Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Capitalism and democracy can unlock Africa’s great potential

The message to his country is simple: ‘Don’t expect miracles.’ These are wise words from Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s septuagenarian new leader surveys his immense domain. For having won power, the former general presides over a nation – the most populous in Africa – that is beset with problems from Islamic militancy in the north through to grotesque corruption and massive economic woes caused by collapsing oil prices.

Yet in some ways, the miracle has already happened. For Nigeria has joined the club of nations on the continent that has seen leaders removed from office through the ballot box, a process that began in 1971 in neighbouring Benin. After Buhari won last month’s ballot by 2.6m votes, the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan graciously accepted defeat in what was possibly the finest moment of his lacklustre presidency. Few Nigerians dared hope power might be handed over so peacefully; Jonathan’s party had, after all, controlled the west African behemoth since military rulers ceded control 16 years ago.