On culture and politics, Africa is right about cautious optimism


Fear not, because it’s not about to be yet another prediction coin or making any “predictions” about the new year. Rather, the intention of this newsletter is to follow up on my last edition of 2021, which not only took stock of the lessons learned from writing this newsletter weekly for six months, but also some of the key developments that have shaped African business last year. These included the geopolitics of vaccines, military coups on the continent, and Africa’s international relations with the world, especially the major powers.

To that end, here is an overview of four major trends, developments and events that I will be monitoring that have the potential to shape the continent’s affairs in 2022.

Politics, politics and more politics. For South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current situation is anything but encouraging. Just over a month after his ruling African National Congress, or ANC, suffered humiliating losses in local elections last year, he has been given the burden of closing the year as chief mourner following the death of the revered anti-apartheid icon archbishop. Desmond Tutu on December 26. A week later, on January 2, South Africans woke up to news of a fire at the National Parliamentary Complex in Cape Town. Two days later, Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo handed Ramaphosa the first of three parts of a report from the commission he headed investigating allegations of state capture and fraud in the sector. country’s public. There is considerable pressure on Ramaphosa and the ANC to follow through on the report’s recommendations, but he insists on waiting until all three parts have been handed over to him, while pledging to ‘step back’ from the stakes. implement the commission’s recommendations if he is directly involved.

But arguably all of these difficulties probably pale in comparison to what is sure to be the biggest battle of Ramaphosa’s presidency, namely the ANC national elective conference in December that will determine his fate as party leader. in power of the country. Having ended 2021 on a dismal note, Ramaphosa is likely to see a motion of confidence filed against him. Failure to secure a second term as party chairman would likely signal the end of Ramaphosa’s presidency in South Africa, given the realities of the ANC’s domination of national politics since emergence of multiracial democracy in the country.

Elsewhere, Kenya is due to elect a successor to President Uhuru Kenyatta this year, with the main candidates expected to be Vice President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. After the setback of last year’s judicial rebuke to the government’s Building Bridges Initiative, or BBI, the country’s top political gladiators have nevertheless continued to sharpen their swords ahead of what is sure to be fierce competition. For his part, Angolan President Joao Lourenço will seek re-election for a second and final five-year term, after taking over from longtime leader José Eduardo dos Santos in 2017. Lourenço pledged to restore economic growth in Angola and fight against corruption. But the country remains plagued by vast economic inequality and an authoritarian political system that places overwhelming power in the hands of the president and the ruling MPLA, which has ruled Angola since independence in 1975.

And in Nigeria, the race to succeed the term-limited President Muhammadu Buhari has begun in earnest. The main parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress and the main opposition People’s Democratic Party, are expected to nominate their standard bearers for the presidential race later this year ahead of the February 2023 general election. of 2022, there will be no shortage of national and international activity and interest in the political machinations of Africa’s most populous democracy.

Conflict, regional integration and international affairs. Libya, South Sudan, Sahel, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Cameroon, to name a few, are hotspots of conflict to watch in 2022. To deal with them effectively, the African Union and regional groupings on the continent must work with local actors. actors and the international community to address the challenges posed by ineffective governance and violent extremism in ways they have failed to do before. To contribute to these efforts, the new members of the UN Security Council, Gabon and Ghana, should join forces with Kenya – which, like Ghana, is a non-permanent member of the Security Council also represented on the AU Peace and Security Council – and leverage their two-year mandate to advocate for more proactive engagement from the council. Simultaneously, African leaders must also pay attention to the lasting effects of the coronavirus pandemic – including the continent’s extremely low immunization rates – and continue to push for more equity with vaccines and other parts of the healthcare system. global health. Needless to say, the new AU chair, Senegalese President Macky Sall, will have a full plate when he replaces his Congolese counterpart, Felix Tshisekedi, in February.

As the Democratic Republic of the Congo moves closer to joining the East African Community, it will likely seek to integrate even deeper into the region’s economic dynamism. For their part, members of the bloc likely see Congo’s 81 million people as a market opportunity. At the same time, Congo should not overlook economic opportunities with its neighbors in Central and Southern Africa, while continuing to seek their cooperation to enhance peace, security and prosperity.

