In this opinion piece, Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Martin Zhuwakinyu writes about some of the big events that took place across the continent this year.
This year has been quite eventful for Africa, and some of the occurrences that came to pass were captured on this page over the past 50-odd weeks. In this last edition for 2019, I take you down memory lane, highlighting some of the noteworthy events.
Perhaps one of the major African news stories of 2019 was the increasing incidence and severity of extreme weather events. In Southern Africa, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe – which are among the poorest countries in the region – were buffeted by tropical cyclones in March and April that left in their wake massive destruction of infrastructure and loss of life and limb on a not insignificant scale.
These weather events were further proof that climate change is not an old wives’ tale – it is real. The tragedy, in the words of one sage, is that it is the poorer countries – as well as the poorest of the poor in the affected countries – that will bear the brunt of this intensifying phenomenon, thus perpetuating some kind of climate apartheid.
I also reflected on the scourge of State capture, highlighting that a few African leaders had sold their souls to the devil à la former President Jacob Zuma, who apparently allowed the infamous Gupta brothers to plunder State resources in return for a pretty penny for himself and those around him. As previously pointed out, Zuma’s Togolese counterpart was also captured by a fellow named Gupta, whose roots can be traced to India, just like the Guptas who washed up in Mzansi.
It was also during the course of this year that calls for African leaders and policymakers to pay greater attention to a projected increase in hunger increased in stridency. As I pointed out in one of my pieces, this is partially attributable to Africa’s old farmers, aged 60 on average, failing to convince their children to take over from them when they call it a day, which should be in the next five to ten years. Alarmingly, the prevalence of undernourishment, a reliable proxy for hunger, increased from 19.2% in 2015 to 19.9% in 2018.
Meanwhile, tempers rose a few degrees in September when violence targeted at African migrants flared up in parts of Gauteng. The backlash was quite swift, with enraged youngsters in Nigeria forcing the temporary closure of South African-owned businesses. Zambian youth resorted to similar action, while the country’s football association cancelled a scheduled match with Bafana Bafana. After initially agreeing to step in as a replacement, the Madagascans too decided to avoid our boys like the plague. This is the last thing the continent wants at a time when efforts are being made to fully implement the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. I must say I laud President Cyril Ramaphosa’s efforts to mend bridges with the rest of the continent in the aftermath of the xenophobic disturbances.
Other unpalatable events I featured included Boris Johnson taking over as UK Prime Minister. The man is patronising and downright racist. He does not have any qualms about referring to black people as “flag-waving picaninnies”. As I opined back in June, I do not see him being an ally of Africa at all.
I also could not ignore the return of hyperinflation in Zimbabwe, which first reared its head in 2008, when Robert Mugabe was in charge. Now the old liberator-turned- oppressor is gone, having breathed his last in September.
In more recent columns, I lamented the high cost of data, which is locking many Africans outside the digital economy.
It was not all doom and gloom, however. Success stories included the ascendancy of Abiy Ahmed in Ethiopia. He has been a breath of fresh air on a continent where leadership excellence is rare. Those who select the recipients of the yearly Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership can attest to this. They could not find any recently retired leader worthy of the accolade in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2018. Abiy was named the recipient of the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize in May, just over a year after assuming office, and went on to land the Nobel Peace Prize.
I wish you all a merry Christmas and a 2020 full of the good Lord’s blessings.