ELEC­TIONS AND PRO­DUC­TIV­ITY

Financial Mail - - BETWEEN THE CHAINS - @Sikonathim mantshantshas@fm.co.za

Much of Africa will go through pres­i­den­tial and gen­eral elec­tions in the next few months to elect the next set of lead­ers. You can ex­pect en­er­getic men in their 70s and 80s to com­pete ag­gres­sively and vi­o­lently to serve the con­ti­nent’s much younger pop­u­la­tion. The youth are pa­tiently watch­ing the old men do­ing more of the same.

Some of the coun­tries have just gone through this pe­ri­od­i­cal rit­ual. Don’t call it democ­racy, that’s a West­ern con­cept. You can con­grat­u­late him al­ready — by the time you read this, Paul Biya will have been an­nounced as Cameroon’s lat­est pres­i­dent. The Cameroo­nian peo­ple are so con­fi­dent of a brighter fu­ture they again re-elected Biya, 85, to lead them for an­other seven years. He’s been in power for a mere 36 years. Biya is only the coun­try’s sec­ond pres­i­dent since in­de­pen­dence from the French and Bri­tish, start­ing in 1960. Elec­tions were held on Oc­to­ber 7.

Then just be­fore Christ­mas, Joseph Ka­bila may fi­nally al­low the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo to choose his suc­ces­sor. Poor Joseph. He’s only been in power since his fa­ther, pres­i­dent Lau­rent-désiré Ka­bila, was shot dead by a soldier in 2001. When the end of his sec­ond, fi­nal term crept up on him in De­cem­ber 2016, Joseph sim­ply ig­nored it. What is two years in Africa’s largest coun­try by ge­og­ra­phy?

Last week Nige­ria’s main op­po­si­tion party chose Atiku Abubakar, 71, to try to wrest the head of state ti­tle away from Muham­madu Buhari, 75, in elec­tions next year. The Peo­ple’s Demo­cratic Party hopes the coun­try, un­der the “young­ster” Abubakar, might be more pro­duc­tive than it has been in the past four years un­der Buhari. Af­ter all, Abubakar has al­ready proven more pro­duc­tive than Buhari. The mat­ter of his 26 (pub­licly ac­knowl­edged) chil­dren surely puts the de­bate to rest. Buhari has only 10.

But the youth in south­ern Africa can­not be ac­cused of do­ing noth­ing. Julius Malema and Zim­babwe’s Nel­son Chamisa have man­aged to give hope to their re­spec­tive sup­port­ers (even if the lat­ter had to pa­tiently wait for death to re­move Mor­gan Ts­van­gi­rai and the army to top­ple Robert Mu­gabe). False hopes.

Of course they have both learnt the tricks of their much older com­rades. Chamisa al­most brought Harare to a stand­still af­ter los­ing the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in July. Ex­cept the peo­ple saw right through him and re­fused to stand in front of the army’s bul­lets. Again.

An en­er­getic 81

He lost the elec­tion to Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa, a man much more pro­duc­tive than he, if his nine chil­dren (oth­ers put the num­ber at 18) are any mea­sure. Chamisa will be close to 45 when Zim­babwe’s next pres­i­den­tial elec­tions come around in five years’ time while Mnan­gagwa will be an en­er­getic, youth­ful 81.

Down here in SA, Malema, 37, will be promis­ing free land and some banks to any­one who votes for his EFF next year. Just not the cash in the banks. Even Mmusi Maimane has caught on. His DA party now prom­ises free cash, a job­seek­ers’ al­lowance for un­em­ployed 18- to 34-year-olds.

In Ethiopia the el­ders have stepped aside to al­low the young ones to lead their coun­try into the fu­ture.

Af­ter seven months in of­fice, 42-year-old Abiy Ahmed has re­duced the cabi­net to 20 min­is­ters, down from 28. Half are now women, with a woman de­fence min­is­ter for the first time. Some eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal re­forms have been ush­ered in.

The Ethiopian econ­omy and na­tional mood have picked up. The Oromo strife seems to be re­ced­ing. The train run­ning between Ad­dis Ababa and the port in neigh­bour­ing Dji­bouti is fer­ry­ing even more goods and pas­sen­gers. This is the kind of pro­duc­tiv­ity Africa should strive for.

Malema will be promis­ing free land and some banks to any­one who votes for his EFF. Just not the cash IN the banks

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