More than a dozen African countries plan to hold elections in 2023. According to experts, those elections will show whether or not democracy flourishes amid the continent's various crises.

Africa will hold state or parliamentary elections in 17 countries in 2023. According to The Economist Intelligence Unit, these elections will have a significant impact on the continent.

The Economist Intelligence Unit also warned that the electoral period could bring volatility to Africa and that there is a high risk of political protests, mass demonstrations and strikes in several countries.

"First of all, it remains to be seen whether the coup drama that we saw on the continent in 2022 will continue or if 2023 will mark a break with this phenomenon, especially in light of the recent coup attempt in Sao Tome and Principe," he told DW Fonteh Akum, executive director of the Institute for Security Studies.

According to authorities, the island nation in the Gulf of Guinea suffered a failed coup attempt on November 25, 2022.

One of the critical questions in 2023 will be whether democracy consolidates or recedes further.

"The key elections to watch are those in Nigeria, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe, with violence likely in some of these countries," said Alex Vines, head of the Africa program at the Chatham House think tank. in London.

All eyes on 2023 Nigerian elections

Nigeria has witnessed a surge of civic and political engagement among young people ahead of the upcoming presidential elections in late February. However, the run-up to the polls in Africa's most populous country has been marred by political violence and unrest.

"The Nigerian elections are very important because it is one of the largest economies on the continent, and Nigeria has security problems," says Akum.

The elections are also important because of the vote of young Nigerians, who could tip the balance of power between the main political parties to one side or the other.

The political atmosphere in this country of 217 million people is tense ahead of elections in February. The incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari, is not running again after two terms in office, making it a swing election, Akum said.

The ruling All Progressives Congress and the largest opposition party, the People's Democratic Party, will be the main contenders. But Akum noted that a third candidate could significantly influence the race. Peter Obi, businessman and presidential candidate for the Labor Party, enjoys the massive support of young Nigerians.

Crises persist in West Africa

West Africa is marked by growing instability and the spread of violent extremism, Akum noted. In the Sahel countries, Burkina Faso and Mali, the military has recently carried out coups d'état, in Mali for the second time in a short time. It will be important to see how his transition plays out, Akum added.

The continent's crises will persist in 2023, according to Alex Vines. "Especially in the Sahel, especially in Mali and Burkina Faso, but also in Niger," he said.

The situation remains worrying in Cameroon and Nigeria, as there is great insecurity in some parts of those countries.

In Vines, it remains to be seen whether the peace agreement signed in November between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front is maintained. Furthermore, northern Mozambique remains a cause for concern, where jihadist terror is pushing the population to flee.

Eastern Congo is also seen as a hotbed of trouble. The conflict there puts the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for December 20, 2023 in the spotlight.

According to Akum, the decisions of the acting President, Felix Tshisekedi, on how to react to the violence of the rebel militias in the east could affect the conduct of the elections. But he added that what matters in all elections is how electoral commissions effectively manage the processes and handle electoral challenges.

Tshisekedi is expected to run again and could face opposition politician Martin Fayulu.

South Africa at a crossroads

In South Africa, the African National Congress, which has ruled the country since the end of apartheid in 1994, re-elected President Cyril Ramaphosa as its leader at the ANC party congress shortly before the new year.

Public interest in the vote was high, because the ANC president has traditionally been considered the front-runner and ultimately head of state since 1994. South Africa's presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in 2024.

Ramaphosa faced an uphill battle for re-election. He has been accused of money laundering and corruption, and the opposition has demanded his resignation. The ANC party now finds itself at a crossroads, with its undisputed position of power in the elections at stake. Political observers say years of misrule, contradictory policies, mismanagement and large-scale corruption are to blame.

Zimbabwe: instability and hyperinflation

In neighboring Zimbabwe, the newly formed Citizens Coalition for Change, the largest opposition party, led by veteran opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, is likely to face President Emmerson Mnangagwa in presidential elections scheduled for next year.

But the brutality with which the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front has responded to challenges to its rule in the past raises fears of unrest. The southern African country has been plagued by instability for more than two decades. Furthermore, hyperinflation has impoverished the once prosperous country.

Rising inflation increases debt

“Africa's economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis in 2022 has been disrupted by a series of shocks,” says Vines. Among them, supply shortages and rapidly rising inflation, also fueled by the global impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

As a result, he said, debt repayment remains a problem for many countries. Added to this, he said, are the high costs of loans in the worst conditions in history. "This trend will continue in 2023, but there will still be African economic growth."

According to Vines, the large economies of Nigeria and South Africa are likely to grow more slowly, but commodity prices, particularly energy products, metals and minerals, will continue to rise.

Investors and buyers are also trying to diversify their supply chains outside of Russia. Vines said several countries, including Angola, Nigeria, Congo, Namibia, Tanzania and Zambia, will benefit from it.

Source: Deutsche Welle