Coronavirus lockdowns brought the world to a standstill. Rules on hygiene and social distancing have reshaped daily life, schools and businesses had been closed, and gatherings banned. Almost 2.7 billion workers, representing around 81% the world’s workforce, have been affected by partial or full lockdown regulations.
We looked at how the lockdown strategies in Ghana affected the labour market in the country. The aim was to identify lessons that could be learnt from Ghana’s policy response to the pandemic. And to glean insights that could be useful for the design of future policies in Ghana as well as other countries in the region.
Ghana’s experience illustrates the difficult balance between protecting lives and livelihoods. It also highlights the challenge of designing targeted policies that ensure the most vulnerable are not being left behind.
Ghana was one of the first African countries to enact stringent policies to slow the spread of the virus. The urban centres of Accra and Kumasi – which emerged as transmission “hotspots” – were under lockdown from 30 March to 19 April 2020.
The partial lockdown did not last long enough to flatten the pandemic curve. But our paper outlines how it had a large economic impact, triggering job losses and business closures. Many Ghanaians have been able to resume work since the most rigid regulations were relaxed. Nevertheless the labour market recovery has remained partial and uneven, and the economic burden of the pandemic continues to fall on the most vulnerable.
Impact on workers
In our research, we talked to more than 600 workers in different cities throughout Ghana to assess how their livelihoods were affected by the pandemic.
Three main findings emerged.
Firstly, the lockdown had an immediate impact on the labour market, as illustrated in the left hand graph.
Workers in districts affected by the lockdown were more than twice as likely to drop out of work in the early phases of the pandemic. And only one out of three workers in lockdown districts continued working throughout April 2020, compared to two out of three in districts that had no lockdown.
In both cases, the vast majority reported workplace and business closures due to government regulations as the main reason for this break in economic activity.
Secondly, the gap in employment levels between locations subject to different lockdown policies had closed four months after the measures were relaxed. Despite this remarkable recovery in employment, as illustrated in the right-hand graph, the pandemic had a persistent nationwide effect on the labour market. We estimated that by September 2020 employment was still 12 percentage points lower compared to February that year. And average weekly earnings remained substantially below the pre-COVID-19 levels. This was even after accounting for differences in the compositions of the workforce.
Thirdly, the pandemic’s shock to the labour market did not affect all workers equally. Rather, it exposed and exacerbated pre-existing vulnerabilities.
The graph below exemplifies this unequal impact.
Business owners in the informal economy most often had to stop their activities in the early phases of the pandemic and saw a slower near-term recovery in terms of both employment and earnings. This means that people in contact intensive environments such as restaurants, tourism businesses, small retail shops, and street vending were the most affected.
Most were low-income earners with no or small savings, who needed to earn a living on a daily basis and were at high risk of being left destitute without targeted assistance.
In Ghana, females make up the majority of the vulnerable self-employed, and our research shows that women remain disproportionally affected by the pandemic in terms of both employment and earnings.
The Ghanaian government rolled out measures to support the poor and vulnerable as well as businesses. These interventions which were covered under the coronavirus alleviation programme seek to mitigate the disruption in economic activities, the hardship of the people and also to rescue and revitalise micro, small and medium scale businesses. For instance, under the coronavirus alleviation programme business support scheme, the National Board for Small Scale Industries disbursed soft loans to micro, small and medium scale businesses operating in agribusinesses, manufacturing, water and sanitation, tourism and hospitality, education, food and beverages, technology, transportation, commerce and trade, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, and textiles and garments.
Making sure no one is left behind
For policymakers around the world, navigating the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been a difficult balancing act between protecting public health and the economy. As COVID-19 cases surge again, how should Ghana reconcile health and economic risks? And how can the country prevent a backsliding in progress on reducing poverty and mitigate further pressures to inequality?
Our research shows that future containment policies will need to be coupled with protective measures that prevent the most vulnerable workers from being left behind in the crisis.
In this case, containment measures must be complemented by adequate relief to the poor and vulnerable in a quick, safe, and effective manner. In order to restore income and preserve livelihoods, income support in the form of direct cash payments to those in need are crucial.
There are a few green shoots in the labour market, given that many Ghanaians have been able to start working again. We argue that these can be attributed to the policies adopted by the Ghanaian government such as the timely lifting of the partial lockdown and the swift support to households and businesses.
But more needs to be done to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on informal workers, particularly women. It is important for countries to develop measures to support workers in this segment of employment. Ghana rather seems to be doing better compared to other developing countries. These interventions should be aimed at addressing the hardship of households as well as the disruption in their economic activities. Particularly, governments can develop safety nets to support informal workers until they are able to return to work.
Kunal Sen, Professor and Director, World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER), United Nations University; Michael Danquah, Research Fellow, United Nations University; Robert Darko Osei, Associate Professor, Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER),, University of Ghana, and Simone Schotte, Research Associate, United Nations University
It’s estimated that 90% of the world’s trade is transported by sea. As consumers, we rarely give much thought to how the things we buy make their way across the planet and into our homes. That is, until an incident like the recent grounding of a huge container ship, the Ever Given, in the Suez Canal exposes the weaknesses in this global system.
