It is too early to draw a conclusion about the effect that the recent political upheavals will bring to the African continent. However, these counties have already fallen into chaos, and their social and economic development will seriously suffer. The development of the entirety of Africa may also be affected.
This is all the more alarming in light of the fact that in the first decade of the new century, Africa was embracing a golden period of development. The continent’s economic growth rate was a sterling 6.1 percent in 2010 – a demonstration of Africa’s resiliency following the international financial crisis.
Africa has become a popular investment spot and a place full of opportunities and hopes around the world. In addition to favorable economic policies and the promotion of integration in many countries, political stability is another reason for the rapid development of Africa.
Facing a series of democratization movements once again, many intellectuals in Africa have begun to think about a series of questions, such as “What kind of democracy does Africa need?” and “How should we build this democracy?”
Africans, who have experienced the hardships of democratization as promoted by the West, need democracy appropriate for them, instead of a model thrust upon them by a foreign power.
Perhaps most importantly, Africa needs stability in order to continue its golden period of development. Africans cherish the opportunity to develop just like any other people, and have tasted many hardships.
Western-style democracy is a “sweet poison” the West prescribes for developing countries. The temptation of such a political system lies in the causality links with the prosperity and stability of a society, which as a result deceives the countries longing for development yet still struggling.
Though there are more than 160 multi-party nations globally, only a few, like the US, Japan and most European countries, have achieved stability and wealth, and most of the rest that carry Western-style multi-party democracy suffer from poverty and war.
Now that North Africa is shifting through political unrest, it is unpredictable whether future democratically-elected governments will be the ones the West wishes for, and it is equally unpredictable whether they can stabilize and bring prosperity to the area.
It would be counterproductive for developing countries to pursue democracy before reaching a sufficient level of development. Western countries are clear and familiar with the relationship between democracy and development.
But they still continue to blindly export their democratic model to Africa, a process which reflects their deep fears of losing control of the area as a result of the rapid African development.
Over the years, the West has been playing double standards and has engaged in “selective blindness” on democracy issues, alternating between embracing and severely criticizing authoritarian dictatorships in Africa. However, in the current situation, the West is caught between a rock and hard place regarding how to respond to these developments.
Throughout history, there have been always episodes of interference in other countries’ crises and upheavals from the West under the banner of promoting democracy. There certainly is a lesson for African countries and other developing countries to learn, which is to keep alert against the “democracy” lies of the West.
Do not fall into other’s traps, at the risk of sacrificing your own future.
The author is a commentator on international affairs.