Alafarika: Africa’s 2023 Recap and What to Expect in 2024

The continent is expected to undergo significant transformation in 2024. Numerous governments are exploring ways to become self-sufficient due to the high cost of living imposed on them by the year-long conflict in Ukraine.
What about the international community’s stand on military coups as the generals refused to hand over power?
What about the new governments that are expected in Senegal and Rwanda next year?

Africa has had a generally tumultuous year, but with some encouraging moments. These are the major concerns, happenings, and patterns of the last year that encapsulate the most significant advancements in science, technology, human rights, security, and social politics throughout the continent.

While 2023 saw both positive and negative trends overall, longer-term global dynamics—such as mediocre diplomacy, coups, and elections—are the main things on people’s minds as the year draws to an end.

Here is Alafarika’s recap of 2023.

Return of the Generals Amid Democratic Eforts

Since 2020, there have been nine coups in West Africa, Central Africa, and the Sahel region, involving the likes of Mali, Guinea, Sudan, Chad, and Burkina Faso. On July 26, 2023, the presidential guard in Niger overthrew democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum before the Gabon coup a few weeks later. In Senegal and Ghana this year, soldiers have taken deadly measures in response to public unrest. Meanwhile, many West African countries have already displayed incredible and commendable commitment to upholding democratic norms. For instance, nations like Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Ghana, and Nigeria.

In Nigeria, President Bola Tinubu won the disputed February election with 37 percent of the vote. In a nation of more than 200 million people, of whom 87 million were registered to vote, Tinubu garnered just 8.79 million votes, the fewest of any president since the return to democracy. Bola Tinubu’s presidential campaign slogan was “emi lo kan” in his native Yoruba—”It’s my turn.” On March 1, he emerged victorious in the race to lead Africa’s most populous democracy.

In Egypt, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi secured a third term as leader of the Middle East’s most populous nation, officials said. After seizing power in a military coup in 2013, Sisi, 69, has won two presidential elections with 97% of the vote, the last of which was against a candidate who openly supported his rule. Leading opposition candidate Ahmed Tantawy had pulled out months before last week’s poll, claiming intimidation and violence against his campaign camp.

In Zambia, following his choice to resume active politics, Edgar Lungu, the former president of Zambia, has had his retirement benefits and privileges revoked by the government. Zambia’s parliament has previously removed immunity from two former presidents: Frederick Chiluba in 2002 and Rupiah Banda in 2013,” Africa News reports.

Also, Zimbabwe held general elections on August 23 and 24, 2023, to choose its president, lawmakers, and council members. Emmerson Mnangagwa, the president of Zimbabwe, won 52.6 percent of the vote, compared with 44 percent for Nelson Chamisa, his main challenger. The election results announced on August 26 are being disputed due to reports of delayed voting, voter intimidation, and ballot paper irregularities. Mnangagwa has been announced as the official winner of the presidential poll, but the CCC has rejected these results, analysts said.

Economic Developments

For Sub-Saharan Africa, 2023 has been a challenging year, with growth decreasing to 3.3 percent from 4 percent in 2022. Growth is predicted to return to 4% in 2024 and to be broad-based. Importantly, many governments are working hard to alleviate macroeconomic imbalances. Fiscal deficits have helped most countries stabilize their public debt. These results are all the more promising in light of significant external challenges, such as sluggish overseas demand and costly and difficult access to funding.

