The African Charter and the Democratic Governance Landscape in Africa


How does the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance influence the democratic governance landscape in Africa? That is the question this Special Focus of Africa Spectrum addresses from different policy perspectives.

We looked at the trends that shaped the Charter’s implementation over the past decade and asked: Why is the ratification process of the Charter so slow? What explains the limited implementation of the Charter’s compliance mechanisms? What are the main challenges? Does the Charter even have any domestic impact? For example, how does the Charter advance inclusion and political participation across the continent?

This Open Access Special Focus is an invaluable resource for policymakers, stakeholders, civil society, as well as researchers, teachers and students. It offers a starting point for further research and discussion, as well as informing future policy-making and policy-influencing.

Measure to manage

More nuanced understandings of the past accomplishments and failures of the Charter are needed. Why? To develop more effective implementation strategies and manage them better. This Special Focus offers a solid foundation for such understandings and for necessary implementation-oriented follow-up research.

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The Charter matters

Does the Charter have any actual effect? Policy-makers, civil society and academics have been asking this question for over a decade. Based on case studies from Madagascar and Burkina Faso, the answer appears to be yes! At the least, the fierce contestation by various national and international actors shows that the Charter is seen as relevant. After all, if it’s irrelevant, why bother contesting it?

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Slow ratification and implementation, but why?

Even by the relatively slow AU ratification rates, the Charter’s ratification is very slow indeed. Why? Can we induce that states with low levels of political rights and liberties are slower to ratify? It seems a logical inference. However, the data does not bear this out, or at least not without complications. Authoritarian states do not appear significantly slower to ratify the Charter, however, they do seem more reluctant to implement compliance mechanisms.

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Women’s political participation

What is the potential of the Charter in advancing women’s political rights? We map the landscape and analyse the opportunities the Charter offers to address low levels of women’s political participation. We found that the Charter constitutes a solid framework to enhance inclusivity of African politics. But to make a difference citizens and activists must capitalize on the promises made in the Charter.

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Related publications

In 2019 the editors of this Special Issue also published a Special Issue of the Journal of African Law on the implementation of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance from a legal perspective. This Special Issue is also available in Open Access.

Read the journal of African Law Special Issue


About Africa Spectrum

Africa Spectrum is a peer reviewed, Open Access journal. It is a multi-disciplinary journal that focuses on political, economic and socio-cultural issues in Africa as well as on Africa's role within the international system.

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