The European Union-African Union summit is to be held in February in Brussels, after postponements linked to the pandemic. But with French President Emmanuel Macron facing a tougher-than-expected re-election battle and Germany’s new coalition government facing more pressing priorities at home and abroad, Europe is unlikely to grant more. urgency to African affairs in 2022. The same goes for relations with the continent. with Washington, where the Biden administration has its plate full with China, Russia and other foreign policy priorities, as well as domestic policy. Relations with China will continue to be strong, with Beijing set to appoint a special envoy to the Horn of Africa. Engagement with China should remain productive after last year’s Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, or FOCAC, and African governments would be wise to work with each other to seek the “equity” they research in Africa-China relations.

A great year for African sport. This year is shaping up to be a major year for African football, with the Africa Cup of Nations kicking off in Cameroon on Sunday and ending on February 6. Even though the tournament is taking place against the backdrop of internal strife and civil strife in many participating countries – as well as the coronavirus pandemic which caused its postponement last year – the bi-annual showcase is the biggest sporting event on the continent. , with football fans, and even non-fans, eagerly awaiting his arrival. With all the traditional powerhouses and likely contenders – including Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, Ivory Coast as well as hosts Senegal and Cameroon – led by star players plying their trade in the top leagues of European football, the competition should serve quite the show. As for participants like Mali, Guinea, Sudan, Tunisia, Ethiopia and even Cameroon itself, a shock victory could help lift the spirits of countries that entered the new year reeling from the effects of conflict and political paralysis.

But the AFCON, as the tournament is popularly known, is not the only flagship sporting event this year that will attract African participation and interest from viewers. The National Basketball Association’s regular season, which features a record number of players of African descent, including two-time league MVP and reigning NBA Finals MVP Giannis Adetokunbo, is already underway. African athletes will also compete in the Winter Olympics next month in Beijing. The second season of the Basketball Africa League kicks off in March in Dakar after a well-received inaugural campaign. Cairo is set to host the 2022 African Youth Games in August, and the African Athletics Championships will be held in Mauritius for the third time. The Nigerian footballers, who have lifted the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations trophy a record 11 times, will also defend their championship at the 2022 event to be held in July in Morocco.

Finally, of course, the FIFA World Cup will take place at the end of the year in Qatar. Five yet-to-be-determined African nations will take part in the quadrennial event, with some expectation that an African team will finally qualify for the final four, after close calls in the quarter-finals by Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana in 1990. 2002 and 2010 respectively.

For culture. It goes without saying that 2021 has been a major year for African creative talent. The year was seen by many as a milestone for African literature, and understandably so. African tech startups have raised nearly $5 billion, twice the sum of 2020 investments and nine times the amount raised in 2017, a testament to the impressive growth of the tech scene.

African popular music and the artists who record it have reached new heights with the success of Nigerian stars such as Wizkid, Tems and Burna Boy; the growing international popularity of the amapiano genre from South Africa; and the infectious sounds of East African artists like Otile Brown, Marioo, Diamond Platnumz and Zuchu. And Africa will boast nine Grammy nominees when the music industry’s biggest awards show takes place in Los Angeles on January 31.

Meanwhile, artists, painters and illustrators from across the continent and its diasporas wowed viewers around the world, and the continent’s most prestigious art fair returned after a pandemic lull to rave reviews in Lagos. And fashionistas from Sudan and Angola to Nigeria and South Africa continue to make waves internationally, setting trends and challenging norms at home and abroad.

After a remarkable 12-month run, the bar has been set decidedly high for the creative sector in Africa. But one thing that delights its connoisseurs is reaching new heights and exceeding expectations. If the highs of the past few years are any indication, there’s plenty more where that’s coming from in 2022. And I’ll be keeping an eye out to bring you the highlights as the year progresses.

Chris O. Ogunmodede is associate editor of World Politics Review. His coverage of African politics, international relations and security has appeared in War on The Rocks, Mail & Guardian, The Republic, Africa is a Country and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @Illustrious_Cee.


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