High winds have been blamed for the container ship blocking the narrow strait, which serves as a trade artery that connects the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. But with shipping so heavily reliant on such narrow channels, the potential for these incidents is ever-present.
As researchers of maritime security, we often simulate incidents like the Ever Given grounding to understand the probable long and short-term consequences. In fact, the recent event is near identical to something we have been discussing for the last month, as it represents an almost worst-case scenario for the Suez Canal and for knock-on effects on global trade.
The Suez Canal is the gateway for the movement of goods between Europe and Asia, and it was responsible for the transit of over 19,000 ships in 2019, equating to nearly 1.25 billion tonnes of cargo. This is thought to represent around 13% of world trade so any blockage is likely to have a significant impact.
The Suez Canal Authority started expanding the strait in 2014 to raise its daily capacity from 49 vessels at present to 97 by 2023. This gives an indication of how many ships are likely to be affected by the current situation. There are reports that the incident has already halted the passage of ten crude tankers carrying 13 million barrels of oil, and that any ships rerouted will have 15 days added to their voyage.
The severity of the incident is because of the dimensions of the vessels using the canal. The Ever Given is 400 metres long, 59 metres at its widest point and 16 metres deep below the waterline. This makes it one of the largest container ships in the world, capable of carrying over 18,000 containers. Depending on the severity of the grounding, the salvage and re-floating of this type of ship is a complex operation, requiring specialist equipment and potentially a lot of time.
While the exact number of container ships of this size transiting the canal is unknown, container vessels account for almost a third of all canal traffic. Their depth and girth make for difficult navigation within the canal. When operating within such tight margins, ships of this size have to maintain a certain speed to keep their steering effective.
With the capacity to carry over 150,000 tonnes of cargo, these ships cannot stop suddenly. If something does go wrong, crews have very little time to react before the ship runs aground.
This makes a blockage of this type almost inevitable, especially considering that the length of these ships far exceeds the width of the canal. But what makes this incident particularly disruptive is the location of the grounding. Since the canal was expanded, the Mediterranean end of the Canal now has two channels for ships to take, allowing seamless transiting even if one channel is blocked.
But, in its current location at the Suez end of the Canal, the Ever Given is blocking the only channel for ships to pass through. As ships travel through the 193km of canal in convoys with tightly scheduled slots, vessels leading these groups can block the channel like this, creating a backlog of ships or even collisions. It’s unclear if the goods being delayed are time-sensitive (for example: medicine or food), but understanding what effects these incidents have on trade can help us pre-empt effective solutions.
Could it have been worse?
We’re also interested in what other factors can influence an event like this. One element is the time of year. Traditionally, in the build-up to Christmas, October and November are busy times for maritime trade. A disruption in the global supply chain during this period would have a far greater impact, and could coincide with difficult weather conditions which would exacerbate things, like visibility-reducing fog.
Another element is the unevenness of the canal’s banks. If the incident had occurred only a few kilometres down towards the seaport of Suez where the strait ends, the ship would have run aground on banks composed of rock, not sand. An impact here might have caused serious damage to the hull, making salvage operations harder.
While not identical to our team’s table-top scenario, the latest incident does highlight that as ships get larger and more complicated, their reliance on narrow shipping routes constructed in an earlier age looks increasingly risky. Today’s blockage will have limited long-term implications, but incidents like it could be triggered maliciously, causing targeted or widespread impacts on global and local trade. We need to be more aware of these weaknesses as our world becomes more connected.
Rory Hopcraft, Industrial Researcher, University of Plymouth; Kevin Jones, Executive Dean, Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Plymouth, and Kimberly Tam, Lecturer in Cyber Security, University of Plymouth
Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno, who has ruled since 1990, is gearing up to take on his sixth mandate as head of state. Elections are scheduled for 11 April 2021. And the country’s 2018 constitution allows him to stay in office, if elected, until 2033.
Déby is an experienced military man who first joined the army in the 1970s during the former French colony’s civil war. He eventually became commander in chief of the armed forces under former president Hissène Habré who served from 1982 to 1990.
In that year, an insurrection led by Déby hounded President Habré out of office. Déby promised to establish a functioning multiparty democracy and to put an end to the previous regime’s lawlessness and violence. That promise was short lived. Déby’s ambitions quickly shifted to staying in power by any means and enriching his extended family.
Thirty years later, he is governing a population that has long suffered from extreme poverty despite the country’s oil wealth. The country also has an inadequate healthcare system, poor educational opportunities, lack of career prospects among the youth, and high unemployment. The United Nations Human Development Index (2020) ranks the country 187 (out of 189).
Political liberties are almost non-existent; human rights violations are part of everyday life, and opposition leaders, human rights activists, journalists and trade unionists live under permanent threat.
