Africa In 2022
What's in store for Africa in 2022?
January has passed, but what's in store for Africa for the rest of 2022? A number of countries will be hosting elections of some form in 2022. The eyes of the world will be on the African continent assessing whether there is progress on some thorns that have hindered Africa’s image in the past.
In this overview, we look at a few countries in Africa, namely Senegal, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola and Equatorial Guinea. These countries have either hosted elections this year or will be hosting elections later in the year. We take a look at the state of human rights, economic progress or lack of, what is expected to happen during elections, what is the outlook with regards to the issue of climate change and other progressive developments.
Three major elections are scheduled for Angola, Kenya and Senegal (which has already run local elections last month) heads for parliamentary polls, come July. These elections will influence the political trajectories of the countries and are likely to increase tensions and violence, particularly in Kenya and Senegal. In what could be viewed as a democratic step forward, Senegalese President Macky Sall conceded defeat in last month’s local polls in the capital Dakar and the southern city of Ziguinchor in a plebiscite widely seen as a test of Sall's popularity this year.
In Kenya, where elections are set for this year, the Human Rights Watch last year said extrajudicial killings, abusive evictions, and lack of accountability for serious abuses remain significant challenges while killings by police have remained largely unaddressed.
Angola, which goes for Presidential, National Assembly and local council elections in August this year, is also no stranger to controversy, with violence playing out at most of its polls.
Spreading like a bush fire, human rights abuses have cut across countries like Senegal, a country which is no stranger to political violence. Just last year in March amid anti-government protests in the West African nation, activists were arrested, with journalists and the media coming under attack and at least five people murdered as the then protests turned into violent riots in the capital Dakar, in Ziguinchor and in other regions. Then, the protests were triggered by Senegal’s opposition leader Ousmane Sonko who was appearing in court on rape allegations. Senegal’s penchant to crack down on critics has not escaped the glare of the world’s superpowers like the United States of America. In fact, in its 2020 country reports on human rights practices in Senegal, the US government said “significant human rights issues were witnessed in Senegal, including unlawful or arbitrary killing and/or extrajudicial killings by or on behalf of the government…”
Equally, also known for unleashing terror on critics, Zimbabwe has this year turned the heat on scribes whom authorities have asked to pay more before they are permitted to cover the country’s upcoming March 26 parliamentary and council by-elections. This, the journalists here have to do even as they are already accredited by the Zimbabwe Media Commission which already pockets thousands of dollars from accrediting reporters every year. Another commission, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is also cornering journalists by demanding extra accreditation of 50 dollars for reporters working for foreign media in the country. This is on top of the 200 dollar annual accreditation paid to ZMC and 10 dollars for local media added to the 15 dollars annual accreditation already forwarded to ZMC. The Media Institute of Southern Africa has not taken lightly to this, siting this as an onslaught on press freedom, saying it (MISA) is greatly concerned with this issue of dual accreditation of journalists by the country’s two commissions. With cases of rights violations peaking up here, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) in November last year recorded an increasing fondness by authorities to entrench themselves using all but democratic means, this by the use of state security agents to suppress dissent. Authorities in Zimbabwe have also switched to law fare to punish critics, this by interfering with the affairs of the judiciary as well as weaponisation of the law against perceived critics. In fact, according to ZPP, in November 2020, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), the ruling Zanu-PF party, the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), war veterans, and municipal police, contributed a combined 63.26 percent of all human rights violations. According to the Human Rights Watch, Zimbabwe’s human rights situation continued to decline in 2020 under President Emerson Mnangagwa as suspected state security agents abducted and tortured over 70 government critics, followed last year by the jailing of prominent journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and Jacob Ngarivhume who is the leader of the opposition Transform Zimbabwe Party after the pair called for nationwide anti-corruption protests.
Human rights abuses have also been up in Equatorial Guinea, where President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has ruled the oil-rich nation with an iron fist for 42 years. According to Human Rights Watch in 2020, even with the West African nation’s oil wealth, the vast majority of the country’s one million citizens continued to be denied their economic and social rights, including access to healthcare and primary education, which nevertheless benefit the political elite. With rights abuses escalating in Equatorial Guinea, in May 2020, a court there convicted 112 people for participating in a December 2017 coup attempt, but representatives of the American Bar Association who observed the trial reported serious due process violations, including confessions obtained through torture and severe restrictions on defence lawyers, according to the Human Rights Watch.
Yet the worst rights abuses have pounded Mozambique, with the Human Rights Watch 2021 report saying an Islamist armed group known as Al-Sunna wa Jama’a, continued to attack villages, killing civilians, kidnapping women and children, and burning and destroying properties.
On the economic front, according to the African Development Bank (AfDB), Equatorial Guinea’s economy has suffered from the effects of COVID–19, which worsened the country’s already serious growth problems.
On the contrary, AfDB has projected Kenya’s economy to grow by 5.9 percent this year, with the East African nation’s economic activity set to normalise owing to a full reopening of the economy after the coronavirus restrictions as well as the Economic Recovery Strategy being implemented.
Angola’s economic outlook is also promising, with the country expected to escape recession this year, however with its key oil sector remaining downbeat.
The World Bank has also gone on record saying Mozambique’s growth prospects are more positive, with the GDP expected to grow by 4.5 percent this year when it surpasses the pre-pandemic level. It also forecasts Senegal’s economic growth to accelerate to 5.5 percent in 2022, and to peak at about 10 percent in 2023-24 with the start of oil and gas production. But the World Bank has also been on record saying Senegal’s new development challenge is to lessen the socioeconomic effect of coronavirus while enabling sustainable and inclusive growth.
As other African countries face looming economic growth this year and beyond, for Zimbabwe it is a different ball game all together as the country battles a currency weighed down by inflation, subsequently sparking incessant price hikes of commodities. That has not cowed the country’s Finance minister, Mthuli Ncube, into any submission to emerging digital currencies in order to fend off the crisis as he (the finance chief) ruled out any possible use of cryptocurrency, including Bitcoin as legal tender due to their unpredictability.
Angola, too, has also not embraced the use of cryptocurrency, with the country’s government rather advising against its use due to the financial risk of insecurity although the Governor of the Angolan Central Bank, José de Lima Massano two years ago indicated that the Central Bank was set to assess the risks of embracing cryptocurrency.
Even in Mozambique, use of cryptocurrency has not been regulated, making it technically legal to buy and sell the digital currency.
As climate change impacts pound the globe, the United Nations Development Programme has observed that Senegal’s economy is 'highly vulnerable' to the effects of global warming, with the country having limited capacity to adapt even as this year the Senegalese government devoted 195 million euros to water and sanitation, an amount government critics doubt would be put to its intended use amid corruption in the West African country.
Climate change impacts have not spared Angola, where many areas across the country exprienced rainfall that over was over 30 days late this year, delaying planting, negatively impacting the projections for this year’s harvest potential.
Elections, human rights, economy and climate change are a few of the trends to watch in Africa this year. It remains to be seen if democratic advances will be made or if security and conflict hot spots will find peace. Economic recovery and increased volatility, as well as climate change and summitry will also be on many people's agenda.
The analysis is written by freelance journalist Jeffrey Moyo on behalf of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in sub-Saharan Africa.