Benin was among a handful of African countries that voted out incumbent presidents in the “founding” multiparty elections of the early 1990s. Mathieu Kérékou, president since 1972, lost to Nicéphore Soglo in 1991, and agreed to step down.
Since then Benin has seen three presidential turnovers (with opposition candidates winning). Most importantly, Benin became one of the first countries in the region in which presidential term limits quickly congealed as part of the political culture.
Because of changes to Benin’s electoral rules, only two parties have met the requirements to field candidates for the polls (legislative elections) scheduled for April 28, and both of them back President Patrice Talon. Among the excluded parties is the Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin, which is allied with former President Thomas Boni Yayi and claimed the most seats—33 of 83 total—in the last legislative elections in 2015.
Talon has described the exclusion of the opposition from next month’s elections as “unfortunate.” Yet the president’s critics suspect he is being disingenuous and that the rule changes are having their intended effect: allowing Talon to consolidate power while undermining his rivals.
Lomé in Togo has become West Africa’s major port, surpassing Lagos. A key development backing Lomé was the commissioning of Lomé Container Terminal. It handles close to 890,000 TEU annually, close to 75 percent of Lomé’s total throughput of 1.2 million TEU. “The establishment of Lomé Container Terminal is part of a greater trend in West Africa, which sees more and more carriers becoming involved in ports and terminals. After all, carriers must go somewhere using their oversized ships,” says Wadey.
In 2017, 285 container ships sailed the seven intercontinental trade lanes to West Africa. Deployed by 24 different operators, their average capacity was 3,300 TEU. The biggest ship, a 13,600 TEU vessel, is operated by MSC in a hub and spoke service, connecting Lomé with a large number of regional ports by feeder.
Togo’s logistics play is an underrated phenomenon. Lome’s new airport is the hub of ASKY, a regional airline operated in conjunction with Ethiopian Airlines (which has a 40% stake in ASKY). Lome also functions as Ethiopia’s global hub in West Africa, with direct flights to the US and Latin America.
An African youth volunteer program just got launched in West Africa. The BBC reports that “The scheme would see youths spend time helping out in areas such as agriculture, health or education in a different country to their own.”
William Easterly has this neat collection of pics to show just how badly Africa is doing in many sectors compared to the rest of the world. The Continent’s share of global trade is a paltry 2%. In the 1960’s Africa’s share of world exports was 3%. By the 1990s the same had declined to 1%. The decline in exports did not translate into more intra-continental trade – which still stands at a dismal 10%. This despite the proliferation of regional trade agreements on the Continent (ECOWAS, SADC, EAC, COMESA, ECCAS, SACU…..). It would be interesting to analyse just how effective these regional trade pacts have been over the decades. Me thinks that like the OAU and latterly the AU they have merely been big men’s clubs with no real impact on trade and development. But I could be wrong.
An illustration of Africa’s ever shrinking share of world trade since the 1950s can be found here.
After killing their president earlier this year, the military strongmen in Guinea Bissau seem bent on eliminating his surviving allies. The BBC reports that the tiny West African nation’s army killed a number of suspected coup plotters, including Baciro Dabo, a minister and former close ally of the late president Vieira. Mr. Dabo had expressed interest in running for president in elections that are due later this month. The elections will now more than likely not take place.
The latest episode of violence just illustrates how much out of touch the army is with reality. The impoverished West African nation of 1.5 million has seen slow recovery from a disastrous civil war in the late 1990s. With a per capita GDP of $ 213 ($ 600, PPP) it still has a long way to go. It is heavily dependent on farming and fishing, with cashews being the major crop. Political instability and insecurity are only going to make matters worse. And perhaps the saddest part of all this is that no one beyond the Guinean borders cares. ECOWAS will not help, the UN has its gaze fixed on the many conflicts in Central Africa and the AU, under the leadership of Muamar Gaddafi, would rather not be bothered – beyond issuing statements.