It goes without saying that running the affairs of any country is one of the most challenging responsibilities, as even one’s minute choices and decisions could either make or break the citizens’ future. On a continent with relatively low-income, developing economies, young healthcare and education systems, pressing problems with corruption, political and ethnic violence, African presidents present and past have had to face some of the most difficult crises and catastrophes imaginable. Let us delve into four of them.
Sickness and Disease: Although progress has been made in ensuring an effective health care system in African states, Africa as a whole still suffers major problems as the scourge of sickness and disease. Talk of the recent outbreak of Yellow Fever in Angola, which is feared to have killed hundreds in Angola and is now spreading to the Congo, where it has already claimed the lives of 21 persons; talk of the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa, which claimed the lives of thousands. Malaria-related deaths and HIV/AIDS transmission levels have reduced in some places, but they continue to affect millions.
Hunger and Drought: Africa has always been known for its rigorous battle against hunger and drought. In fact, El Niño weather patterns due to climate change are feared to have shifted the core climate of Africa, thus affecting the continent’s major agrarian economy and subsequently bringing on heightened forms of poverty, death and disease. Right now, a devastating famine, provoked by drought is moving north from Southern Africa, where it has affected more than 13 million lives. Two years of alternating droughts and floods, mismanagement of land and food supplies, political instability, and regional conflicts are being blamed. Across the continent in Gambia, farmers have given up in despair as an acute shortage of rain has crippled productivity.
Institutional Corruption: In its 2008 report, Transparency International revealed that corruption is one of the most formidable challenges to good governance, development and poverty reduction’ in Africa. Stitched into every political fiber, corruption is perhaps the biggest headache of any African president, be it the controversial judgement debts in Ghana, the Nkandla scandal in South Africa or the exchange of hands for access to health care by citizens. Although nearly all presidential candidates run on a campaign theme of eradicating corruption, it remains a cancer eating away the core of political integrity.
Ethnic and political violence: While there are many benefits to being deeply rooted in the soils of tradition and culture, Africa has often felt the negative effects of these social systems through frequent outbursts of ethnic tensions and violence. In recent times, more than one million Africans were internally displaced as a result of the Liberian Civil War. Even though the root causes of ethnicity-related violence have been firmly established and tackled by several political leaders, outbreaks still permeate various political platforms – a development clearly seen in the post-election violence in Ivory Coast which killed hundreds and displaced several thousands.