West Africa: The silent revolution

This brief report deals with West Africa, which has been plagued by political instability and economic mismanagement. Recent events indicate that the region is undergoing a profound transition, but the process has not been uniform. This report discusses the political situation in West Africa in terms of countries where democratic reforms are attempted from within (Nigeria, Guinea and Ghana), countries where reform is externally induced (Benin and Ivory Coast), already democratic states (Senegal, the Gambia and Liberia), one-party states (Sierra Leone, Mali, Niger and Togo), and the military regimes of Mauritania and Burkina Faso. The article concludes that West Africa’s chances to turn its back on the past depend on democracy in Nigeria, and, to a lesser extent, Togo. It appears unlikely that unrest in the region will subside until the conditions which have created it are overcome. Economic recovery will have to be self-generated. If the international community decides to write off the debts of these countries, it is unlikely to do so for undemocratic regimes. Closer economic integration might assist with economic progress. The prospects for the region seem bleak although not entirely hopeless.