Over the years, various protests have been staged against Déby’s rule. Opposition parties and trade unions have held repeated demonstrations to demand free and fair elections, and also to bring attention to the poor socio-economic status of ordinary Chadians.
Northern Chad has also witnessed a number of rebellions against Déby’s rule. And in 2006 and 2008, members of Déby’s Zaghawa clan and former allies who defected to the opposition tried to overthrow him by military force.
Most recently, protests broke out in February 2021, when Déby announced that he would run for a sixth term. The president dispatched his security forces to disperse them immediately.
Run-up to the elections
The resistance during this election cycle is even more passionate than in recent years. Chadians are turning to the example set by Burkina Faso and Mali, where presidents Blaise Compaore and Ibrahim Boubacar Keita were ousted following protests in 2014 and 2020, respectively.
Prominent opposition politician Succès Masra, who leads The Transformers party, has been at the forefront of the protests against Déby. Masra gave up a post at the African Development Bank to join politics in 2018.
But Chad’s revised constitution of 2018 barred him from running for president because he is 38. Presidential candidates must now be 40 or older, despite the majority of the population being younger than 45. The cutoff age in the previous constitution was 35 years.
Déby does not have a serious challenger for the presidency because the opposition is splintered. Initially, 17 opposition leaders registered interest to contest. But when candidate and former minister Yaya Dillo’s mother was killed by security forces, some candidates withdrew their bids. Dillo, a Zaghawa like Déby, has since gone into hiding.
One opposition heavyweight who withdrew is veteran opposition leader Saleh Kebzabo, who leads the National Union for Democracy and Renewal party, and was runner-up in the 2016 presidential elections. The official results, which were questioned by the opposition, showed that he won just 12.8% of the vote. Kebzabo is now calling for a boycott of the elections and regime change.
But despite a groundswell of opposition against Déby’s candidature, four factors stand in his favour.
One, Chad’s substantial oil producing capacity. Two, the precarious security situation in the Sahel region, which has been under siege by Islamist terrorists. Three, France’s unconditional loyalty to the regime, and four, Déby is a strategic diplomat.
First, Chad’s oil revenues have given Déby the means to arm the military. He uses the Chadian military to counter attacks on his rule, which has helped him remain in power.
Second, for more than a decade, the Boko Haram terror group in neighbouring Nigeria, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and the Islamic State in the Sahel have plagued the region with violence. The Chadian army under Déby’s command has shown itself to be an indispensable partner in the international fight against extremism in the Sahel.
Third, in 2013 when then French President Francois Hollande provided military support to fight Al-Qaeda and the militant Islamist group, Ansar Dine, in northern Mali, Déby and his military stood by the French.
Since independence in 1960, France has used Chad’s capital N’Djamena as a military base for the entire Sahel region. And from 2014, N’Djamena has hosted the headquarters for Barkhane, a France-led mission to fight terrorists. French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Castex visit Chad regularly.
Fourth, Déby is a strategic diplomatic. For years, he has successfully placed his loyal followers in influential regional and international positions. For example, his former Foreign Minister Moussa Faki was recently re-confirmed as president of the African Union commission.
His longtime ambassador to the European Union and Special Representative of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, will soon move to Dakar as the United Nations representative for West Africa.
And in February 2021, Déby took over as the rotating chair of the G5 Sahel, an institutional framework for coordination of regional cooperation in development policies and security matters in west Africa.
Why Déby should worry
But Déby still faces a threat to his reign. For one, Chadians had hoped for better access to resources, especially when Chad joined the list of oil-producing countries in 2003. But only the corrupt elite around Déby and his clan have benefited from the revenues.
Second is the lack of political freedom. During this election period only Déby and his ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement have been allowed to campaign. Citing pandemic protocols, his government has restricted the opposition from campaigning. Opposition leaders have called for the international community to intervene.
If anti-Déby sentiment gains momentum, the opposition, youth, and some members of Déby’s Zaghawa clan could for the first time march together despite the fear of state violence.
Whether they succeed will depend on the loyalty of the security forces, which are dominated by Zaghawa – and on the political leanings of France.
Thirteen presidential and legislative elections are scheduled to take place in Africa during the course of 2021, despite the presence of COVID-19.
While fear of contracting COVID-19 has possibly contributed to lower voter turnout, it is not the only reason people are staying home from the polls. Across the continent, there have been many reports of security crackdowns on public rallies, intimidation of opposition parties their leaders fleeing into exile if they have not been arrested and much of the media has been muted with many journalists being harassed, threatened, and imprisoned.
The legitimacy of a country’s electoral process is closely tied to its prospects for stability.
In a number of countries, such as Uganda, Chad, the Republic of the Congo, and Djibouti, leaders have held their seats for decades, and are holding onto their positions by any means necessary including force removal of term limits, and giving limited operating space to opposition parties. Increased internal conflict in many countries as a result of increased corruption, lack of accountability, and lack of reform, is threatening to undermine the economic stability of the entire Horn of Africa region.
Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, for example, ranks Uganda and Djibouti at 142 out of 180 countries; Chad at 160 out of 180; the Republic of Congo at 170 out of 180.
In it’s CPI 2020: SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA Report it reveals that Sub-Saharan Africa with an average score of 32 is the lowest performing region on the CPI, showing little improvement from previous years and underscoring a need for urgent action. There is a desperate need for reform in every sector of each of these countries, if their economies are to be salvaged, security improved, and youthful populations employed.
In January 2021, Uganda’s national electoral commission declared President Yoweri Museveni the winner of a sixth term with 58% of the vote, but the results have been widely contested. The main opposition candidate Robert Kyagulanyi was placed under house arrest for 12 days post-election, and opposition parties called for national defiance of Museveni’s government. Human rights groups and foreign governments slammed the government for shutting down the internet during the election, and banning outside voting observers.
Elections in Somalia which were scheduled for the 8th of February 2021, are yet to take place due to lack of agreement on how the vote should happen. As protests and tensions grow in the country, the U.N. Security Council has urged Somalia’s government to organize elections “without delay” in a resolution that stressed the pressing threat to the country’s security from al-Shabab, and armed opposition groups. The UN resolution, which was adopted unanimously, authorized the African Union to maintain its nearly 20,000-strong force in Somalia until the end of the year, with a mandate to reduce the threat from the extremist groups.
In Niger, accusation of election irregularities have led to mass protests and government repression. On February 23rd, 2021, the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) declared, Bazoum, the ruling party’s candidate and a former minister of the interior, the winner with 55.75 percent of the vote. Ousmane, who won 44.25 percent of the vote, carried the opposition strongholds of Tillabéry, which includes the capital, Niamey, and Zinder. Despite CENI’s announcement, however, Ousmane declared himself the winner.
Republic of Congo’s election held on 21st March 2021 was the first time that voters went to the polls in two phases since the first multi-party presidential election in 1992. In power for 36 years, the country’s 77-years old incumbent president Dennis Sassou Nguesso is one of the longest serving presidents in Africa. His challengers included Mathias Dzon, the former Minister of Finance between 1997-2002 and just until recently, the late Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas, who died of COVID-19 complications.
Up next - elections in Djibouti
Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of democracy, and are one of the major drivers of foreign investment into any country.
On the 9th of April 2021, Djiboutians go to the polls, as President Omar Guelleh attempts to extend his tenure to a fifth term in the country’s presidential elections. Guelleh has been in power since 1999, a total of 22 years. Term limits that stated that Presidents could only serve two terms were lifted in 2010, just prior to his third term.
The media is not free in Djibouti. The 2020 World Press Freedom Index ranks the country at 176th place out of 180, down three places since 2019. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) report that there is no privately-owned or independent media outlet operating in the country. Media outlets that are operating are used for propaganda purposes by the government.
Djibouti journalists live in fear. There is one exile station, La Voix de Djibouti that broadcasts from Belgium, but the signal is often jammed and its website blocked. In 2019, a La Voix de Djibouti reporter, based in Djibouti, was badly beaten and arrested several times.
Members of opposition parties even those recognized by the electoral commission are harassed, arrested, and prosecuted. In September 2020, several opposition parties joined together under the banner of the USN Coalition aimed at blocking a fifth Guelleh term. They want elections delayed until the Election Commission is reformed, and until that happens, they are calling for a transitional government.
Djibouti is strategically located near the Bab al Mandeb, and its access to maritime traffic through the Indian Ocean and into the Red Sea has resulted in the country hosting naval bases of France, China, Japan, and the United States. This has meant there is little international pressure on the country to reform.
The government draws much of its revenue from port and basing fees and it took on external debt of 103 percent of GDP to support rail, port, and the requisite power projects. Between 2019 and 2021 Djibouti’s debt service payments have increased by around 120 percent leaving the country and its people in high risk of debt distress. There are high levels of inequality and poverty in the country, unemployment sits at 48 percent, and as the youth continue to struggle to find employment, their discontent is rising.
In order to overcome these challenges, the country needs to court foreign investors who are intent on improving infrastructure, facilitating international trade and creating jobs in a dampened economy.
While in theory there are no laws practices or mechanisms that discriminate against foreign investors, navigating their bureaucracy can be complicated. According to the US Department of State’s 2020 Investment Climate Statements: Djibouti, “Government policies are sometimes not transparent and do not foster competition on a non-discriminatory basis. Likewise, the legal, regulatory and accounting systems are not always transparent nor are they consistent with international norms.” This poses a potential threat for foreign investors like DP World who are currently pursuing all “legal means” to defend its claim to a Djibouti terminal, after the African nation nationalized the facility.
