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Blogging under Behemoth: Does Communications Technology Make African Politics More Competitive?

Blogging under Behemoth: Does Communications Technology Make African Politics More Competitive?
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Author(s): Sean Clark (Dalhousie University, Canada)
Copyright: 2014
Pages: 24
Source title: Impacts of the Knowledge Society on Economic and Social Growth in Africa
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Lloyd G. Adu Amoah (Ashesi University, Ghana & Strategy3, Ghana)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5844-8.ch006

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Abstract

The solution to the fragility and instability that accompanied Africa's newly independent states was widely seen as the adoption of strong, unrivalled political leadership. Politics needed to be uncompetitive; there was to be none of the jockeying for power between rival parties witnessed in older, more well-established democracies. This path, however, soon proved disastrous. Time and time again, the absence of a viable political opposition allowed leaders to run roughshod over the public good. Real incomes fell as a tiny kleptocratic elite enriched themselves at the national expense. Since 1989, however, Africa has witnessed a remarkable liberalization of political competition. Opposition parties have in most places been granted newfound freedom to politick, and have on occasion won elections outright. Some argue this is at least in part the product of the diffusion of communications technology. They contend such devices facilitate political activism and organization, fostering political competition in its wake. To test this hypothesis, continent-wide data on the spread of landline telephones, wireless handsets, and Internet connections has been marshalled, then contrasted against the level of political competition in Africa throughout the post-colonial period. The findings in this chapter suggest that while communications technology may serve as a boon to the cause of political competition immediately following first introduction, its long-term effects are likely to be limited.

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