This will be a regular update highlighting developments in and around the continent.
Next month I’ll be in Cape Town for the annual World Economic Forum for Africa (WEFA) reporting fully on all the buzz as the continent’s business and political leaders outline their strategies for the future – strange to think that it’s only twelve months since we were all in Abuja for last year’s event.
How much has changed in the last year? – then Nigeria had just taken over from South Africa as sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economy. The Abuja WEFA was supposed to be Nigeria’s moment in the sun, recognition that the great African giant was finally taking its rightful place as Africa’s economic powerhouse. It didn’t quite turn out as simple as that.
In the run up to the Forum two Boko Haram bomb attacks rocked the capital. As a result much of the Forum itself took place inside a tight security lockdown. The discussions inside the chamber threatened to be overshadowed by daily protests from the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaigners seeking the return of the Chibok schoolgirls who’d been kidnapped by Boko Haram. Many delegates were appalled by the seeming inability of the then President Goodluck Jonathan say much or more importantly to do much to secure their release.
Twelve months on and the election in Nigeria was swept Goodluck Jonathan from power and the new President-Elect Muhammadu Buhari seems to be attacking Boko Haram with all the gusto we might expect from a former military dictator. Lower oil prices and corruption remain big challenges for the new President but I suspect that if the WEFA was held in Abuja again this year we would all be looking at a very different Nigeria.
On May 29th Muhammadu Buhari will be Inaugurated as President. He is expected to reach out to the world for support in developing the country. Certainly the latest prognosis for Nigeria from the African Development Bank is bullish, promising “sustained growth driven by an improved performance of the key non-oil sectors – agriculture, information an communication technology, trade and services”, although the AfDB does concede that the decline of oil may dampen this positive outlook.
It just shows that things can change quickly in Africa. Even though investors tell us that Africa is for investors with “a long-term orientation” sometimes the pace of change can be exhilarating and all eyes will be on Abuja on May 29th to see what this new leadership will bring.
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