According to recent reports, the concession agreement between DP World and Djibouti signed in 2006 is governed by English law through the London Court of International Arbitration. The decision by Djibouti to nationalize the Doraleh Container Terminal came after the government scrapped a 50-year concession contract with DP World, triggering a dispute between the two sides.
DP World is believed to have won three rulings from Britain-based courts over the matter, most recently an injunction at the High Court in London on August 31, 2020, however Djibouti’s government is failing to accept and implement the rulings from the British-based courts. When you consider the financial losses DP World faces, since the terminal was nationalised, as well as the legal costs that continue to mount, one must carefully consider whether investing in Djibouti would be a safe bet.
While DP World clearly continues to see value and invest in the Horn of Africa recently signing an agreement worth US$442 million to expand and operate a regional trade and logistics hub at the Port of Berbera, in partnership with the Somaliland Port Authority and Ethiopia there are perhaps strong reasons for international investors to hold their breath and adopt a wait-and-see approach when it comes to the results of presidential elections not only in Djibouti but in Benin, Chad, Sâo Tomé and Principe, Zambia, and other countries who are going to the polls nearer the close of the year.
The Republic of Congo's veteran president, Denis Sassou Nguesso, has been re-elected with 88.57 percent of the vote, according to provisional results released Tuesday.
Sassou Nguesso, 77, has been in power for an accumulated 36 years, first taking the helm of the central African state in 1979.
His landslide first-round victory, announced by the interior minister citing figures from the electoral commission, had been widely expected.
Sunday's ballot had been boycotted by the main opposition and overshadowed by the death from Covid of Sassou Nguesso's only major rival, Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas, 61, who reaped 7.84 percent of the vote.
Turnout was put at 67.55 percent.
One of the world's longest-serving rulers, Sassou Nguesso has long been accused by critics of authoritarian rule and turning a blind eye to corruption, poverty and inequality despite the country's oil wealth.
Kolelas, the son of a former prime minister who was a leading government critic, died aboard a medical plane that flew him to Paris on polling day, his campaign director Christian Cyr Rodrigue Mayanda said.
Kolelas initially thought he had malaria, but belatedly discovered that it was COVID-19, a friend of his said.
He posted a video from his sickbed, declaring he was "battling against death" and urging followers to "rise up as one person."
Mathias Dzon, a former finance minister who picked up 1.9 percent of the vote, announced on Monday that he would file suit to the Constitutional Court to overturn the vote, which he described as "disastrous."
On polling day, access to the internet and social media, as well as text messages, was cut while in the centre of the capital Brazzaville, shops were closed and only security vehicles were seen.
In some areas voters complained that their names were not on the electoral list.
The victory, placing Sassou Nguesso on course for another five-year term, marks his fourth election win since 2002.
The former paratrooper first rose to power in 1979.
He served three presidential terms until he was forced to introduce multi-party elections in 1991 and was defeated at the ballot box the following year.
But he returned to power in 1997 following a prolonged civil war.
In 2015, a constitutional amendment ended a ban on presidential candidates aged over 70 and scrapped a two-term limit, enabling him to run again.
"Why has there been this Stalinist result?" a senior government official said to AFP, commenting anonymously on Sunday's outcome.
In the 2016 ballot, Sassou Nguesso was re-elected in the first round with 60 percent of the vote, against 15 percent for Kolelas, after a much harder-fought campaign.
Sassou Nguesso put himself forward this time as the defender of Congo's youth -- the average age of the country's five million people is 19 -- and outlined plans to develop agriculture, to ease dependence on food imports.
Flanked by its giant neighbour the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as Gabon, the former French colony -- also known as Congo-Brazzaville -- has abundant oil reserves and most of its budget comes from petroleum revenue.
But its economy is in a slump, hurt by a collapse in world crude prices and by a mountain of debt.
China’s drug authority has approved for clinical trials an inhaled Covid-19 vaccine co-developed by domestic firm CanSino Biologics, the company said in a filing on Tuesday.
The move comes after the National Medical Products Administration gave another CanSino vaccine conditional approval last month, allowing it for public use.
China currently has five coronavirus vaccines that have been given conditional market approval or allowed for emergency use, but none of these are administered by inhalation.
CanSino said in its latest filing on the Hong Kong stock exchange that the vaccine for inhalation was jointly developed by the company and the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, adding that their clinical trial application got the green light on Monday.
But it warned that the vaccine’s safety and efficacy remain “subject to confirmation” in trials.
As of March 20, China had administered 74.96 million coronavirus vaccine doses, according to Our World in Data, a collaboration between Oxford University and a charity.
Chinese embassies in some countries including the United States, Australia and India have issued notices saying the country will open visa applications to select people who have taken a China-made jab.
On Tuesday, a Chinese foreign ministry official said it is in “close communication” with various countries and “willing to reach mutually beneficial arrangements” to facilitate cross-border travel.
Samia Suluhu Hassan becomes the first female president in Tanzania taking over from President John Magufuli who died on 17 March 2021.
