Africa still has a long distance to walk on the road to democracy. But overall it seems as the world’s poorest and least free continent seems to be making some progress, as the following graph suggests. The Center for Systemic Peace has created a popular data set called Polity that measures democracy and autocracy in the world. The data set focuses on political institutions, and each country gets a score on several factors which results in a democracy score (from 0 to 10) and an autocracy score (from 0 to 10). A high democracy score suggests that the country is democratic whereas a high autocracy score implies an autocratic regime. By subtracting the autocracy score from the democracy score one will get a “combined Polity IV score” between -10 (least democratic) and 10 (most democratic). In Europe, a score of 10 is not uncommon. The graph therefore suggests that Africa, with an average score around 1, still has much work to do. At the same time, it seems as African countries on average have made some progress for the past two decades.
Two notes regarding the graph. First, the average score does not take into account the growing number of states, and possible missing observations. The observation for year 2010 reflects the average score for 51 states, whereas the observation for year 1960 consists of data from only 27 states. Second, no population weights are included. Consequently, Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria have the same impact on the average score.