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Elections, protests, innovation, hope: Africa in 2019 and looking ahead at 2020

It’s the first month of a new year and as we welcome 2020, we also reflect back on 2019 and recap some of the main highlights of the year.

In 2019, African citizens took to the streets and went to the polls. At least 20 presidential, parliamentary and council elections happened across the continent, leading to presidential transitions in 11 countries such as Algeria and Nigeria.

2019 was also a year for revolution. Increasingly digitally connected Africans kept pushing for change in their countries. In Sudan, citizens sustained on the streets and on social media a decentralised and peaceful popular uprising which culminated in the stepping down of Omar al-Bashir and his regime.

What has been achieved showcases the ability of a committed civil society, led by women and youth, supported by continental and regional institutions, to achieve a peaceful and democratic transition.

-Mo Ibrahim

African citizens also saw an important milestone for regional integration across the continent in 2019. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), signed in Kigali in March 2018 by 44 countries, finally entered into operation July last year. What does this mean for the continent, and more importantly, for Africa’s youth? “Under the AfCFTA, expanded markets and unobstructed factor movements – labour, goods, services, capital and persons – should promote economic diversification, structural transformation, technological development and facilitate quality job creation”, we wrote in a blog on 6 June.

Our year in review

It was a busy year for the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. At our annual Ibrahim Governance Weekend (IGW) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, we discussed a crucial yet misrepresented topic: African migrations. Our Founder and Chair Mo Ibrahim, together with youth and thought leaders from the continent and beyond, called for an urgent push back against a “global discourse that has perpetuated a distorted and harmful picture” of migration in Africa. Because, as he wrote in an op-ed for TIME magazine, “distorted narratives lead to distorted policies.”

These discussions, together with our 2019 Ibrahim Forum Report, led to the publication of our first joint research paper with Afrobarometer, which used data to change the narrative on African migration and explore its links with jobs and youth.  

In July, we welcomed Nadia Hamel, Emmanuella Matare and Anta Taal as our 2019 Ibrahim Leadership Fellows. The network is now formed of more than 20 incredible African professionals working hard to develop their countries and the continent.

African governance landscape

Throughout the year, the evolving governance landscape underlined the need to both refine the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), the largest dataset on African governance, and further unpack and analyse its findings. We decided to release a new Index dataset with updated scores, ranks and trends every two years, while continuing to publish an annual report based on the data.

As global leaders took the stage to discuss some of the world’s most pressing challenges – such as climate change, global health and gender equality – at the 74th United Nations General Assembly, we turned to Africa and drew upon the IIAG to better understand some of the continent’s challenges in the areas of universal health coverage and climate change.

With the launch of the 2019 African Governance Report in October, we renewed our commitment to monitoring and contributing to the debate on two of Africa’s development agendas: the global United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda and the national African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063. The report found how strengthening Africa’s fragmented data landscape is key to meeting these development targets, and presented insights to governments and partners into priority areas for action.

Looking ahead at 2020

Our resolution for 2020 is to keep working to promote good governance and showcase exceptional leadership in Africa.

We are looking forward to the 2020 Ibrahim Governance Weekend due to take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in April. This year, the discussions and publications will aim to answer a frequently sought-after question: where does Africa stand globally in 2020?

A new cohort of Ibrahim Fellows will be announced early this year, and the call for applications to next year’s programme opens in August.

In 2020 we will also launch a new IIAG dataset with updated data on 54 African countries and a new sub-category on the topic of environmental sustainability, to be released later in the year.

In 2019, I was proud that in my country Sudanese people came out and said enough is enough. I am also proud that they appointed a woman as Chief of Justice. In 2020, I hope to see more women taking leadership roles across the continent. It is also my hope that we have more frank conversations about the evolution of Africa based on data; that we share more stories about our heroes than our villains and tell a more truthful story of our rich continent.

-Mo Ibrahim


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