Born in 1960, she hails from Makunduchi, an old town on Unguja island, in Zanzibar. Her father was a teacher and her mother a housewife. After graduating from high school she studied public administration and later obtained a Masters in community economic development.
She began her political career in 2000 when she was elected as a special seat member in the Zanzibar House of Representatives. Special seats are reserved for Tanzanian women leaders under the country’s quota system.
She then served as the minister of gender and children in former Amani Karume’s government. Karume was the president of Zanzibar – an autonomous region of Tanzania – between 2000-2010. Hassan also served as the minister of youth employment, and of tourism in Karume’s cabinet.
Then in 2010, she was elected member of parliament for Makunduchi, sitting in the National Assembly of Tanzania, and was appointed minister of state for union affairs by President Jakaya Kikwete.
She rose to the national limelight when she was elected to serve as vice chairperson of the Constituent Assembly. The assembly was a body of stakeholders brought together in 2014 by President Kikwete to discuss Tanzania’s proposed new constitution. It was led by Chairperson Samuel Sitta, a former Speaker of the National Assembly.
The Constituent Assembly, which was dominated by the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party was tasked to discuss and debate Tanzania’s draft constitution. Kikwete had initiated a constitutional review process in 2010 with the promise to have a new constitution through a popular process.
A new constitution has yet to be passed, with many in the establishment, including Hassan, preferring to maintain the status quo.
The Chama Cha Mapinduzi presidential nomination of 2015 was a tight contest. After the party’s National Executive Committee votes were counted, three candidates were selected; John Magufuli and two other women – Asha-Rose Migiro, a Tanzanian who had served as the United Nations deputy secretary general, and Amina Salum Ali – a Zanzibari who had served as permanent representative of the African Union to the United States.
In the end, John Magufuli was nominated as a compromise candidate. He was viewed as candidate who could walk the middle line in a party that had been divided by competing interests.
Because there were two female finalists during the nomination process, it was deemed appropriate for Magufuli to nominate a woman as a running mate at a time when the country was already making great strides towards gender inclusion. Five years earlier, in 2010, Anna Makinda had broken barriers by becoming the first female speaker of the National Assembly.
Magufuli went ahead and nominated Samia Suluhu Hassan as his running mate. With Magufuli’s victory in the 2015 general elections, Hassan became the first female vice-president.
As vice-president, Hassan served as the principal assistant to the president. Her role should have been largely ceremonial. But when she assumed office, she represented Magufuli at many international meetings and engagements. These included the East African Community and Southern African Development Community summits.
This was because the late president rarely traveled abroad. As a result she has received immense international exposure, a factor that could influence how she governs going forward. An expected impact of this exposure will be to redress the international isolation Tanzania experienced during the Magufuli administration.
A reconciliatory figure
She was the most senior government official who visited him, which is worth mentioning because Lissu had blamed the government for the attempt on his life.
Hassan conveyed Magufuli’s greetings. Her visit was symbolic because it sent a message of goodwill. It was an attempt to bridge the growing antagonism between the government and the opposition. Her candour and grace as she leaned in to speak to Lissu on his hospital bed reminded Tanzanians of the value of humanity and the true spirit of Tanzanian camaraderie.
She has been described as compassionate, rational and calm -– attributes that are a far departure from her previous boss.
Healing and unity
In the six years that Magufuli was president, the country became very polarized and divided.
His handling of the opposition and the COVID-19 pandemic only served to sow more discord among the Tanzanian people. And under Magufuli, Tanzania became increasingly isolated internationally.
Hassan’s international exposure could offer her the kind of worldview that is required to put Tanzania back on the diplomatic map. In her address after being sworn in as president on 19 March 2021, she spoke on the need to bury differences and show solidarity as a nation.
Hassan’s candour and rationality could be vital in moving the country forward. She should move in quickly to change the country’s stance on COVID-19 and reach out to the opposition and other stakeholders so as to build an inclusive national dialogue.
Namibia celebrates its 31st independence day this month. But Namibians are not in a festive mood. A 2019 survey by Afrobarometer, the independent African research network, showed a significant loss of trust in the country’s governance.
The legitimacy of the former liberation movement, the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO), has steadily been eroded due to a combination of factors. These have included socioeconomic decline, SWAPO’s increasingly outdated populist narrative, financial scandals and elite self-enrichment. In addition, opposition has grown in the form of electoral support for new parties.
After independence from South Africa in 1990 it won elections by huge margins, enabling it to entrench its power. Like other former liberation movements, its legitimacy centred on the idea that citizens owed the party unconditional loyalty in return for liberation.
But heroic narratives tend to have a sell by date. Since 2015 it’s become increasingly clear that SWAPO has lost appeal among the younger generation as the struggle for liberation passes into history. This generation expects good governance and measures it not in rhetoric but in delivery. After all, they were born into an independent state. Their number as voters is about to become a majority.
The election results of 2019 and 2020 indicated the decline in support for the erstwhile liberation movement.
