In Africa, Free Speech Means Better Governance – Afrobarometer

A recent research shows that the more freely Africans can speak their minds, the more confident they are in the performance of their governments.

According to a report released by a research project Afrobarometer in Nairobi, Kenya, about 50 per cent of 51,000 people surveyed in 34 African countries say they are “completely free” to say what they think and 25 per cent say they are “somewhat free”.


Malawi tops the ranking with 79 per cent of people there saying they have freedom of speech. It is followed by Tanzania with 77 per cent, Liberia with 75 per cent, Ghana with 74, and Tunisia with 73.
At the bottom side of the list is Sudan where 19 per cent of people surveyed say they can speak freely. Sudan is followed by Togo and Cote d’Ivoire both with 21 percent, Zimbabwe with 22 percent and Swaziland with 24 percent.

Nigeria as well as the most of Africa’s biggest nations, falls somewhere in the middle, with 34 per cent.

Besides, in a news release issued with the report, Afrobarometer said that in the counties where people feel they can speak freely also they also report that their leaders are more trustworthy and less corrupt than do their peers in the states where freedom of speech is more restricted.

“Freedom of expression is also consistently linked to better ratings of government performance, especially with respect to government effectiveness in fighting corruption, but also in other sectors such as maintaining roads and managing the economy.”

The study further reveals that fifty-seven percent of Africans support “an unfettered right to publish”. This support is highest in East Africa, where 72 per cent want press freedom, and lowest in West Africa, where the figure is 52 per cent.

Afrobarometer adds that citizens rank their media highly for exposing government mistakes and corruption.

The report was written by Professor Winnie Mitullah, director of the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi, and Paul Kamau, senior research fellow at the same institute.

Afrobarometer is a research project coordinated by independent institutions in Ghana, Benin, Kenya and South Africa, with partners in 31 other countries. It has been surveying public opinion in 12 countries since 1999, but has grown to include 35 countries for the period 2011 to 2013.


How will you assess your freedom of speech on a scale from 0 (no freedom of speech) to 10 (I can speak absolutely freely)?

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