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Will 2016 be Africa's year?

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

02-02-2016 15:57 BJT

By Yan Jian, Assistant Director, Center for Global Governance and Development Strategies, Central Compilation and Translation Bureau of CPC Central Committee

Africa has witnessed unprecedented economic growth rates in the last decade, at above 5%, which is testimony to the continent's dynamism. Although temporarily interrupted by the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, the African economy has rebounded rapidly.

 

In 2013, Africa became the world's fastest-growing continent with an annual growth rate of 5.6%. According to the World Bank's forecast, Africa's GDP (gross domestic product) is expected to pick up to an average of 4.4% to 4.8% between 2015 and 2017.

The increase will be driven by domestic demand, supported by continuing infrastructure investment and private consumption fueled by lower oil prices. External demand is also expected to support Africa's growth due to stronger prospects in high-income economies.

Nevertheless, the economic prospects have been overshadowed by endemic strife and conflicts in the continent. Since the end of the Cold War, deadly conflicts have been on the decline in other parts of the world.

Yet, Africa still struggles with violence. In the last two decades, both the frequency and intensity of conflicts in Africa have been second to none. Somalia collapsed during a civil war in 1991 and it remains chaotic today.

The former Zaire imploded in 1997 when the Mobutu regime collapsed amid wide-spread rebellions and infiltrations from neighboring Rwanda and Burundi. The ensuing Congo War engulfed the entire Great Lake region and eight African countries were embroiled in militarily conflicts at certain stages of the war, which was later dubbed, "Africa's World War."

Civil conflicts have also beset Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia in the 1990s, not to mention the ethnic genocides in Rwanda and Burundi. The 27-years of civil war in Angola had only ended in 2002 while Eritrea and South Sudan gained their independence from Ethiopia and Sudan respectively only after protracted secessionist wars.

There were no signs of abating in 2015. According to the Fund of Peace, seven African countries rank in a list of “10 most fragile states” in 2015 - South Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad - rank in the top six.

Foreign interventions and powerful local actors vying for power and the control of lucrative natural resources have complicated matter further.

This is the case in Libya. Following NATO's military intervention and the collapse of the al-Qaddafi regime in 2011, Libya has been stuck in endemic internal conflicts.

A myriad of political parties, tribes and armed groups have been fighting each other for control over the nation's vast oil and natural gas resources. A political stalemate has emerged after two rival factions fortified their respective positions in recent years.

United Nations-brokered peace talks were held last December, but no tangible results were yielded so far. It's become more urgent in 2015 after the Islamic State's gradual consolidation of its foothold around Sirte on Libya's Mediterranean coast, as well as  large numbers of refugees have migrated to Europe through Libya's poorly-managed borders.

The political vacuum had sparked a political stalemate in Libya that has been filled by Islamist extremist groups. Some commentators have warned that the Fezzan region in Southern Libya is swiftly becoming a haven for criminal networks and radical groups.

Weak state capacity makes some African countries especially susceptible to infiltrations of Islamist groups, which further weakened the fragile security situations in certain countries.

An illuminating example is the crisis in the Lake Chad Basin area of Central Africa. Surrounding countries, including Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, have been facing an elusive threat from the extremist group Boko Haram in recent years. In 2015, Cameroon suffered from the gravest attacks by Boko Haram, followed closely by Niger and Chad.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram remains a formidable and resilient enemy even after it retreated to the bushes under pressure from government military operations in 2015. But, it's more complex than on the surface.

Defeating Boko Haram would not eradicate social alienation that has given birth to Islamist groups.

Similar with Libya, South Sudan's conflict is to a larger extent attributed to the absence of an inclusive political framework, in which conflicting interests can be attuned and accommodated.

South Sudan, gaining its independence from Sudan in 2011, exploded into a civil war in December 2013 as divisions within the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement have led to large-scale fighting and targeted killings in the capital of Juba.

According to an estimate from the African Union, more than 2.4 million people have been displaced and tens of thousands have been killed in the conflicts for the past two years.

The U.N.-brokered peace agreement reached between the government and the largest armed opposition group in August, 2015 stands on the brink of collapse. Each side has accused the other of violating the peace agreement.

More than 24 armed groups have aligned with neither the government nor the largest opposition forces, which make the prospects of peace seem bleaker. The presence of 11,350 U.N. troops does bring some relief. Nearly 200,000 refugees live under the direct protection of U.N. troops.

All these cases underline the importance of an inclusive political framework that can accommodate divergent interests and facilitate political compromises and power-sharing.

However, it turns out that a political framework is prone to collapse before it can hold steady. Burundi is a case in point. More than 300 people have been killed since last April, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans to seek a third term through revising the constitution in spite of nationwide opposition.

Nkurunziza's re-election in July, following a failed coup attempt, sparked an upsurge of confrontations between government forces and armed opposition fighters. Escalating violence raises fears of a return to full-blown civil war after a decade of relative peace.

Burundi had set an ominous precedent for other countries to follow. In neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, a rumor that President Joseph Kabila aspires for a third term has been in the air for several years.

Considering the fragile security conditions in the country, such a move would result in dangerous repercussions.

In 2016, can Africa move out of the shackles that have hampered its pace towards advancement in the year before? This is an open question. But one thing is for sure: it will call for arduous efforts and tremendous political resolutions from the African political elites and the African people.

 

( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )

 

 

Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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