The National Assembly and presidential elections in November 2019 marked a turning point. SWAPO’s National Assembly votes dropped from 80% in 2014 to now 66%. For the first time since 1995, it no longer holds a two-thirds majority. Beneficiaries were the official opposition Popular Democratic Movement and the new Landless People’s Movement, which came third.
President Hage Geingob was re-elected for a second (and last) term with only 57% of the vote (2014: 87%). His votes were snatched by Panduleni Itula, a party rival posing as an independent candidate. He personified the internal party power struggles. After being expelled, he founded his own party, the Independent Patriots for Change.
The November 2020 elections for the regional and local authorities shifted the ground further. In the changing political landscape only SWAPO’s traditional stronghold in the northern region suffered limited damage. The results everywhere else were disastrous.
On average, SWAPOs’ aggregate votes in all regions dropped from 83% in 2015 to 57%. In the 57 local authorities the party won only 40% of all votes (2015: 73%). It maintained control over just 20 of the 52 local councils it previously held.
Most urban centres, including the capital Windhoek, were seized by other parties or coalitions. Main winners were the Independent Patriots for Change and the Landless People’s Movement. Notably, the Popular Democratic Movement could not improve its scores significantly.
Economy on the rocks
Namibia recorded annual economic growth rates of up to 6% until 2015. But the global economic crises and the ailing neighbouring economies of Angola and South Africa, in combination with a lasting drought, created severe setbacks. Since 2016 Namibia has been in recession.
The World Bank has Namibia classified as a upper middle-income country. The annual average per capita income peaked at US$ 6,274 in 2015 and dropped to US$ 5,766 in 2019. This contrasts – despite the crisis – favourably with US$ 1,596 in 2019 for sub-Saharan Africa in general.
But the relative wealth is anything but fairly distributed. Inequality remains at staggering proportions. According to the latest United Nations Human Development Report, over half of employed Namibians earn less than US$95 (N$ 1,400) a month. Even among those in paid employment this amounts to less than the average per capita income for sub-Saharan Africa.
The full effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on rising unemployment remains to be seen. Public debt has risen to over two-thirds of GDP. The economy contracted by an estimated 8% in 2020 and regressed to 2013 levels. Economists assume that a return to the 2015 level won’t be achieved before 2024.
Credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded Namibia to “junk status” in August 2017. It has negatively adjusted Namibia’s status since then, most recently in December 2020, to three notches below junk. A further downgrade looms.
Namibia was rocked by a bribery scandal over fishing quotas in November 2019. The #fishrot scandal implicated two ministers and leading officials of state-owned enterprises. They are awaiting trial in prison. Evidence suggests that other leading party members are also implicated.
Instead of tackling the issue head on, President Geingob decided on an evasive approach. He declared 2020 a “year of introspection”. But an increasingly infuriated public witnessed further cover-ups and denialism.
Another state-owned enterprise, Air Namibia, became a showpiece of mismanagement, using up enormous state subsidies and bailouts while amassing liabilities. It was eventually liquidated in February 2021.
Battle for legitimacy
As the election results of 2019 and 2020 show, even a dominant party regime needs to use its authority and space to show that it serves the interest of the people. If people feel neglected, their loyalty will decline.
Other parties also have to earn legitimacy and show that they are not more of the same.
The Popular Democratic Movement as the official parliamentary opposition party has not gained from SWAPO’s decline in the November 2020 elections. Instead, two new parties – the Landless People’s Movement and the Independent Patriots for Change – are setting the tune.
In-fighting rages in all parties of political influence. Whether it’s a sign of decline among the established parties or one of ascendancy among the new kids ones, the fight over their future seems in full swing.
Days before Namibia’s independence on 21 March 1990, a poem on a wall in what used to be a compound for contract labour asked:
Now that the Namib sings
And the tear of the Katatura child washed away
Who will keep the fire burning?
After 31 years of independence, the answer remains pending.
The elite Green Berets have been deployed to help defeat Islamic State insurgents accused of beheading children as young as 11 in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique.
US Army Special Forces soldiers are to train Mozambican marines for the next two months to counter the rapidly escalating insurgency from ISIS-linked terrorist group al-Shabab.
It comes after the US officially listed the group as a foreign terrorist organisation last week because of its links to ISIS, who it pledged allegiance to in 2018 and who claimed its first attack in June 2019.
Mozambique, in southern Africa, represents the worrying spread of Islamic insurgency on the continent. Other nations facing ISIS-linked violence include Somalia, Nigeria, Niger, Mali, and Libya.
The deployment of the Green Berets is "to prevent the spread of terrorism and violent extremism," the US Embassy in Maputo, Mozambique's capital, said, The Times reported.
According to an Insider report last month, the Green Berets are called on to deploy worldwide, build lasting relationships with local groups friendly towards the United States, and then teach those groups how to kill effectively. The SF soldiers then begin going on missions with the locals and fight side-by-side.
