“And you thought choosing your Spring Course Schedule was difficult…”

Here is a picture of the ballot that faced Iraqis as they arrived at the polls in late January, 2005. That’s correct; each of those is a different political party, 111 in all!


And what about the results? Here was the structure of the parliament following the January 2005 Parliamentary elections: Continue reading ““And you thought choosing your Spring Course Schedule was difficult…””

The Failed States Index by the Fund for Peace

Here is another great resource compiled by the Fund for Peace. The Failed States Index tracks the stability of, at last count (2007) 177 states around the world on the basis of twelve indicators, grouped into social, economic and political categories. Some of the specific indicators are demographic pressures, a legacy of vengeance, uneven economic development and the rise of factionalized elites. Once again, there is a wealth of information and data at the Fund for Peace website, which goes beyond the Failed States Index. Here is a map based on data from 2007:


Continue reading “The Failed States Index by the Fund for Peace”

Transparency International Corruption Index

Here’s another excellent source of information from an NGO, Transparency International, that investigates, writes about, and collects data dealing with corruption. This NGO puts out an annual Transparency Index, listing countries around the world with respect to the level of corruption in each.

What is Transparency International?

Transparency International, the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption, brings people together in a powerful worldwide coalition to end the devastating impact of corruption on men, women and children around the world.
TI’s mission is to create change towards a world free of corruption.

Transparency International challenges the inevitability of corruption, and offers hope to its victims. Since its founding in 1993, TI has played a lead role in improving the lives of millions around the world by building momentum for the anti-corruption movement. TI raises awareness and diminishes apathy and tolerance of corruption, and devises and implements practical actions to address it.

Here is a link to the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), and Bribe Payers Index (BPI), among others. There is a wealth of information on this site related to corruption.

Afrobarometer–Key Findings

The very first Afrobarometer Briefing Paper–here’s the link to a PDF version–(April 2002) presents some key findings regarding the views of African residents in about a dozen African countries on phenomena such as democracy, freedom, governance, etc. Here are a few I found interesting:

  • Corruption is seen as pervasive

Whereas about one-half of survey respondents think that corruption among public officials is common (52 percent), about one-third think it is rare (35 percent). Perceived corruption is highest in Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe, and lowest in Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia. Generally, however, people perceive more corruption than they themselves have personally experienced. Such perceptions, and the social inequalities they reflect, tend to corrode satisfaction with economic reform policies and with democracy.

In class, I use the module on economic and political development as an opportunity to ask students if they have ever tried to bribe an official for any reason whatsoever. The answer amongst my mostly suburban-bred American students is a unanimous “no.” Generally only I (and sometimes a foreign student) raise our hands to answer in the affirmative. I try to impress upon the students that bribery and corruption is a normal part of life in most non-Western countries. In most citizens’ dealings with official (read: governmental and quasi-governmental) institutions, bribing at least one official is absolutely necessary to get anything done.

Continue reading “Afrobarometer–Key Findings”

Informal Institutions and Democracy in Africa

Using results from the Afrobarometer surveys, Michael Bratton has written an article in a recent issue of Journal of Democracy (you must have access to JoD articles to read this) on the relationship between formal and informal institutions and democracy in a sample of African countries.

This is a blurb from the article about Afrobarometer: “[Bratton] is also founder and director of the Afrobarometer, a collaborative international survey-research project that measures public opinion regarding democracy, markets, and civil society in eighteen African countries.”

Africa Rising?

One of the recurring themes of global political development is the inability of sub-Saharan countries to “get things right.” From corruption to anemic economic growth, to political instability and civil war, sub-Saharan Africa suffers to a degree unrivaled by other regions of the world. A recent article in the Boston Globe reports on some apparent successes in this part of the world.

Here are some snippets:

“The state of Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world,” Tony Blair, then prime minister of England, famously said in 2001. “But if the world, as a community, focused on it, we could heal it. And if we don’t, that scar will become deeper and angrier still.”

“But it’s not the whole story. By many standards, Africa is doing better than it has in decades. The number of democratically elected governments has risen sharply in the past decade, and the number of violent conflicts has dropped. African economies, and African businesses, are starting to show impressive results, and not just by the diminished standards the rest of the world reserves for its poorest continent. The runaway inflation that crippled African economies for decades is on the ebb, and foreign investment is rising. Last month, the World Bank reported that average GDP growth in Sub-Saharan Africa has averaged 5.4 percent over the last decade, better than the United States, with some countries poised for dramatic expansion.

“For the first time in a long time, you have the potential that a handful of countries could break from the pack and become leopards, cheetahs, or whatever the African equivalent of an Asian Tiger would be,” says John Page, the World Bank’s chief Africa economist, referring to the nickname given East Asian nations like Taiwan and South Korea because of their double-digit growth in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.”

It all suggests that much of Africa, after decades of sclerosis and strife, may have turned a corner. Economists believe that several African countries have made the sort of fundamental changes in governance and economic management that could buttress them against swings in commodity prices and the other global economic shocks that in the past have been so devastating.

“The turnaround has been pretty stunning, and there’s something deeper going on than just a surge in oil and commodity prices,” says Edward Miguel, an associate professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley. “You’re seeing more responsible governments, more democracies, and better economic policies.”