In recent years peaceful and credible elections without post-electoral crises have contributed to democratic change of government in most countries in the region (Senegal, March 2012; Mali, August 2013; Nigeria, March 2015; Guinea, October 2015; Benin, March 2016; Niger, March 2016; Gabon, August 2016; Ghana, December 2016). Authoritarian regimes came to an end in Burkina Faso (October 2014) and Gambia (December 2016).


Over the past decade, West African countries have made visible progress in the field of governance. However, beyond the ritual of the ballot box, ‘good governance’ is often lacking. The executive may lack power, leading to weak rule of law or even collapse of the state (Mali, Guinea-Bissau); some leaders have imposed or consented to the loss of national sovereignty, handing over responsibility for security to foreign armed forces; some leaders and state bodies have been implicated in illegal trafficking of arms, drugs or migrants. Elsewhere it is parliamentary power that is weak, with corrupt parliaments and national assemblies that are mere echo-chambers. Or it may be the judiciary, perceived by litigants as corrupt, dependent on the executive and powerless to establish equitable transitional justice mechanisms in countries emerging from conflict (Mali, Cote d’Ivoire).


Poor governance has impacted on all development sectors: health, during the Ebola crisis; education, with poor performance in the sector ranging from the low educational level of girls to the sale of already-devalued diplomas; agriculture, with the exploitation of small farmers.  Poor governance affects all levels, not just the national level but also the local level with local issues such as management of natural resources or local budgets, and the regional level, where for example a discredited head of state may become president of the Economic Commission for West Africa.

PIWA works towards responsible and participatory governance, where decision-makers are accountable to citizens and citizens participate in the making of decisions which concern them.


PIWA’s activities towards this goal include:


  • Supporting mainstream and local media to hold decision-makers accountable: scrutinising government action at the national level through investigative journalism, parliaments through parliamentary reporting, and reporting and debates on local radio
  • Strengthening the capacities of civil society and grass-roots organisations to participate in public and media debates, particularly on community radio and in social networks
  • Fostering debate between decision-makers and civil society organisations – from national debates on radio and TV, through physical debates, to debates in citizens’ radio clubs


Since it was founded, PIWA has carried out projects to promote democratic governance in nearly all the countries of West Africa, on different topics.