Political transitions driving high levels of risk across Africa

21 May 2018 Consultancy.africa 3 min. read
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The political risk map of 2018 published by risk consulting firm Control Risks has painted a mixed picture for Africa over the next few years. Namibia, Botswana, Ghana, and Senegal are all faced with a low level of risk as per the firm, while Central African Republic, Somalia and South Sudan classify as ‘Extreme.’ 

At a macro level, countries across Africa appear to have converged in terms of economic and political trends, consistent with regional integration taking place across the globe. Countries across the continent are characterised by young populations that are increasingly gaining internet access, and are catching up with global economic trends. 

Politically, winds of change are adrift in a number of countries, the most notable of which has been the ousting of 94-year-old dictatorial leader Robert Mugabe after 30 years at the helm of Zimbabwean politics. The removal of Zuma as South Africa’s President also represents emancipation from unpopular leadership, as was the ousting of Eduardo Dos Santos after 38 years in power in Angola. 

Another trend that is emerging, according to analysis from London-based consulting firm Control Risks, is an increasingly ageing set of political leaders across the continent. As per the firm, the average age of heads of state across Africa currently stands at 65, which is considerably higher than the figures across the globe.

The disconnect between the young populations and political leadership, and the frequent and disruptive turnovers in power across the continent breed significant risk in a number of countries. The firm details a number of factors that foster the tendency towards authoritarian rule and political dissatisfaction.

Risk Map Africa 2018

One such factor is the frequent rise to power on the back of a reform agenda. In essence, a number of African countries are plagued with sectarian violence and widespread socio-economic issues. In such a scenario, leaders rise to power by claiming to drive change and restore peace, and subsequently declare themselves ‘patrons’ of the state, often making constitutional changes to maintain power.

Other factors include dynastic politics, false political agendas, and populism, which are prevalent across the world but have a particularly pervasive effect on African politics. Political instability in these countries eventually translates into economic turbulence, which produces a host of economic risks as well.

Last year, Control Risks published analysis about how public debt is one of the most pertinent risks facing economies on the continent, with the cumulative level across Africa having increased by 125% over the last decade. 

Earlier this year, consulting firm Marsh published a global political risk map for the whole world, which revealed that Botswana, Ghana, and Morocco are the most stable countries in Africa. Control Risk’s own risk map for this year endorses this perspective, classifying Ghana and Botswana as ‘Low’ in terms of risk.

None of the African countries make the ‘very low’ classification for risk, while Senegal and Namibia are the only other countries to make it into the ‘low’ category. South Africa and Angola’s political transitions have placed them in the ‘medium’ category, while Zimbabwe has been driven into ‘high’ risk since the political change. Nigeria – which is the largest economy on the continent – also lies in the 'medium' level of risk. 

Four countries on the map are facing ‘extreme’ levels of risk as per the firm, namely Central African Republic, Somalia, Rwanda and South Sudan.