West Africa Insight:  Monitoring to Influence the Future  

We are happy to be back after a three-month hiatus. This edition marks the beginning of another phase of West Africa Insight. It is Center for Democracy and Development’s main tool of undertaking trends monitoring and horizon scanning in the organization’s choice jurisdiction, West Africa.

One of the major strategies adopted by this title is stimulating debates and discourses on the socio-economic and political situation in Africa, but West Africa in particular. More than a century after the Berlin Conference, the colonial past continues to haunt the region. The forceful amalgamation and compartmentalisation of peoples of different socio-economic and cultural realities into nation- states defined by borders to which they had no consent of linger on. Moreover, the peoples’ failure to surmount the challenges deriving from the situation continues to stifle development across the region. CDD’s Senior Fellow, Dr. Dayo Kusa’s analysis explores these issues, with a focus on two West African nations, Cote d’Ivoire, and Nigeria. This helps to bring into proper focus the contexts in both the Francophone and Anglophone sections of West Africa. Though these two nations possess enormous human and economic resources, their respective growths have been hampered by some socio- cultural inclinations and factors in their respective political histories. At the moment, Nigeria is engulfed in crises traceable to these factors, namely the irrepressible insurgence in the North; the multiplying crises in the Niger Delta, including continually renewed threats from militants as well as the never ending conflicts between nomadic pastoralists and farmers in the central region. All of these will combine with the intrigues of the coming elections. Such a situation leaves to imagination what the future holds for black Africa’s biggest nation.
While democracy has returned to Cote d’Ivoire, the challenges of a nation divided along political, ethnic lines remain. The question of who is truly an Ivorian (Ivoirité) still plagues this once-thriving West African nation whose economy is now struggling to meet the needs of an ever growing population. With regards to the elections scheduled for 2015, one wonders if the colonial past and the peoples’ failure to ignore their differences will not, once again, result in tragic retrogressions.
On account of the aforestated, this edition attempts some projections of what may happen if West African citizens decide to emulate the Arab nations of Tunisia and Egypt. Considering the apparent disregard for the social contract presumed to exist between citizens and their governments, can one guess the possibility of a West African Harmattan as some parallel to the Arab Spring? What role could social media play in the ever increasing influence of information and communication technologies? Despite efforts towards instilling good democratic practice, how influential have ECOWAS and its instruments been in the practice of democracy in the region? Can they help curtail an Arab Spring-like revolution as governments continuously fail to honour social contract?
Also in focus in this edition is the recent claim by the famous economist, Jim O’Neil, that Nigeria is one of the MINT countries (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey). We therefore explore the possibility of Nigeria truly integrating into the promising MINT bloc. This will be determined by a variety of variables including how the country will use the great human capital and the huge natural resources it possesses. Despite the challenges of poor governance, corruption, and weak infrastructures the country faces, the possibility of becoming a world power is not beyond Africa’s most populous nation, provided that the country gets her acts together in the coming years. Although, a small oasis in the desert it may seem, the recent emergence of the duo of Eseoghene Odiete, a Fashion designer, and Eric Obuh, a musician cum philanthropist in the Google Africa Connected competition presents some inspiration for instance.
Development requires good democratic structures, which in turn can only be attained if nations across the region are able to conduct credible, free, and fair elections. This is one feat that has been elusive, thereby impeding democracy in the region. A look at the progress made in the electoral process shows the growing influence of information and technology, especially because they open up more space for participation by the populace in the social media. The Ghanaian and Nigerian examples illustrate well the role of social media in improving the electoral processes in each of the two countries’ respective last elections. It will not be out place therefore to explore the potentials to open further space for citizens in the upcoming 2015 elections in West Africa.
As West Africa searches for solutions to her plethora of problems, our intention is to bring to the fore the issues, narratives, and analyses that can contribute to her success.
Idayat Hassan
Director, CDD

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