Wishing all readers of the Afro Optimist, a happy and healthy 2016! I am keeping my fingers crossed for a more positive year because 2015 was quite rough! Well, for me personally, it was the best year of my life with my induction into parenthood. But, globally, there have been environmental disasters, terror attacks, plane crashes, Donald Trump, Ebola and the plight of desperate migrants, to name some. Here is my attempt to compile 7 POSITIVE events on the continent that were quite special in the midst of all the chaos.
1. The rise of a new Leader in Tanzania
Finally, an African leader who talks the talk and walks the walk! John Magufuli was elected president of Tanzania in October 2015. In a matter of days during his presidency, he took bold measures including curbing all sorts of frivolous state expenditure and redirecting those resources to more important needs like the purchasing of hospital beds and infrastructure. Magufuli appointed a lean cabinet, fired high ranking officials for corruption and incompetence and uncovered tax evasion worth millions of US dollars! There will be pressure on him to do more and more including fulfilling his promise of free secondary education, carrying out an overdue constitutional reform, boosting employment, etc etc. We wish him the best. It is definitely a good start!
2. A change in government in Nigeria
March 2015 marked the first time in the history of Nigeria that an incumbent president lost to an opposition candidate in a general election! I, like many others, did not see this coming! Voting for a former military head of state who took power through a coup d’état in the 80s and ruled with an iron fist was proof of one thing: Nigerians were done with Goodluck Jonathan who had failed at just about everything including bringing the Chibok girls back home. At the same time, respect to Jonathan for accepting defeat rather quickly and conceding. But lets be honest, Buhari is no Magufuli. Buhari’s approach is slow but hopefully steady. His focus on rooting out corruption is definitely what Nigeria needs.
3. The Fees must fall campaign in South Africa
University students took to the streets in October 2015 to demand a 0% increase in tuition fees, among other demands including more access to and transformation of higher learning. The battle was won when President Jacob Zuma conceded to the demand of no increase in tuition fees for 2016. What made the protest remarkable was (i) its dedication: the students would not budge; and (ii) the display of unity as young people of different races and socio economic background united for a common cause. It remains to be seen if they will win the war with respect to the other larger demands. However, this demonstration has shaken up the establishment and reaffirmed the rightful place of the youth in nation building.
4. Kenya says “Karibu” to POTUS and the Pope
What did Kenya do to deserve a visit from POTUS and the POPE all in one year? Okay, so I am a tad bit jealous but proud nonetheless. Lets start with POTUS. He visited Kenya in July 2015, spoke Swahili, described himself as Kenyan-American, danced, connected with family, delivered an impeccable address with touched on corruption, human rights and democracy. His visit to Kenya was the first time a sitting US President had visited Kenya (a bit shocking, right?).
Now on to November 2015: Pope Francis arrived in Kenya in his first visit to Africa. He visited a Nairobi slum, spoke about the environment and held Mass at the University of Nairobi. I am especially pleased that Pope Francis also chose to visit Central African Republic, where religious conflict runs amok. He even visited a Mosque in Bangui that has been attacked by Christian militias. After removing his shoes on entering the Koudoukou mosque and bowing towards the holy Muslim city of Mecca, the pope told several hundred men inside that “Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters”. He makes me want to go back to my catholic roots!
5. Resolving Ebola in West Africa
The first reported case in the Ebola outbreak dates back to December 2013 in a forested area of Guinea, near the border with Guinea and Sierra Leone. The Economist reports that, as of December 20th 2015, 28,637 cases and 11,315 deaths had been reported worldwide, the vast majority of them in the three West African countries. The good news is this: We have wrapped up 2015 with the pandemic in check. Guinea was declared Ebola-free on December 29th 2015 and Sierra Leone has been free of the disease since November 7th. Liberia was the first of the three countries to be declared Ebola-free on May 9th. However a re-emergence of the virus around the 22nd of November resulted in three confirmed cases and one death, and therefore, if no further cases are confirmed, the country will be declared free of the disease (and Africa as a whole along with it) in January 2016 (The Economist, 2015). The international community have been instrumental in the fight against Ebola, but I especially want to recognize Nigeria for its swift and efficient response, including a state of the art surveillance to curb the pandemic.
6. Impactful Hashtags
On a global front, we’ve seen interesting and powerful hashtags such as #blacklivesmatter and #jesuischarlie take root. Hashtags have also been instrumental in elevating social causes on the continent. #Bringbackthegirls continued in 2015 with a few girls being found but most practically vanishing into thin air. #WhatwouldMagufulido is perhaps the most prominent of the hashtags of 2015. It took on a humorous front with all kinds of frivolous life decisions being associated with the hashtag but nonetheless kept the illustrious leader and his particular no nonsense approach to governance, in the spotlight. #paybackthemoney is one that I hope prevails until the president of South Africa pays some of the money (state funds) used to upgrade his private residence.
7. A promising new President of the African Development Bank
Dr Akinwumi Adesina, a very swaggy agricultural economist and former Nigerian Minister of Agriculture, was elected as the 8th President of the African Development Bank in May 2015. His election was quite exciting for many people in the development space. The reason being that he led a much-needed and a successful agricultural reform in Nigeria in an effort to reduce the country’s reliance on oil. His vision was to change how the agriculture sector is perceived and make it sexy (my term). He was all about modernizing, processing, bringing in the private sector and getting rid of corruption and wasteful subsidies. So, it is no surprise that agriculture and agro processing are now going to be priority focus areas of the ADB, which I fully support! His other priorities for Africa are: energy, industrialisation, regional infrastructure and quality of life (through health, water and sanitation). I think education needs to feature more prominently, but all the same, I am excited to see how the Bank performs under his leadership.
I’m interesting in knowing what your highlights for 2015 were.
Peace and love!
Photo credits: guardian.com, aljazeera.com, cruxnow.com, bbc.com, economist.com, bigeye.ug, businessworldng.com