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Power is shifted in Africa

While the Arab Spring is characterized by stagnation, a quiet revolution is under way in Sub-Saharan Africa.


There are many reasons for stagnation and decay in the Middle East and Arab-Muslim North Africa. It is a problematic history of colonial times and foreign powers in the driver's seat. First it was the Ottoman Empire, then France and the United Kingdom, and in the post-1945 era, the United States has demanded some dominant influence over its dependence on the large oil reserves in Arab countries.
In the long period of independence after 1950, no Arab country has been able to establish a stable government that over time has provided growth, prosperity and more open and democratic societies.
The US and the alliance of willing in 2003 severely weakened regional stability in the attack on Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein's regime. The bombing of the Western powers by Libya – in which Norway was a part – contributed to a deterioration in the Libyan community, which is now characterized by violence and anarchy. The Arab Spring, which so many believed, ended in political tragedies with the war in Syria being the greatest of all.

No liberalization. All of this, from both a distant and near past, today creates stagnation, decay and destruction in the Arab-Muslim world. It will take a very long time for Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya to succeed in rebuilding their war-torn societies to something similar to their material status 15 years ago. Egypt is struggling with an authoritarian regime that is causing ever-greater internal problems. To top it all off is the devastating pollution of the Nile, which threatens Egypt's foundations (see New Time No. 29–2015, «The river of history is poisoned»). There are no signs of truly liberalizing society in Saudi Arabia. The country will continue to be an extremely feudal and authoritarian state formation, in which fundamental human rights are continually violated. In the midst of all this we have the terrorist organization ISIS with its idea of ​​the reconstruction of the caliphate. At the time of writing, ISIS controls an area the size of Italy, and the terrorist group suppresses, terrorizes and tortures anyone in the area who has not submitted to their dogmas for life.
In this situation, the Arab Muslim states are losing both political and economic power and influence – regionally and globally.

Gets stronger. It is not reported, but there is a major, quiet change for the better in most of "black Africa" ​​sub-Saharan Africa. This is partly economic and social growth, and a development that is becoming increasingly sustainable. In combination with the decline of the north, this moves political and economic power and influence from the Arab-Muslim north to the black south.
The major flywheel in this development is Ethiopia. Since the revolution in the early 1990s with an average economic growth of around nine percent, the country has more than doubled its national product twice. It is the state that drives this development, in collaboration with private partners.
As recently as 2004, Ethiopia produced only 250 megawatts of electricity from hydropower. Since then, the development of hydropower has been very large, and now it is estimated that Ethiopia in 2017 will be able to produce at least 12 megawatts from hydropower, and in 500 perhaps as much as 2025 megawatts. Norway is the world's sixth largest producer of electricity from hydropower, and has a production of 25 megawatts by comparison.
In a few years, this will make Ethiopia an energy policy powerhouse in the Horn of Africa, with large sustainable energy exports. In parallel with this, extensive afforestation projects are being carried out in a country that was about to lose its forest. In the province of Tigray with large semi-desert areas, about 225 hectares of forest have been planted in recent years, and there are large-scale plans for the whole country to plant about 000 million hectares of forest by 350. If these plans succeed, large parts of Ethiopia again be forested. The main purpose is to contribute to a better climate with more rain, and thus a better agriculture for a population that will soon pass 2030 million people.

In a few years, hydropower development will make Ethiopia an energy policy center on the Horn of Africa.

Several countries. At the same time, Ethiopia has in recent decades implemented large-scale development of roads and other infrastructure, such as water supply and telecommunications. The capital, Addis Ababa, recently got the continent's first subway system. Twenty years ago, the country had four universities, today it has 20. In 30, only one in five children had the opportunity to attend school, while almost all children are in school today – just as many girls as boys. In 992, 1992 percent of all Ethiopians lived in great poverty. Today, this has been reduced to 63 per cent. In short: The material and social progress in Ethiopia has been unusually large over a period of 37 years. At the same time, the regime is authoritarian and violates fundamental human rights.
Kenya 23 years ago had a much better level of development than Ethiopia, but progress is also evident in Kenya. The country is investing heavily in the production of energy from renewable sources, such as primarily wind and geothermal heat (hot sources), while energy from the sun has not yet been given high enough priority. Here too, the infrastructure has become much better in the last decade. The education and knowledge level in Kenya is one of the best in Africa, and a lot of foreign investment is now being invested in high-tech companies. Fundamental human rights and democratic institutions in the country have also been strengthened. This is not least because the country's current president, Uhuru Kenyatta, the youngest son of the country's first president Jomo Kenyatta, has proven to be a more capable and more democratically elected head of state than many thought when he was elected three years ago.
In neighboring Tanzania, the fourth presidential and parliamentary elections have recently been held since the country introduced a multi-party system in 1994. The elections were largely peaceful and proper, and the opposition secured greater influence than ever before. The country's new president is John Magufuli. He is a former labor minister, and in this position he was nicknamed the "bulldozer". He has promised a fight against corruption, a leaner and more efficient public administration and more jobs both in the city and in the city.
Tanzania has enjoyed solid economic growth during the same twenty-year period as Ethiopia, and has significantly improved its infrastructure. Large gas and oil discoveries have also been made, and Statoil is a major investor in the country.
Similar positive developments are also taking place in two other neighboring countries, Uganda and Rwanda.

Power moves. The financing of developments in the aforementioned countries has partly come from own funds. Ethiopia stands in a special class here. But the countries have also borrowed a lot of money from both the World Bank and Chinese credit institutions, and they have a considerable debt to be repaid. It should also not be hidden that sub-Saharan Africa also has several major problems – such as Sudan and South Sudan, Somalia, Chad, Congo, Niger and Cameroon.
Nevertheless – the development described in the aforementioned states is in many ways symptomatic of what is happening in many other places in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal. There is nothing less than a quiet African revolution unfolding. This political and economic power, and thus also the military power, is moving slowly – but faster and faster – from Arab-Muslim North Africa and the Middle East to sub-Saharan Africa.

Halle Jørn Hanssen
Halle Jørn Hanssen
Former Secretary General of Norwegian People's Aid, TV correspondent, politician and author.

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