Africa’s political and economic trends, as well as its security arrangements, will continue to diverge in this year.
Last year was a year of leadership changes and unprecedented events in a number of sub-Saharan African countries — several that were not predicted for that year.
Regional leaders from the Economic Community of West African States ensured that President Yahya Jammeh obeyed the will of the Gambian people to end his 22-year reign. President Robert Mugabe was forced from office, the only leader independent Zimbabwe has known in its 37 years.
In Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos, also president for 37 years, ended his own tenure, enabling a smooth transition. Somalia’s Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmaajo’ Mohamed defeated his more established rivals to win the
Post-conflict Liberia has taken charge of organizing its elections without the involvement of the United Nations for the first time, and what challenges there were in the first round were made through the courts and not on the streets, resulting in the first peaceful transfer of civilian presidents since 1944.
Presidential elections in 2018 will challenge a number of long-standing leaders and test new ones. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is assured of victory in Egypt; Cameroon’s President Paul Biya is likely to extend his 35 years in office by winning another term in October, as is Mali’s President Ibrahim Keita in August.
Less certain is who will prevail in Sierra Leone’s elections in March as the governing All People’s Congress fields Kandeh Yumkella against Sierra Leone People’s Party repeat candidate Julius Maada Bio.
Uncertainty continues into 2018 over the delayed (since 2016) presidential elections of the DRC. Joseph Kabila has served as president for 16 years and remains reluctant to step down but does not seem strong enough, unlike many of his neighbours in Brazzaville, Kampala and Kigali, to change the constitution to run again.
President Salva Kiir of South Sudan wants to hold elections in July but the UN is arguing that without lasting peace these should not take place.
Local elections in Mozambique in 2018 will see gains for opposition Renamo. Its ceasefire has lasted a year and negotiations are likely in early 2018 to reach agreement on direct gubernatorial elections in 2019 in exchange for disarmament and reintegration of its armed wing.
Togo will hold national assembly and local elections in June or July and the opposition, emboldened by successful demonstrations in 2017, are likely to do well in these, putting further pressure on President Faure Gnassingbé as he enters his 13th year of rule.
Nigeria and South Africa, the former continental powerhouses, went through periods of recession as a result of low global energy and metals prices, but the more dynamic economies, including Ethiopia, Côte d’Ivoire and Rwanda, managed to sustain growth rates of over 7%.
Dr Alex Vines OBE is Research Director in Area Studies and International Law; Head, Africa Programme at Chatham House.
This article was originally posted on the Chatham House website.