Press release March 9, 2023
NEW REPORT: Freedom in Africa Improved Slightly in 2022 but Challenges Persist
Several African countries held free and fair elections to their citizens’ benefit. But corruption, the economic effects of COVID-19, and poor governance remain significant obstacles.
Freedom in Africa slightly advanced in 2022 with 11 countries seeing improvements in their political rights and civil liberties and 9 experiencing declines, according to a new report released today by Freedom House.
The report—Freedom in the World 2023: Marking 50 Years in the Struggle for Democracy—finds that changes in leadership were a major tension point in Africa over the past year. Chronic problems such as corruption and poor governance, combined with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, have left African states more vulnerable to irregular seizures of power by military or executive officials. Despite these threats, however, several countries held free and fair elections that ushered in new governments and reinforced democratic institutions.
Report findings in Africa include:
- The largest one-year score decline in the region, and in the world, took place in Burkina Faso, which lost 23 points and fell from Partly Free to Not Free status as it suffered two successive coups.
- The largest one-year score improvement in the region was seen in Kenya, which is rated Partly Free and gained 4 points after holding its most transparent presidential election ever.
- Lesotho’s overall status improved from Partly Free to Free due to the formation of a new government following competitive parliamentary elections, though the country continued to face serious security and governance challenges.
- Cabo Verde (receiving a total score of 92 on Freedom in the World’s 100-point scale), Mauritius (85), and São Tomé and Príncipe (84) have the highest aggregate scores in the region. All are rated Free.
- South Sudan (1) has the worst aggregate score in the region, followed by Eritrea (3). Both are designated as Not Free.
- Half of the region’s people live in countries considered Not Free, while only 7 percent live in Free countries.
Beyond Africa, the report finds that global freedom declined for a 17th consecutive year in 2022 as 35 countries suffered deterioration in their political rights and civil liberties. A total of 34 countries made improvements during the year, however, meaning the gap between the numbers of countries that improved and declined was the narrowest it has ever been since the negative pattern began. The report suggests that the struggle for democracy may be approaching a turning point, and offers recommendations on how democratic governments and societies should work together to roll back authoritarian gains.
The new report includes scores and narrative assessments on political rights and civil liberties for 195 countries and 15 territories around the globe. This report, the 50th annual edition, covers developments in 2022 and provides a brief analysis of long-term trends. The report’s methodology is derived in large measure from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948.
The report identifies a number of steps that democratic governments can take to protect and expand political rights and civil liberties. The recommendations include:
- Help Ukraine win. Democratic governments must maintain unwavering support for Ukraine and its people, whose cause is crucial to the future of freedom. This should include providing the weapons and technical and security assistance necessary to help ensure Ukrainian success on the battlefield.
- Stop enabling authoritarians. Democracies must address corruption and kleptocracy head on by closing the many financial loopholes that allow authoritarian rulers to hide or launder stolen assets in democratic settings.
- Be clear and unapologetic about the virtues of democracy and tireless in efforts to uphold and defend it. Democratic states should make the protection of freedom and democracy a fundamental component of all international policy efforts—including in foreign, security, and economic affairs—and every diplomatic engagement. Human rights concerns should be raised in meetings with foreign counterparts at all levels.
- Dramatically ramp up support for human rights defenders and for countries and regions at critical junctures. Democratic governments should help human rights defenders and civil society groups remain active in their home countries whenever possible, and provide technical assistance and training. When democracy advocates come under threat, their foreign partners should provide medical, legal, and psychosocial support as needed.
View the report’s complete recommendations here. Click here to read additional report press releases: Global, Americas, Asia-Pacific, Eurasia, Europe, Middle East.
Freedom House is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to create a world where all are free. We inform the world about threats to freedom, mobilize global action, and support democracy’s defenders.