Dangote Group’s Dangote oil refinery in Lekki, Nigeria, was also inaugurated in 2023. The refinery received two million barrels of oil in December 2023, paving the way for the start of refined petroleum product production. Dangote Petroleum Refinery is projected to be capable of satisfying Nigeria’s demand for all refined products—gasoline, diesel, kerosene, and aviation jet—and to have a surplus of each of these products for export. The refinery is also expected to meet more than 12% of Africa’s product demand, potentially lowering petroleum imports by 36% throughout the continent. The building of the refinery is expected to provide over 100,000 job opportunities and boost growth in the cosmetics and plastics industries.15 June 2023

Africa and Global Geopolitical Competition

The U.S. ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, said on May 11 that he was confident that a Russian ship, which docked at a naval base in Simonstown in the Western Cape in December last year, took aboard weapons from South Africa. An allegation South Africa has since denied. The allegation unleashed a diplomatic storm for Ramaphosa’s government, which has said it is non-aligned over the war in Ukraine, and shook South Africa’s financial markets as trade ties connecting key South African export industries to the US suddenly fell into doubt.

Also, with Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin killed in a mysterious plane crash, the mercenary group is expected to come more directly under the control of the Kremlin over the next few months, which should offer indications of Russia’s plans in the region. This makes all the talk about Russian gains in the Sahel and, more broadly, in Africa sound all the shallower. Yes, it is true that Moscow or Wagner could conceivably take over operational control of some of Washington’s drone bases in this region of Africa—and even possibly win some mining business there, too.

As a new diplomatic outreach emerged in Africa, it shaped the dynamics of international relations and political and economic ties. Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi visited Africa in July 2023 with the aim of bolstering Iran’s political, economic, and trade ties with the African nations. Raisi’s trip to Africa, which also took him to Uganda and Zimbabwe, is the first by an Iranian president in more than a decade and represents a bid to diversify economic ties in the face of crippling U.S. sanctions.

Similarly, the administration of President Joe Biden has sought to strengthen ties with Africa, in part to offer an alternative to rival powers, amid global competition over the continent’s future. First Lady Jill Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken preceded Harris to Africa, and other officials, like Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, have also been.

Besides, in an attempt to overtake China in terms of extending its influence throughout the resource-rich continent, India has made Africa the second-largest beneficiary of its credit. Kenya will receive a $250 million financial credit line from India to modernize its agriculture industry, according to remarks made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December.

Is BRICS a viable substitute?

Cooperation between Africa and the BRICS has gained new momentum and generated much interest in recent years. The BRICS are also becoming significant investors in Africa, especially in the manufacturing and service sectors. In July, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said his country wanted to join the BRICS and had even set aside a kitty of $1.5 billion to contribute to the group’s New Development Bank—in essence, to buy its ticket into the gathering. In June, Egypt also requested admission. They view BRICS as an alternative to global bodies viewed as dominated by the traditional Western powers and hope the membership will unlock benefits including development finance and increased trade and investment.

Award and Progress in Vaccines

Recent disruptions due to trade turbulence, economic uncertainty, a global pandemic, and geopolitical events have compelled manufacturers worldwide to diversify their production locations and geographical footprint. “This presents opportunities for African governments and businesses to position the continent as the new destination for global supply chains.” Professor Abdoulaye Diabate of Burkina Faso was named in September as the only African among 10 global winners of the prestigious award for this year and was also recognized by the Falling Walls Foundation for “contributing some of the world’s most advanced work on genetic solutions to malaria.”

Similarly, on October 9, 2023, at the 2023 Grand Challenges Annual Meeting, Bill Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced new investments to advance access to mRNA research and vaccine manufacturing technology that will support low- and middle-income countries’ (LMICs) capacity to develop high-quality, lifesaving vaccines at scale. “The foundation announced a total of US$40 million in funding to advance access to Quantoom Biosciences’ low-cost mRNA research and manufacturing platform, which was developed with an early-research Grand Challenges grant made to its parent company, Univercells.”

The African Development Bank (AfDB) established the African Pharmaceutical Technology Foundation (APTF) in May. Africa’s progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN will be greatly aided by this. Furthermore, enrollment in a clinical trial for a preventive HIV vaccine started in September in South Africa and the United States.