The situation in the northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, which began in 2017, became even more urgent last year, with up to 3,500 fighters regularly engaging with the military to capture key towns.
At least 2,000 civilians have been killed, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project and 670,000 have been displaced, Save the Children added. Around a million people are also in need of food aid, the UN estimated.
'They took my eldest son and beheaded him'
Children as young as 11 years old have been executed, according to Save the Children, that has spoken to displaced families that have described horrific executions by the Islamic insurgents.
One mother, Elsa, 28, whose name has been changed, told Save the Children: "That night our village was attacked and houses were burned. When it all started, I was at home with my four children.
"We tried to escape to the woods, but they took my eldest son and beheaded him. We couldn't do anything because we would be killed too."
Impoverished Mozambique, in southern Africa, had been relying on foreign mercenaries, mainly from South Africa, who have also been accused of human rights abuses.
An Amnesty International report found that both sides committed war crimes, with government forces responsible for abuses against civilians, something it has denied.
Al-Shabab, not to be confused with the Somalian al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group of a similar name, means The Youth in Arabic.
It has found ready recruits among the unemployed young people from the area, al-Jazeera reported.
Although a ruby deposit and gas field were discovered in Cabo Delgado in 2009 and 2010, creating dreams of a better life for locals, these were soon undermined by violence and extreme flooding, the BBC noted.
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Tanzania's Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan is set to be sworn in today as the sixth president of the country following the death of John Magufuli.
The swearing-in ceremony will take place at 10am Friday at State House in Dar es Salaam, government spokesperson said.
Ms Suluhu will make history by becoming the first female president in Tanzania.
Under the constitution, Suluhu, 61, will serve the remainder of Magufuli's second five-year term, which does not expire until 2025.
The oath ceremony will be followed by a high level meeting of her party’s central committee on Saturday. Analysts say, during the meeting, new vice president will be picked.
A former office clerk and development worker, Suluhu began her political career in 2000 in her native Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous archipelago, before being elected to the national assembly on mainland Tanzania and assigned a senior ministry.
A ruling party stalwart, she rose through the ranks until being picked by Magufuli as his running mate in his first presidential election campaign in 2015.
The Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) comfortably won and Suluhu made history when sworn-in as the country's first-ever female vice president.
The pair were re-elected last October in a disputed poll the opposition and independent observers said was marred by irregularities.
She would sometimes represent Magufuli on trips abroad but many outside Tanzania had not heard of Suluhu until she appeared on national television wearing a black headscarf to announce that Magufuli had died at 61 following a short illness.
In a slow and softly spoken address -- a stark contrast to the thundering rhetoric favoured by her predecessor -- Hassan solemnly declared 14 days of mourning.
Hold your breath
Analysts say Suluhu will face early pressure from powerful Magufuli allies within the party, who dominate intelligence and other critical aspects of government, and would try and steer her decisions and agenda.
"For those who were kind of expecting a breakaway from the Magufuli way of things I would say hold your breath at the moment," said Thabit Jacob, a researcher at the Roskilde University in Denmark and expert on Tanzania.
"I think she will struggle to build her own base... We shouldn't expect major changes."
Her loyalty to Magufuli, nicknamed the "Bulldozer" for his no-nonsense attitude, was called into doubt in 2016.
Her office was forced to issue a statement denying she had resigned as rumours of a rift grew more persistent, and Suluhu hinted at the controversy in a public speech last year.
"When you started working as president, many of us did not understand what you actually wanted. We did not know your direction. But today we all know your ambitions about Tanzania's development," she said in front of Magufuli.
Getting things done
Suluhu was born on January 27, 1960 in Zanzibar, a former slaving hub and trading outpost in the Indian Ocean.
Then still a Muslim sultanate, Zanzibar did not merge formally with mainland Tanzania for another four years.
Her father was a school teacher and mother a housewife. Suluhu graduated from high school but has said publicly that her finishing results were poor, and she took a clerkship in a government office at 17.
By 1988, after undertaking further study, Hassan had risen the ranks to become a development officer in the Zanzibari government.
She was employed as a project manager for the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) and later in the 1990s was made executive director of an umbrella body governing non-governmental organisations in Zanzibar.
In 2000, she was nominated by the CCM to a special seat in Zanzibar’s House of Representatives. She then served as a local government minister -- first for youth employment, women and children and then for tourism and trade investment.
In 2010, she was elected to the National Assembly on mainland Tanzania. Then president Jakaya Kikwete appointed her as the Minister of State for Union Affairs.
She holds university qualifications from Tanzania, Britain and United States. The mother of four has spoken publicly to encourage Tanzanian women and girls to pursue their dreams.
"I may look polite, and do not shout when speaking, but the most important thing is that everyone understands what I say and things get done as I say," Suluhu said in a speech last year.
Suluhu would be the only other current serving female head of state in Africa alongside Ethiopia's President Sahle-Work Zewde, whose role is mainly ceremonial.
Source: Nation Media Additional report by AFP