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Africa - Elections and Economies in the Time of Covid-19

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on October 23, 2020 14:00

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As Europe and Asia buckle down to a second wave of COVID infections, deaths and total lockdowns, African economies are feeling the strain, and cracks are showing. Politics seem to be going on as usual, with elections rolling by.

Zambia only just missed declaring a default on its national bond, with Chinese debt a worrying factor also for other countries. South African President Ramaphosa launched a major new initiative to restart the economy in the face of bare Treasury cupboards. Critics point out that public sector salaries are already taking up most taxes with little left for operational expenses and that debt is reaching unsustainable levels.

African fish eagle - national symbol of Zambia. Photo Mehmet Karatay CC BY-SA 3.0


The IMF warned of a gloomy outlook with falling revenues and limited fiscal space. Poverty is looming in Africa and a ‘debt quagmire may hamper recovery.

In the meantime elections are rolling by: Guinea has just seen the incumbent President, Alpha Conde, win by a landslide, according to the Electoral Commission. The opposition candidate, Callou Diallo, declared victory and planned to challenge the official results in court, while nine people are reported to have died in post-election violence.

Conde, 82, would serve a third term, made possible by a change in the Constitution, an example for Alassane Ouattara in nearby Cote D’Ivoire’s Presidential elections later this year.

President Alpha Conde in 2012. Photo WEF. CC BY_SA 2.0

Tanzania’s incumbent President, who has declared victory over the Coronavirus with divine assistance, is seeking a second term in two weeks’ time. He opposed social distancing and mask wearing, projecting an image of efficiency and incorruptibility. After being elected he cancelled the extravagant inauguration ceremony for a public cleaning-up, getting his hands dirty picking up trash near State House. Opponents have been arrested, criticism of Government punished, and all non-Government data outlawed. An opponent, Tundu Lissu, survived an assassination attempt for whom nobody had yet been arrested. In September 2020 Lissu’s campaign was suspended for seven days on charges of sedition. He plans, if elected, re-starting the review of the Constitution, freeing political prisoners and compensating those ‘hurt’ by Government.

Ngorogoro crater in Tanzania - tourist's favourite. Photo SajjadF/Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

And in the Seychelles this weekend will be devoted to choosing between three Presidential candidates. In a televised debate on 16 October the availability of housing, cost of living, and the sovereignty of the islands in the face of strategic threats were raised. Maritime security and ecological awareness in the Indian ocean were debated. Despite political tension and the importance of the choice facing them the tenor seemed to be calm and deliberate.

Le Domaine de la Réserve resort, Seychelles. Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0

The pandemic has placed an increasing strain on the African economy. Defaults are a growing possibility, and the role of foreign political influence is a rising problem. The strategic importance of the Indian Ocean as well as the Bight of Benin makes political debate difficult. Is it just a memory, then, that an old lady told a Presidential candidates in the market to stop slandering his opponent otherwise she would tell his mother?

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on October 23, 2020 14:00

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Source: Al Jazeera

Kremlin seems concerned about potential resurgence of Communist party as elections near amid a worsening economy.

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