Africa winds down 2018 with many reasons for optimism, despite the many challenges we face
Africa’s fighting spirit was aptly described by former President Thabo Mbeki: “Gloom and despondency have never defeated adversity. Trying times need courage and resilience.
Our strength as a people isn’t tested during the best of times.”
2018 started on a promising note. Zimbabwe had just deposed 94-year-old President Robert Mugabe, ending his 37-year iron grip on the country he’d helped liberate. His successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is now rebuilding his country, despite controversy surrounding his victory by a tenuous margin against 41-year-old Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance (who made a foolhardy attempt to inaugurate himself as parallel President, much as Raila Odinga did in Kenya in February) and the postelection death of six protesters.
Angolans parted ways with José Eduardo dos Santos, who – having run the oil-rich economy since 1979 – handed the reins to former Defence Minister João “J-Lo” Lourenço.
Lourenço immediately began fixing Angola in ways hardly imaginable to his people and observers. By the 30th anniversary of the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in March 2018, he’d vigorously rattled the foundation of the Dos Santos economic dynasty. He displayed the same fervour in freeing his country from the clutches of his predecessor’s daughter Isabel, axing her as head of the state-run oil company Sonangol and removing her brother from the helm of the country’s sovereign wealth funds.
The 64-year-old marked his first anniversary in office with plenty to be proud of. He indicted both Dos Santos and the former Governor of the National Bank of Angola, Valter Filipe, for their alleged
involvement in a $500 million fraud. Dos Santos’s son and Filipe allegedly transferred this amount from the National Bank of Angola to an account with Crédit Suisse in London in September 2017.
SA, too, is undergoing reconstruction, following years of state capture under former President Jacob Zuma and the complicity of the ANC. New President Cyril Ramaphosa is also having to repair an economy pummelled by recession, an unemployment rate of nearly 30% and glaring cracks in both the ideology and cohesiveness of the Rainbow Nation.
Sense has prevailed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), at last. President Joseph Kabila
eventually decided not to contest the inordinately delayed elections in December. In West Africa, Ghana’s stability continues under President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. He launched the ambitious “One District, One Factory” initiative to re-ignite the industrialisation of his country by establishing at least one factory or enterprise in each of its 216 districts. Henry Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Ghana, says its GDP growth for 2017 almost doubled from 3,7% in 2016 – and he expects the same in 2018.
In Liberia, George Weah – Africa’s most celebrated footballer – beat rival Joe Boakai to become the
25th President of his country. And in East Africa, Ethiopia’s newly-elected Prime Minister Abiy
Ahmed (41) has re-opened the country’s border and re-established its links with long-time foe Eritrea, defusing political tensions and attracting billions of dollars in foreign investments.
Everywhere you look, Africa’s taking charge of its affairs. Even some of the billions of dollars stashed in Switzerland by former dictators are being repatriated. For example, Nigeria received about $900 million of Sani Abacha’s loot in the past 12 months.
There’s a long way to go before our continent’s claimed its rightful place in the sun – but things are definitely looking better. Viva, Africa!
EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK, AFRICA’S TAKING CHARGE OF ITS AFFAIRS.
Right: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during an interview in his home in Johannesburg.
Below: Presidential candidate João Lourenco casts his vote in Luanda during the general election in 2017. His victory marked the end of President José Eduardo dos Santos’s 38-year reign.