WOZA 2019!

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!


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.

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