranking.
The report pointed out that in West Africa, Mali, measured by the decline in its score, was the worst-performing country in the 2020 Democracy Index, being downgraded from a “hybrid regime” to an “authoritarian regime”.
It added that Mali does not have full control over its territory, and rampant insecurity precipitated a coup in August 2020 by military officers aggrieved by a lack of progress against extremist insurgents. A military junta has since established a transitional government, nullifying the outcome of parliamentary elections held in March 2020, which were broadly free and fair. Because of this, Mali has dropped 11 places globally, the second-biggest fall in rank in Sub-Saharan Africa behind Togo, which fell 15 places, further down the ranks of “authoritarian regimes”. Overall it was a terrible year for democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 31 countries were downgraded, eight stagnated and only five improved their scores. Burkina Faso, which, like Mali, faces a jihadist insurgency and does not have full control of its territory, was also downgraded from a “hybrid regime” to an “authoritarian regime”.
Most African nations were tagged “authoritarian regime” with Mauritius being the only country recognised to practise full democracy.
The report further stated that “many of the nations in Sub-Saharan Africa are concentrated at the bottom of the Democracy Index rankings. The continent has only one “full democracy”—Mauritius—and six “flawed democracies”. The number of countries classed as “hybrid regimes”, at 13, is two less than in the 2019 index, as Burkina Faso and Mali slipped down the ranking to become “authoritarian regimes”, alongside 22 other African states. The overall average regional score fell to 4.16 in 2020, down from 4.26 in 2019—by far the lowest score for the continent since the index began in 2006.”
The index also revealed that terrorist groups in the Sahel region of West Africa have been a nemesis to countries in the region. While French military forces have helped in mitigating the challenge, the report noted the total willingness to surrender elements of statehood to foreign powers may be dangerous for the functioning of democracy.
Notable African democracies like Nigeria and Ghana were categorised under hybrid regime and flawed democracy respectively. South Africa was also fingered as a flawed democracy.