Look out for Africa in 2016


Dwindling resources for democracy efforts from the United States government could not have come at a worse time, notes J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, especially when one considers that that U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funding for democracy assistance in Africa has declined 43 percent under the Obama administration, according an estimate by the Carnegie Endowment’s Thomas Carothers.

While each of Africa’s 54 independent states presents a different political and economic risk profile rooted in each country’s unique history and driven by diverse internal and regional dynamics, there are nonetheless several common trends which will broadly impact many of them in 2016, he writes for The Hill:

  • Electoral uncertainty. Presidential and/or parliamentary elections are supposed to take place in at least 16 African countries this year: Benin, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia, Uganda, and Zambia. While Africa’s incumbents have long enjoyed huge advantages over their opponents across most of the continent, there were some surprises in 2015, notably in Nigeria, where challenger Muhammadu Buhari beat incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan — the first time a challenger has ever beaten an incumbent in the country’s history…..Such grace and respect for constitutional order is unlikely to be the case with 2016’s most significant African poll, the presidential election in the DRC, whose current ruler, Joseph Kabila, has been in power since he extralegally inherited power from his assassinated warlord father. …..
  • Increasing terrorist violence. While the attacks in Paris at the beginning and end of 2015, which were linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), respectively received a great deal more attention in global media, it is in Africa where terrorism has been surging. In fact, the publication in mid-November of the annual “Global Terrorism Index” by the Institute for Economics and Peace provided statistical evidence that, in fact, it is the Nigerian group Boko Haram, which in March pledged its allegiance to ISIS and been branding itself as “Islamic State West Africa Province” (ISWAP) — an evolution I predicted this time last year — is “the most deadly terrorist group in the world.” …
  • Continued, but uneven, economic growth. According to the most recent edition of the World Bank’s “Global Economic Prospects” report, of the 13 countries with the highest projected compounded annual growth rate from 2014 through 2017, six are in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to be the fastest growing economic region in the world for 2015, with its gross domestic product (GDP) growing at 4.5 percent, slightly higher than China’s anticipated GDP increase of 4.3 percent. ….
  • Geopolitical competition. Notwithstanding some of the challenges, the extraordinary lure of Africa’s human and material resources as well as its ongoing security challenges will continue to attract global interest and, inevitably, competition. The last few months have seen both an India-Africa Summit in New Delhi and a China-Africa Summit in Johannesburg. China has also announced plans to build of its first-ever overseas military base in the East African country of Djibouti, which already hosts American, French and Japanese outposts……


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