“In Africa, political risk too often remains one of the main economic hazards”

IJust a few weeks ago, Senegal was collecting laudatory epithets. We were touting the brilliant prospects of this darling of international donors, with growth expected at 8.8% in 2024, according to the International Monetary Fund. Enough to prance among the leading pack of the most efficient economies on the planet.

Despite the upheavals of recent years surrounding the fate of opponent Ousmane Sonko, the West African country is also seen as a relatively stable and resilient democracy on a continent-wide scale. Even more so since President Macky Sall indicated, in July 2023, that he was giving up running for a third term.

And then, badaboum! By announcing, at the beginning of February, the postponement of the presidential election scheduled for three weeks later, the same Macky Sall added a chapter, much less consensual, to the success. Certainly, the report, scheduled for December 15, has since been invalidated by the Constitutional Council. Certainly, the president finally committed to organizing the exam ” as soon as possible “. But the episode should leave its mark. Above all, he recalls that in Senegal as elsewhere in Africa, political risk too often remains one of the main economic hazards.

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The tensions and violence that shook the country for several days left three demonstrators dead. They also inflicted more or less visible damage on the economy. Traders were forced to lower the curtain, taxis were unable to circulate, hoteliers faced cancellations.

Social discontent

Added to this is the cost caused by various mobile data cuts in a country where 97% of the population connects to the Internet with their phone. The bill for one hour of digital censorship would amount to more than $332,000 (307,000 euros), according to the NetBlocks organization, which notes that the Senegalese authorities are now invited to lock the Web at each outbreak of fever.

Less quantifiable is the loss of confidence induced by the regimes of power. For foreign investors and all private operators, predictability is a cardinal virtue. Therefore, how can we plan calmly when an apparently well-defined exam threatens at the very last moment to turn into a minefield, plunging the country into the unknown and fueling social discontent?

Political vicissitudes are not the prerogative of the African continent. Just look to the United States, where a strange election is being prepared between an octogenarian president, Joe Biden, considered too old by his fellow citizens, and his predecessor, Donald Trump, struggling with multiple legal proceedings.

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The fact remains that in Africa, more than sixty years after independence, the picture has rarely appeared so gloomy. From the Sahel to Sudan, from Tunisia to Ethiopia, political unrest is compromising the improvement of people’s living conditions. An observation which the president of the African Union commission, Moussa Faki, echoed at the opening of the summit of the pan-African organization, Saturday February 17.

“Terrorism destroys some of our States” ; “unconstitutional changes of government are increasing” ; “the elections have become, through the scale of their irregularities, factors in deepening crises”, according to the inventory drawn up by the Chadian official. All these elements, he already noted three days earlier, “seriously threaten to tarnish the signs of the emergence of Africa of which we are proud”.

African countries already have their share of difficulties to manage after the shocks of Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and the surge in American interest rates. Unquestionably, these imported crises have weighed on economic prospects and fueled instability. But the problems of governance, which can only be resolved by the States themselves, equally jeopardize the development of the continent.