Dr. Mbaku, distinguished economist, joins in the critique of Abaka's piece:
I read Dr. Edmund Abaka's piece on democracy in Africa with great interest. However, I was greatly disturbed by his overall view of the importance of democracy to poverty alleviation and eradication in the continent. I was especially concerned about his view that democracy is not particularly important to the poor and materially deprived. On the contrary, it is this category of the continent's citizens who need democracy the most. Why? As I have argued elsewhere, the key to poverty eradication in Africa is the provision in each country (and indeed, in each African society), of laws and institutions that liberate the people and enhance their ability to engage in productive activities.Å\ To use their resource, including their talents, to create the wealth that they need. Africa has enormous endowments of natural and human resources and hence, has the potential to produce enough wealth to meet the needs of all its peoples. However, such potential cannot be translated into high levels of economic growth and development within existing institutional environments. Africans need to transition to institutional environments that (1) are characterized by the rule of law; (2) encourage indigenous entrepreneurship and the creation of wealth; (3) significantly improve the peaceful coexistence of population groups; and (4) adequately constrain state custodians (civil servants and politicians) so that they cannot engage in corruption, rent seeking, and other forms of opportunism.
The major poverty-related issue in Africa today is that each country is currently not able to create enough wealth to meet all of its obligations. Unfortunately, governments do not create wealth. However, they can provide the institutional environment within which citizens can create wealth. This is the most important challenge facing Africa in the new century: to create within each country an institutional environment that enhances the ability of all citizens to engage in productive activities. Each country must create institutions that protect property rights and allow citizens the freedom to engage in mutually beneficial trade. The first step toward building a sustainable poverty eradication program is to compact (through democratic constitution making) a constitution that safeguards economic freedom and guarantees citizens the right to participate fully and effectively in governance and the economy. History has taught us that the one-party political system has failed to provide such an enabling institutional environment for wealth creation in Africa. Please see my Institutions and Development in Africa (Africa World Press, 2004), as well as a recent piece in the Cato Journal (Vol. 23, No. 2) on "Entrenching Economic Freedom in Africa."