AFRICANGLOBE – On Thursday, the Pew Research Centre released a world survey on optimism about the domestic economy. The picture in the rich nations in the world was very gloomy.
However, the survey found that the three economies where people saw the brightest prospects in the next year are all in Africa.
Nigeria topped the table, with 92 per cent of respondents seeing their economy improving in the next 12 months. The people of Burkina Faso and Ethiopia were next, with more than 80 per cent in each country banking on economic progress.
Nigeria and Ethiopia also ranked high on Pew’s survey of longer-term prospects, with 84 per cent of respondents saying that when their children grow up, they’ll be better off financially than their parents.
Nigeria’s case is surprising. Its economy has tanked with the slump in oil prices, and Boko Haram has sharply stepped up its attacks.
But it seems the Nigerians are still buoyed by one of the most surprising electoral and political outcomes in Africa of the past 20 years — the defeat by Muhammadu Buhari of incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, a first in the country’s history.
But that of itself might not have done it. The icing came from the remarkably peaceful transition the followed. It’s understandable that from that, they would think nothing is impossible.
Ethiopia’s optimism is more understandable. It also managed the transition from Meles Zenawi when he died in 2012, to Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn remarkably well, and the doomsday scenarios that he was from a tiny insignificant ethnic group and would be ousted by the Tigrayan mafia in the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) didn’t come true.
Also, Ethiopian economic growth has outperformed that of every African country in the past 10 years.
But, it is a quarter-democracy, and the EPRDF both wins and steals all the votes. Thus in the most recent election, it grabbed all 540 seats in parliament, taking away even the single one the opposition held.
Burkina Faso, more power to them. They gave us the “Black Spring” last October when they rose against and ousted long-ruling strongman Blaise Compaore.
Yet, one can’t help but feel that none of these outcomes are enough to fuel such high levels of optimism.
Whether you are a freewheeling democracy like Kenya or Nigeria, or an Ethiopia, the one thing that has changed for most Africans is security of property and life.
More than at anytime, today the highest number of Africans live without fear that the state will grab their property, seize their harvest, or that when they approach a government roadblock that they will be killed.
Criminals, terrorists, and gangs are a greater threat.
Second, the Internet has expanded the people’s voice in new and complex ways.
It would seem people want to have a say on more than politics and derive a lot of satisfaction, as that fearsome group, Kenyans on Twitter (KOT) do, from being able to take on CNN for calling their country a “terror hotbed” ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit, and getting it to back off and soften its shrill tone.
What makes today’s Africans happy? There is a whole lot of surprising stuff out there that we don’t know.
By: Charles Onyango-Obbo