Like David Pilling (“Is the coup making a comeback in Africa?”, Opinion, August 28) we agree that the answer to the question is no. Yes, 2020 has been a bad year for coups; however, it needs to be viewed in a broader context. While there have only been two coup-free years in the last century, coup events both globally and in Africa have declined substantially. Recorded coup events have declined each decade since 1950, with only 24 recorded coup events in the 2010s. This is a substantial decrease from the peak of 120 coup events in the 1960s.
Looking forward, even after seeing two coups in sub-Saharan Africa in 2019, our CoupCast forecasting system suggests collective coup risk dropped from 71 percent to 57 percent in 2020. Global risk also dropped from 93 percent (2019) to 83 per cent (2020).
As Iran, Russia and China back proxy regimes in developing countries it could result in more coups than in the previous two decades; however, the fundamental differences between today’s interconnected world and the coup’s heyday of 1960s1980s, where rival blocs battled each other in commercial isolation, makes it highly improbable that putsches will make a comeback. Policymakers are better suited to focus on more proximate and probable challenges to democracy.