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Pandemic is rolling back democracy gains in Africa, says Mo Ibrahim

23 June 2021 - 07:55 By David Malingha
Philanthropist Mohammed Ibrahim criticised African leaders, including Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who have changed rules to hold onto power. File image.
Philanthropist Mohammed Ibrahim criticised African leaders, including Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who have changed rules to hold onto power. File image.
Image: REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File photo

The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated a deterioration in democracy in Africa and the continent may require a fresh crop of statesmen to boost participation, philanthropist Mohammed Ibrahim said.

The Ibrahim Index of African Governance, a gauge popular with investors seeking opportunities in the continent, has shown some improvement over the past 10 to 15 years, Ibrahim said in an interview at the Qatar Economic Forum on Tuesday. However, measures of democracy and participation have either stagnated or declined, he said.

“On the balance, things deteriorated,” Ibrahim said.

“The pandemic did not help. It emphasised the autocratic stance of some of our leaders.”

Elections in several African states in the past two years, including Uganda and Burundi, have been marred by violence, while Mali has had two military takeovers in nine months. The pandemic led to the delay of voting in nations including Ethiopia, while some leaders used the health emergency to ban and restrict the opposition.

Ibrahim made a fortune pioneering a mobile phone operation in Africa in the 1990s and later started Satya Capital, an Africa-focused private equity fund. He created the Mo Ibrahim Foundation in 2006 to support good governance on the continent through initiatives including the governance index and a $5m leadership award for former heads of state. Laureates include former Liberian leader Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the former president of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano.

Ibrahim criticised leaders who have stayed in power for more than 30 years, particularly after changing the rules to sustain their power. That list includes Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Cameroonian leader Paul Biya and Equatoguinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

“We need strong statesmen, not strong men,” Ibrahim said.

Bloomberg. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com


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