Variations in Sahel’s Insecurity

Despite the declarations by French President Emmanuel Macron that the era of his country’s interference in Africa was “well over,” France—and the West in general—have been losing influence on the continent year after year. As of August, 14 former French colonies in Africa pay a “colonial tax” amounting to about $500 billion. However, following a military coup in July, the Niger government has decided to “withdraw the privileges and immunities granted” under the EU Military Partnership Mission in Niger that was launched in February and consequently “has no legal obligation” related to that partnership.

Chad has also been significantly affected by the conflicts in Libya and Sudan. The government-backed Sudanese militia known as the Janjaweed, which in 2013 morphed into the Rapid Support Forces armed group that is currently battling Sudan’s military for power, has been active across the country’s borders. An estimated 5,000 Sudanese people have already been killed in crossfire between these two warring branches of the military, while many more have been injured. According to a report, under the guise of saving refugees, the United Arab Emirates is running an elaborate covert operation to back one side in Sudan’s spiraling war—supplying powerful weapons and drones, treating injured fighters, and airlifting the most serious cases to one of its military hospitals.

Three West African Sahelian countries under military junta rule—Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso—signed a security agreement in September, pledging to support one another in the event of an uprising or external aggression. Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso are struggling to contain Islamic insurgents linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State and have also seen their relations with neighbors and international partners strained because of the coups.

It is worth mentioning that the United Arab Emirates, which has been developing its own defense industry, has also been increasing its engagement with African nations. In January 2023, Somalia and the UAE signed an agreement to bolster military and security ties, along with cooperation in anti-terrorism efforts, as the two countries worked to improve strained relations.

2024: A Year Ahead

There are many political and economic developments expected in 2024 in Africa. One seismic prospect, in terms of potential political earthquakes, is South Africa’s general election. Even as long-standing leaders in Algeria and Sudan were finally toppled in recent years, the regimes behind them remained in place. And leaders in countries from Rwanda to Uganda to Cameroon have shored up their power, often using violent and repressive means to do so. Increasingly active youth movements and civil society have pressured governments for democratic reforms, but with limited success.

Also, 2024 will be the year of elections (President, Governors, National Assembly, and Local), which are scheduled to take place in some African countries, including Senegal, Rwanda, and others. When Senegal elects new administrations in 2024, there will be significant changes to Africa’s democratic landscape. In the meantime, Rwandan President Paul Kagame has declared his intention to run for a fourth term in the elections coming up next year.

The influence of, and competition among, Gulf states could reshape Horn geopolitics. Gulf leaders can nudge their African counterparts toward peace; both the UAE and Saudi Arabia helped along the recent Eritrea-Ethiopia rapprochement. But rivalries among Gulf powers can also sow instability, as their spillover into Somalia has done, the Crisis Group said. In Niger, there are fears that a decision to order 1,500 French troops in the country to leave may further embolden insurgents.

On August 24, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced during the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg that Egypt, along with Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, and Ethiopia, are set to join the bloc starting in 2024. It is hoped that US President Joe Biden will travel to Africa in 2024. Even though Biden stated he would travel to Africa this year, 2023 is almost over, and there is still no plan for a trip. To enable sustainable economic growth and development, science, technology, and innovation must reach their full potential in Africa. Information and communications technology (ICT) in Zambia will see tremendous growth in 2024. Africa has been focusing on internet connectivity and access as a priority. To improve internet penetration rates in Africa, there needs to be a significant investment in infrastructure. Starlink is a satellite-based internet service. It is set to be rolled out elsewhere on the continent. More coverage is to come in 2024.

Although it is expected that Africa’s economic growth will only partially recover in 2024 amid political instability, weak global growth, and high interest rates, it is also foreseen that Africa will be the second-fastest-growing major region in 2024, boosted by the services sector, which continues to play an important role in East Africa, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). By the same token, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) has paved the way for the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS), anticipated to commence operations in early 2024. PAPSS’s objective is to facilitate instantaneous, cross-border payments in local currencies among AfCFTA member nations.

Writer and researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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