Sunday, February 20, 2011

Will winds of change blow across Africa?

Will winds of change blow across Africa?

(CNN) - How infectious is this wind of change sweeping through North Africa? Will it blow south? Or continue to move east across the Middle East?

These are questions that are being debated in Africa.

The East African, a Kenyan-based newspaper, recently had an article entitled, "The Revolution in Black Africa won't be played out in the streets."

The Mail and Guardian’s Zimbabwean proprietor Trevor Ncube just published a hard-hitting analysis entitled, “We are our own liberators." In it he urges the "Zimbabwean masses to do what they have got to do; the cost of doing nothing is too high."

Both articles, and countless others written in the past month, reflect a deep sense of soul-searching by Africans. Hard questions are being asked if Africans can emulate what has been achieved on the northern edges of the continent.

On face value, conditions are ripe for some Africans to "do what they have got to do."

Sub-Saharan Africa, like the Middle East, has its fair share of autocrats and repressive governments. Also, in varying degrees, there is the same heady concoction of youth unemployment, corruption and heavy-handed government suppression.

Crucially, even the poorest Africans are networked into the global dialogue. Mobile phone growth is staggering. More people are connected than ever before. Text messages are a particularly powerful form of communication here.

But will this heady mixture be enough to stoke revolution in Zimbabwe or Nigeria or Uganda?

The general consensus is no.

Africans themselves say many communities are too divided to coalesce around one issue. Cultural, tribal and ethnic differences limit the possiblities for a sustained, organized protest with a unified goal, say many here.

More importantly, the security apparatus in places like Zimbabwe are ruthless and totally dedicated to preserving the status quo. The army, for example, acts as a wing of Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party rather than a non-biased state actor.

There are many other suggestions as to why protests won’t rock Sub-Saharan Africa in the way they have rolled across North Africa. What do you think they are? Or do you think the conditions are right in some countries?

However, we all know it’s difficult to predict revolution and what the ‘tipping point’ might be for a population.