Opinion

The Great Debate

Democracy emerges in sub-Saharan Africa

The recent re-election of Zimbabwe’s 89-year old president Robert Mugabe, in office for 33 years, resembled a period not long ago when sham elections were the norm in sub-Saharan Africa. Peaceful transitions of power were almost unheard of.

Though the African Union disappointingly endorsed the elections as “honest and credible,” Zimbabwe’s electoral commission has now faced a spate of resignations and international condemnation over allegations of vote-rigging, intimidation and state media control.

But Zimbabwe’s election is not representative of a continent that has made real progress toward democracy. Allegations of electoral tampering can seem almost anachronistic in an era of social media and instantaneous information-sharing. Technology has improved the caliber of elections all over the world — including Africa.

Between mid-July and September 30, seven countries in the region — with an aggregate population of 80 million — are due to cast ballots. Not all these elections, though, will be free and fair. Some, like Zimbabwe’s, won’t represent the popular will. But an increasing number will be a sign of progress for a continent with a history of failed democratic traditions.

Recent African elections demonstrate progress in three ways. First, long-delayed or boycotted elections are finally taking place, removing military regimes or one-party states from power.

from Africa News blog:

Selling Africa by the pound

The announcement by a U.S. investor that he has a deal to lease a swathe of South Sudan for farmland has again focused attention on foreigners trying to snap up African agricultural land.

A few months ago, South Korea’s Daweoo Logistics said it had secured rights to plant corn and palm oil in an even bigger patch of Madagascar - although local authorities said the deal was not done yet. Investors from Asia and the Gulf are looking elsewhere in Africa too.

Investor interest in farmland – not only in Africa – grew sharply after food prices shot to record highs last year. Although commodity prices have fallen since, there is still anticipation of long term demand growth once the world emerges from its current economic troubles.

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