Is Africa stalling or entering boom phase?

Thursday February 20 2020


By Karoli Ssemogerere

Two competing narratives are coming out of Africa in 2020. First is higher economic growth, a boom in services, commercial agriculture. This same narrative has key milestones for many infrastructure projects. Tanzania has begun implementing the standard gauge rail project.

Ethiopia recently announced a huge airport infrastructure project on the back of a light rail project in the capital Addis. The other narrative has more of the past, food insecurity in many countries like Zambia, Zimbabwe and also record economic slowdown in countries like Angola.
Yet the combined picture is more prosperous. In the last five years, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya have established new airlinks. A small but growing liberal Judiciary has delivered major decisions.

Between 2015 and 2020, courts in Kenya, Malawi have annulled presidential elections. Even where contested outcomes have been announced in Uganda and Zimbabwe, certain progressive pronouncements have limited the leeway for future gross electoral misconduct.

After years of uncertainty, the international criminal law regime has delivered a number of decisions in cases from the DR Congo. There are ongoing cases from Uganda and the Central African Republic.

In Sudan, the sitting government has accepted to send its former Head of State Omar al-Bashir to the ICC in the Hague.

The law in Sudan under which he was being held, restricted custodial sentences for persons aged 70 and above. Even though he had been tried domestically, nothing punitive would come out of these trials as Bashir was already 70 years old.


Basket cases like Libya have stalled on the slide to chaos. Changes in Egypt, the DRC, Algeria, Guinea Bissau and Tunisia have brought a semblance of electoral calm. Some of these countries have established authoritarian tendencies, but the emphasis in the governance has been less of the authoritarianism and more of the law and order.

Africa has a few things going for it. First, the rapid rise in population. Bigger population means bigger markets, a major source of liquidity. Bigger population has higher outputs in agriculture, mining. A small increase in incomes is transforming consumption of tourism, financial services.

Maj Gen Benon Biraaro (1958-2020).
Maj Gen Benon Biraaro was one of the more than 50 future presidential candidates from UPDF who hoped to succeed President Museveni when he stepped down from office.

A career officer who served in administration and peacekeeping, Biraaro was a sharp military officer.

In the early years of NRM, he was the secretary of the now defunct National Resistance Council. Biraaro, an outspoken mulokole (born-again) did not enjoy the profile of his peers like Maj Gen Gregory Mugisha Muntu, who served as Army Commander and later was a key figure in the founding of FDC, which he quit to form ANT in 2018.

However, like Biraaro, Muntu had a deep sense of disappointment that NRM had missed a number of milestones and abandoned them altogether when an alternative raft of processes dominated by amendment of the Constitution, which distorted its basic structure.

I once asked Biraaro in 2014 why he thought it required yet another set of parties to be set up for the express purpose of removing President Museveni, and why this particular avenue was the preferred route.

Ugandans had given Col Kizza Besigye the same carte blanche to set up a new party in 2006. In fact the newer parties had a problem because they looked the same clones of their bigger party NRM.

A very strong debater, he said, all these opposition parties would unite towards the goal. All these parties are still around in varying stages of fighting NRM with unsatisfactory results. People keep on boarding and returning to where they left. Ugandans have always had trouble with political consistency. RIP Biraro.

Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law and an Advocate.