2019 Democracy and Human Rights Analysis

Democracy in African Governance: Seeing and Doing it Differently

Göran Hydén, Marina Buch Kristensen

The purpose of this report is to examine why democratization in Africa is a special challenge and how democracy aid may be recast in a world where national sovereignty is on the rise and partners claim greater ownership of the external resources they receive.

The author of the report focuses on four countries – Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – and analyses the differences between the countries in governance and democratic development, what shapes them, and how they affect the design and practices of aid.

The report was presented during the seminar Demokratibistånd till Afrika – hur kan det förändras?


  • Governance varies between countries in Africa. Democracy in Africa cannot be analysed without being placed in a broader context that takes this into account.
  • The local culture and history affect the different types of regimes. Clientelist forms of governance with competition for power have proven to be the most successful in providing civil liberties and political rights.
  • By taking local context and ownership into consideration, it should be possible to change democracy aid in several important respects, such as the role of the donor, aid management and the time horizon of support.


  • Donors should place money in investment funds to foster and support local initiatives. The challenge funds that Sweden supports can be further augmented.
  • Building democracy takes time. African countries should not be pressured into comprehensive and immediate democratisation. The donors must take account of variations in autonomy and local agency

Göran Hydén is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in Political Science at the University of Florida, USA. He has devoted his entire professional life to researching and spreading knowledge about Africa, and has taught at universities in Kenya and Tanzania.