The year ahead for the African con­ti­nent

Lesotho Times - - Leader - Cut­ting Edge adek­eye ade­bajo

THE year ahead for Africa will re­volve around man­ag­ing chal­lenges of con­strained hege­mon, re­gional in­te­gra­tion, con­flict res­o­lu­tion, demo­cratic gov­er­nance, and China’s grow­ing in­flu­ence on the con­ti­nent.

The year will be­gin with the con­test at the African Union (AU) sum­mit, start­ing on Jan­uary 22, to elect a suc­ces­sor to the out­go­ing chair of the com­mis­sion, South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-zuma. The two favourites are Amina Mo­hamed and Ab­doulaye Bathily. Mo­hamed is a ca­reer diplo­mat and Kenya’s cur­rent for­eign min­is­ter, who force­fully mo­bilised African sup­port against the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court’s (ICC) in­dict­ment of her pres­i­dent, Uhuru Keny­atta, and his deputy, Wil­liam Ruto. Sene­gal’s Bathily is a for­mer cab­i­net min­is­ter and cur­rent United Na­tions (UN) Spe­cial En­voy for Cen­tral Africa. Not much can be ex­pected from either can­di­date in ad­dress­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s struc­tural deficits.

Start­ing in South­ern Africa, the drought rav­aging the sub-re­gion should sub­side this year. The sub-re­gional hege­mon, South Africa, will, how­ever, be be­set by labour, com­mu­nity, and stu­dent protests and ane­mic eco­nomic growth. The pres­i­den­tial con­fer­ence of the African Na­tional Congress (ANC) in De­cem­ber will likely see cur­rent favourite, Dlamini-zuma, de­feat for­mer union­ist and busi­ness­man, Cyril Ramaphosa, even­tu­ally be­com­ing South Africa’s first fe­male pres­i­dent. The sub-re­gion’s sec­ond largest econ­omy, oil-rich An­gola, will see José Ed­uardo dos San­tos ex­tend his 38-year rule in polls this Au­gust, though he has promised to step down next year amidst a de­clin­ing econ­omy, re­pres­sion of civil so­ci­ety, and Chi­nese-backed loans. Ten­sions will con­tinue in Mozam­bique as the armed con­flict be­tween Ma­puto and RE­N­AMO (Re­sistên­cia Na­cional Moçam­bi­cana) en­ters its fourth year. The tiny moun­tain king­dom of Le­sotho will re­main frac­tious de­spite South African-led me­di­a­tion ef­forts. The health of the 92-year old Robert Mu­gabe will con­tinue to de­ter­mine Zim­babwe’s pol­i­tics, and this could be the year that the mil­i­tary-backed Em­mer­son Mna­gagwa fi­nally as­sumes the pres­i­dency amidst so­cial un­rest and a co­a­lesc­ing op­po­si­tion.

In West Africa, the sub-re­gional Gul­liver, Nige­ria’s eco­nomic trou­bles are set to con­tinue with the coun­try hav­ing drifted into re­ces­sion for the first time in 25 years, los­ing its place to South Africa as Africa’s largest econ­omy. Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari will con­tinue to make progress against Boko Haram mil­i­tants, but will lose ground to Niger Delta Avengers whose sab­o­tage has cut the coun­try’s oil ex­ports by a third amidst na­tion­al­ist and re­li­gious un­rest in the East and parts of the North. Buhari’s lan­guid lead­er­ship style is prov­ing that an ob­ses­sive com­mit­ment to fight­ing cor­rup­tion alone will not turn around Nige­ria’s eco­nomic for­tunes, even with the prospect of Chi­nese loans. Ghana’s new leader, Nana Akuffo-addo, has clearly over-promised – free se­condary ed­u­ca­tion, a fac­tory in each of the coun­try’s 260 dis­tricts, and a dam in every vil­lage – and will surely un­der-de­liver. The army mutiny in Côte d’ivoire this month ex­posed the fragility of the im­pres­sive in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives of Pres­i­dent Alas­sane Ou­at­tara amidst a lack of na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. North­ern Mali will re­main volatile, while Liberia’s elec­tion in Oc­to­ber may fi­nally see for­mer foot­baller, Ge­orge Weah, achieve his longheld pres­i­den­tial am­bi­tion.

