Ten things to watch in Africa in 2020

Photo AVEL CHUKLANOV/UNSPLASH

Power struggles, controversial elections and structural problems continue to determine the situation in sub-Saharan Africa. Other developments justify a more optimistic outlook.

03.02.2020 · Economics, Social Sciences, Spatial Research · GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies / Leibniz-Institut für Globale und Regionale Studien · News · Research result

Socio-economic and political developments in sub-Saharan Africa remain a mixed bag. While crises and structural problems occupy our attention, other developments justify a more optimistic outlook: relations between countries on the continent as well as with Europe and other world regions show signs of hope and improvement. We present a selective list and analysis of “ten things to watch” in Africa in 2020.

  • Elections and democratisation: The year ahead will be one of high-risk elections in many African countries, of which five arguably stand out: Burkina Faso, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, and Guinea. “Explosive” elections are often connected to contested term limits for presidents.
  • Peace and security: As in previous years, challenges emerge from ever-present power struggles as well as from contested elections, weak states, conflicts between identity groups, and – particularly in West and East Africa – jihadism. The latter poses the biggest challenge in the Sahel, where international support has simultaneously become both more important and more difficult.
  • Socio-economic development: While many structural problems persist, there are signs for winds of change. Regional economic integration projects such as the African Continental Free Trade Area and the common currency, eco, in West Africa advance, and legal obstacles to more equal gender relations are increasingly being called into question. In times of global confrontations between the United States, China, and other countries, “trade wars” provide threats but also opportunities for Africa.
Policy Implications

As a member of the United Nations Security Council and assuming the EU presidency, Germany’s involvement in African affairs will be greater than usual in 2020. African and external actors, such as the European Union, should act early to mitigate conflict risks, especially with regard to high-stakes elections in several countries and to contain the spread of jihadist violence. Reform efforts require strong but prudent international support, so they can survive domestic political pushback.

Further information and contact

www.giga-hamburg.de/en