Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from GIN
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – African countries south of the Sahara present one of the greatest regional growth opportunities in the world. What is still in debate, however, is if this new wealth will be shared equitably among its citizens.
Rich with oil wealth and mineral resources, increased education and literacy levels and expanding urbanization, sub-Saharan Africa could easily erase the poverty and income inequality that have their roots in exploitative relationships with western countries.
Yet, like its counterparts in the U.S. and western countries, wealth is concentrating in the hands of the top 5 percent. But this may change with growing militancy among African workers – miners, doctors, educators, government workers striking for better pay and benefits – to name a few. Here are some of the year’s accomplishments and achievements as well as setbacks, as outlined in the South African magazine Daily Maverick.
The African Union
After years of paralysis, the African Union is showing signs of life under Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, (President Jacob Zuma’s ex-wife at right). Although phone calls are more often returned, the commission remains understaffed, accounting is hazy and spending not always transparent. Nor can it take decisive action as in the case of Mali.
AU Chair Dlamini-Zuma is the latest addition to the growing sorority of women leaders. And having a woman as Africa’s symbolic leader is a powerful statement
Despite a couple of notable blips, this has been a good year for democratic elections. Leaders such as Joyce Banda of Malawi and Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia were sworn in by the book. Polls in Lesotho and Senegal saw long-serving leaders thrown out of power while incumbents in both Ghana and Sierra Leone earned themselves second terms. In the latter two cases, opposition parties were unhappy with the result, but chose to fight in court rather than on the streets.
In Somalia, a peace activist, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was picked as president of that conflicted country. He is widely respected for his work in civil society and education, being one of the founders of Mogadishu’s Simad University, where he was a lecturer and served as its first dean for 10 years until he resigned to enter politics.
On the other side of the coin, is the sad picture of Mali. By December it had suffered two coups d’etat, a divisive civil war and a humanitarian disaster. In Central Africa, violence flared up again in the Democratic Republic of Congo where an elected government in Kinshasa is unable to hold back an insurgency fueled by training and supplies from neighbors in Rwanda and Uganda. Women are tragically the most frequent victims of mercenary forces serving foreign commercial interests.
The rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria has added domestic terrorism to the country’s already serious problems with entrenched corruption and massive theft of the country’s sizeable oil wealth.
To the Nigerian government’s discredit, its response to Boko Haram has been just as vicious, with security forces criticized by rights groups for extrajudicial, indiscriminate killings and torture. This just fans the flames, and a refusal to negotiate with the group makes more violence inevitable.
“The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership,” wrote Chinua Achebe in 1984. Not much has changed.