In Eastern Africa, Ethiopia has Africa’s largest pop­u­la­tion af­ter Nige­ria, hosts the AU com­mis­sion, and is the largest con­trib­u­tor to UN peace­keep­ing in the world. But the ten­sions in its Oro­mia and Amhara re­gions which led to 400 deaths in 2015/2016 will con­tinue to oc­cupy the at­ten­tion of its Tigray-dom­i­nated rul­ing class. More pos­i­tively, the Chi­nese-built 656-kilo­me­tre rail­way from Ethiopia to Dji­bouti will be rolled out this year. Care must, how­ever, be taken to en­sure that pres­i­den­tial polls in Kenya – an­other sub-re­gional eco­nomic gi­ant, like Ethiopia – does not de­scend into the eth­nic-fu­elled vi­o­lence of a decade ago. Uhuru Keny­atta should win re­elec­tion, and has been a vi­sion­ary prophet of re­gional in­te­gra­tion push­ing a Chi­ne­se­built rail­way from Nairobi to Mom­basa and Kam­pala as well as an oil trans­port cor­ri­dor with South Su­dan and Ethiopia. How­ever, the cross-bor­der threat to Kenya from Al-shabaab will con­tinue, as will South Su­dan’s con­flict – de­spite a tooth­less 12,000-strong UN force – which has dis­placed two mil­lion peo­ple amidst con­tin­u­ing fears of mass atroc­i­ties. Uganda – whose 31-year ruler, Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni, will con­tinue to har­bour delu­sions of grandeur as a sub-re­gional Bis­marck – is also plan­ning an oil pipe­line to Tan­za­nia.

Cen­tral Africa will re­main volatile in 2017. Con­golese leader, Joseph Ka­bila’s suc­cess­ful glis­sage (slip­page) strat­egy has seen a two-year ex­ten­sion of his man­date with­out sched­uled elec­tions last year. Fur­ther re­pres­sion of protests will oc­cur in Cen­tral Africa’s largest econ­omy, as well as in­sta­bil­ity in its volatile East. Bu­run­dian pres­i­dent, Pierre Nku­run­z­iza’s third term elec­toral vic­tory in July 2015 has re­sulted in about 500 deaths and spilled 250,000 refugees into neigh­bour­ing coun­tries amidst the as­sas­si­na­tion of gov­ern­ment fig­ures and re­pres­sion of dis­sent.

Paul Kagame will ex­tend his two-decade au­toc­racy in Au­gust. Oil-rich Gabon may see fur­ther un­rest fol­low­ing dis­puted elec­tions last year un­der the in­creas­ingly un­pop­u­lar Ali Bongo. Lo­cal war­lords con­tinue to con­trol over half of the Cen­tral African Repub­lic (CAR) de­spite pres­i­den­tial elec­tions last year. More promis­ing is the prospect of a Chi­nese-built rail­way link­ing the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo (DRC), Bu­rundi, and Rwanda, as well as the agree­ment by the DRC and Tan­za­nia to ex­plore col­lab­o­ra­tively oil and gas in Lake Tan­ganyika.

Fi­nally, in North Africa, the con­ti­nent’s ge­o­graph­i­cally largest coun­try, Al­ge­ria’s for­tunes will de­pend on the health of its ail­ing leader, Ab­de­laziz Boute­flika, even as it at­tempts to lead me­di­a­tion ef­forts in Mali. Ten­sions will con­tinue with Morocco over West­ern Sa­hara, as the lat­ter seeks to re­join the AU. Frag­ile Tu­nisia will re­main the bea­con of demo­cratic gov­er­nance in the sub-re­gion, while Egyp­tian strong­man, Gen­eral Ab­del Fat­tah al-sisi, will con­tinue to play the role of Pharaoh, amidst po­lit­i­cal re­pres­sion and an eco­nomic cri­sis. Libya will re­main an­ar­chic and acephalous.

A ma­jor pri­or­ity for Africa this year re­mains how to pro­mote gen­uine re­gional in­te­gra­tion and in­crease in­tra-re­gional trade be­yond the cur­rent pal­try 12 per cent. l Prof. Ade­bajo is the di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute for Pan-african Thought and Con­ver­sa­tion at the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg in South Africa.

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