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2 Which One Leads the Other: Economic Development or Political Liberty? A Debate

At the time I was preparing this manuscript, a related fruitful debate was actively forming under the platform of AFEA@googlegroups, which is a professional listserve for African economists and finance professors to interact on research and policy issues affecting Africans and African societies. Hosted by the African Finance and Economics Association, AFEA, current debates and discussions on the subject of African economic development and democracy are shown in Appendices 1 and 2. It is as well noteworthy that the impetus for the exchange actually began in Uganda, on the choice between economic and political rights, legitimately buoyed by professors at the East African apex research and teaching citadel, Makerere University.

While each reader will find a treasure of primary data and spins to the debate in Appendices 1 and 2, the following is offered as representative of that exercise. Please join me in examining their [the positions of those who wrote in] consistencies.

1) Is democracy more endogenous to economic prosperity? Oh Yes.

“The history of democracy shows that economic development is a necessary precondition for democracy to gain traction. So, if the citizens are poor and not empowered, as the situation is, they cannot freely exercise their democratic rights,” (Dr. Julius Kiiza).

2) Does economic foundation provide the basis for political character in a state?

Oh Yes.

“The economic foundation of any society provides the roots for the political character of the state. Ideally, the definition of the political character of the state is a mandate given to the people through their choice of leaders and how such leaders exercise their power” (Prof. Mahmood Mamdani)

3) Are economic rights short-term preferences and political rights long-run pref-

erences? Oh Yes.

I also love the long-run emphasis of political rights in this statement. “In a society like ours where voters are 'hungry', they can sell their sovereignty for food since it is their immediate need—not the long-term goals that are always reflected in the [political parties' election] manifestos,” says Kabumba.

4) Is democracy more endogenous to productive structures (evidence from the East Asian Miracle)? Oh Yes.

“Representative democracy came from a society that had gone through

industrialization” (Prof. Mulindwa Rutanga).

5) Do African cultures matter (evidence from Somaliland bicameral (sic0 democracy)? Oh Yes

“Rutanga argues that popular democracy is the most plausible way through

which African countries could have established a democracy in tandem with its cultural context”

6) .. ... .The list is long.

Africa in poverty is not ripe for short-term liberal democracy. Whether advocates of the Washington Consensus like it or not, it is an economic fact that the Chinese model is a reference for short-run or initial development. For unknown reasons, some Africans are more willing to protect the Washington consensus than Dr. Jim Yong Kim himself (president of the World Bank) who has strongly advocated the need for multipolar solutions. The era when the Washington consensus was considered 'the holy economic gospel' has past (AFEA. Please, see Appendix 1 below)

Clearly, even current thinking regarding growth and development among African experts remains in the context of whether growth leads to development and on the choice of which one should Africans focus their attention under current state of economic and political transformation—economic or political rights. It is noted that this debates essentially posits economic rights and political rights [democracy] as incompatible, at the least, under ongoing transformation of African societies.

 
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