This week the BBC ran an article on Cape Verde (Cape Verde: African good news story) — a piece guest edited by Mo Ibrahim in an explicit attempt to spotlight some of the more positive developments in Africa. (As compared with what understandably makes front page news — famine in the horn or the recent bombings in Nigeria…) The last president stepped down in accordance with constitutional term limits, political discourse is open and critical, and economic growth has been robust. It’s a pretty thin story, and as it points out, as an island country, Cape Verde is not typical, but I agree with the basic point that Americans and Europeans get a pretty narrow view of the continent, and here’s a bona fide positive case.
I am not going to pretend to offer an easy answer to Cape Verde’s relative if modest success, but one important factor not mentioned in the article, is the fact that neither race nor ethnicity are particularly salient divides in the country’s politics or society. In this sense, it is more like Botswana, also a case of good governance.