Recent events in the United States have shown how even the most established democracies have much to learn about democracy. But my guest Winston Mano does not like to talk about democracy. He prefers to talk about democratization because the process never ends. Our conversation focuses on Africa with many topics discussed including social media, decolonization, and, of course, democracy. It concludes with a complex question, “What can America learn about democracy from Africa?”
When I ask this question, it is not intended to embarrass Americans, but to look for insights from abroad. Winston believes humility is critical in a successful democracy. Different parts of the globe have different lessons so there is always something to learn from others.
But for those who believe democratization is a linear process, my question won’t make any sense at all. America is widely viewed as farther along this process than any African nation. But Winston points out how technologies develop out of necessity. Some cultures “leapfrog” steps to develop new technologies outside the traditional sequence. Africa has even done this before. For example, Africa never experienced a Bronze Age. It went immediately into an Iron Age.
So, can Africa leapfrog America at this crossroads of democratization? I have no idea. But the current crisis of democracy requires a transformation in how it is both imagined and approached. So, the solutions may come from unlikely sources.
Winston Mano is a reader at the University of Westminster. He is also the principal editor of the Journal of African Media Studies. Alongside Martin Ndella, he edited the recent two volume publication Social Media and Elections in Africa.
Today’s conversation begins on the topic of social media in Africa. This is where I thought the conversation would remain. But recent events made it impossible to avoid a wider conversation on democracy.
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