Africans Put Rulers on Notice
July 4, 2011
By PETER WONACOTT
JOHANNESBURG—A charged political landscape in Africa is punishing governments that fail to share the benefits of faster economic growth with young populations, according to the top economist at the African Development Bank Group.
"Young people have the ability to self-organize through social networks," said Mthuli Ncube, chief economist at the African Development Bank Group. "They don't need political parties."
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The unrest has sent warnings to other long-serving leaders of African countries, such as Senegal and Uganda, where protests have mingled political and economic concerns. Even South Africa, a 17-year old democracy, needs to grow faster to absorb its "youth bulge," said Ncube. Africa's economic growth is expected to ease to 3.7% this year, down from 4.9% in 2010, due to unrest in places such as Libya and Ivory Coast, according to a new report.
The bank, based in Tunisia, has witnessed first-hand how quickly economic discontent can grow into political unrest, toppling leaders in the process. Recent popular revolts have dislodged authoritarian governments in Tunisia and Egypt, while armed conflict is challenging the rule of Col. Moammar Gadhafi in Libya.
said Mr. Ncube. South Africa grew 4.8% in the first quarter over the previous quarter, but about a quarter of its working-age population is jobless.
The pockets of political unrest have dragged on Africa's economic growth this year 2011, although fast-expanding exports and a new middle class should prevent a sharp slowdown, according to a report released Monday.
Africa's growth is expected to slump to 3.7% in 2011, down from a pace of 4.9% last year, according to the "African Economic Outlook." The report—authored by the African Development Bank, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as well as the United Nations—was earlier unveiled at a meeting last month in Lisbon, but launched on the continent Monday.
Africa's slumping growth marks a setback for a continent vying to compete with China and India as the next big growth story. Africa emerged in better shape than most continental-sized economies from the global downturn, largely because of continuing demand for its natural resources.
But unrest in North Africa, particularly the ongoing conflict in Libya, as well as a violent standoff between two would-be presidents in Ivory Coast were reminders the devastating impact of the continent's explosive politics.
Libya's economy is expected to shrink 19% this year while Tunisia and Egypt will grow 1.1% and 1.6%, respectively. Meanwhile, Ivory Coast will contract about 7.3%, Mr. Ncube said.
"Africa is a positive story, but every positive story has its risks," he said. "Something can always go wrong."
Despite the political shocks, the longer-term outlook for Africa is bright. The report estimates that Africa's economic growth will accelerate to 5.8% next year.
Beyond the north, a collection of some 47 countries known as sub-Saharan Africa is generally performing well. Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to grow 5.5% this year, only down slightly from the 5.7% forecast for the year prior to the crisis in the Ivory Coast.
Exports of oil, minerals and agricultural commodities—and high prices for them—have helped buoy growth in resource-rich countries. But domestic demand is surfacing, too, helping to drive economies such as Ethiopia and Kenya.
In an earlier report, the African Development Bank estimated that the continent had more than 300 million people spending between $2 and $20 a day, a size that had expanded 60% over the last decade. The bank called these new consumers Africa's middle class.
Write to Peter Wonacott at email@example.com
By Will Connors - June 30, 2011
Senegal Cracks Down on Riots
Senegal deployed its military on Wednesday to clamp down on antigovernment riots after protesters attacked government buildings and burned tires, following a week of sporadic protests that have jolted the leadership of one of Africa's most stable countries.
The military deployment in the capital, Dakar, appeared to have cleared the streets of protesters, though some have vowed to continue agitating against the government of octogenarian President Abdoulaye Wade.
On Wednesday, the military sent troops to guard several sites around the city, including a $27 million statue seen by many as a symbol of government waste. Protesters said they aimed to topple the 164-foot statue, African Renaissance, which was built by a North Korean firm.
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Protests were triggered last week by a proposed change to the constitution by Mr. Wade that critics say would have eased his path to a third term. Thousands of protesters took to the streets, prompting police to fire tear gas in attempts to disperse them.
Protesters also reacted violently to prolonged power cuts, and on Monday thousands of rioters attacked government buildings, including the state power utility, which later apologized for electricity outages across the country.
Deploying the military is "a short-term strategy," says Mwangi Kimenyi, a senior fellow and director of the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "This is not going to be sustainable. As long as you have issues people feel they can blame on the government, these riots will continue."
Another chief target of the protests has been the president's son, Karim Wade. The French-educated banker heads five different ministries in Senegal. Opposition figures say he is being groomed to succeed his father.
As they marched through the streets last week, some demonstrators held signs saying: "Senegal is not a dynasty."
The unrest is a major setback for the government of Senegal, a country that has never experienced a coup and is a favored hub for foreign companies and tourists.
Government officials say criminals have taken advantage of the protests to loot stores.
A spokesman in the president's office, reached by telephone on Wednesday, declined to comment on the situation.
After last week's protests, President Wade canceled a proposed change to the constitution that would have allowed presidential candidates to win in the first round with only 25% of the vote. Senegal is set to hold a presidential election in February.
Mr. Wade himself was a longtime opposition leader who won his first term in 2000.
Today, some opposition figures say they have become frustrated with what they call the undemocratic appointments of the younger Mr. Wade.
The president's 42-year-old son lost a 2009 bid to be mayor of Dakar. But President Wade later named his son minister of infrastructure and of aviation; Karim Wade also holds the international cooperation and regional development portfolios. More recently, the younger Mr. Wade was given another key ministry, energy.
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