Social and economic conditions in many Southern African countries resemble those prevailing in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia. But broad-based uprisings akin to those initiated in North Africa and the Middle East since the ‘Jasmine Revolution’, which unfolded in Tunisia during December and January, are unlikely in the territory during 2011, a leading risk consultancy had argued.
Nevertheless, Control Risks, which released the latest version of its yearly ‘RiskMap’ on Monday, believes that violence and social instability is still likely in a number of countries across Africa, where more than 20 elections are due to take place this year.
Control Risks’ sub-Saharan Africa and Southern African specialists also believe that there are particular election-related threats in Nigeria, Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Zambia, and have also warned that the Mozambican government may not be in a position to sustain its current policy of food subsidisation, which, if withdrawn, could spark new protests.
The threat of instability has also increased as a result of rising food and fuel prices, as well as by the emergence of megacities across the continent. In fact, MD for Southern and East Africa David Butler notes that around 70-million people are currently moving from rural to urban areas yearly and that, while there were 86 cities with more than one-million inhabitants in 1950, by 2015 there will be 550 such cities. “Lagos and Kinshasa are growing at a rate of nearly 60 people an hour,” Butler notes.
But sub-Saharan Africa analyst Tom Wilson argues that, while the social trends across Africa are similar to those prevailing in the north, most countries lacked an organised and educated “vanguard” to mobilise resistance efforts on the scale seen recently in places such as Tunisia and Egypt.
“For instance, in Zimbabwe, the people who would have been capable of pushing that kind of resistance are not in Zimbabwe any more – they have left. Whereas in Egypt and Tunisia, they were still there to provide a vanguard to those movements,” Wilson explains.
Control Risks is also not convinced that the protests in Algeria, the Yemen and Jordan will take on the characteristics and scale of the recent Egyptian protests, which resulted in the forced resignation of President Hosni Mubarak on February 11.
“Moreover, events in Tunisia and Egypt have served as a warning to other regimes to take measures to deter unrest. In the wake of the Tunisian protests, many governments have already broached postponing planned subsidy cuts, or even increasing subsidies,” the commentary associated with RiskMap2011 asserts.