The evolution of South Africa's democracy promotion in Africa: from idealism to pragmatism

Gilbert M. Khadiagala, Fritz Nganje

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


South Africa is an emerging power with fairly strong democratic institutions that were crafted during the transition from minority to majority rule twenty years ago. How has South Africa used its position and power to promote democracy in Africa? Against the backdrop of debates on democracy promotion by emerging powers, this article probes attempts by successive post-apartheid governments to promote democracy in Africa. We argue that although democracy promotion featured prominently in South Africa's policy towards Africa in the immediate post-apartheid period under Nelson Mandela, the administrations of Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma faltered in advancing democratic norms. This is largely because South Africa has confronted pressures to maximize pragmatic national interests, which have compromised a democratic ethos in a continental environment where these values have yet to find steady footing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1561-1581
Number of pages21
JournalCambridge Review of International Affairs
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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