Is Africa Due For Another Elected Female President?

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Samia Nkrumah

After a long protracted war in which it is estimated that more than a million Liberians died, Ellen Sirleaf Johnson was elected to be the first female leader in Africa South of the Sahara in 2005.

This fit well into the general belief that women are given leadership after chaotic periods. Rwanda currently has the largest percentage of women in parliament of any country in the world based on its post-genocide constitution which made room for female quotas.  Since Sirleaf Johnson’s election in 2005, no other country in Africa has elected a female leader.

After the civil war and chaos in the Central African Republic, in January 2014 by parliamentary vote, the mayor of the capital Banqui, Catherine Samba-Panza was elected interim President again feeding into the scenario of women leading after monumental chaos. Joyce Banda became President of Malawi from 2012 to 2014 after the death of President Mutharika who she served with as Vice President.  She did not win the elections when she stood on her own in 2014.  

While the large percentage of female parliamentarians permeates Eastern and Southern African countries, there does not seem to be many women in the horizon with chances of being elected leaders of their countries. There is pervading evidence that female leadership leads to progress in health, education and environmental issues and may serve developing countries and Africa well to have female leadership to accelerate development.  

Here we profile two women from two  countries with good track record on female issues; one Ghana having no quota and never higher than 10% female parliamentarians and South Africa which is always consistently in the top 10 of countries having the highest percentage of women in parliament. 

Ghana: Samia Nkrumah is running for President of Ghana in December 2016.  She is the daughter of famed leader, Kwame Nkrumah who led Ghana to be the first African country South of the Sahara to gain independence.  She leads a faction of her father’s party the Convention Peoples Party (CPP) and will serve as the presidential candidate. Given that since 1990’s when General Jerry Rawlings stepped down as military leader to run as a civilian, the elections have swung from his party the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the party of his successor, John Kuffour, the New Patriotic Party (NPP); there is disenchantment with both parties and this is a good time for a third party to make inroads.

Also, Nkrumah’s ideas are going through renewed resurgence amongst Pan-Africanists across the globe.  The ideas of African unity he proclaimed are getting traction with the African Union and other promoters of ideas to resolve the intractable problems of underdevelopment in African countries South of the Sahara.

South Africa: South Africa leads the world in having parliamentary female quotas in its post-apartheid constitution.  South African women have a history of activist action dating back to the women’s march of 1956.  During the apartheid era with men routinely undergoing arrests, detentions and persecutions, a lot of grass-root activism and leadership role fell on the women. 

Female parliamentarians in South Africa tend to come from grass root activism as opposed to the elites as occurs in other parts of the world.  Baleka Mbete, the current speaker of the National Assembly is one of such women who rose through the ranks of the ANC. She was appointed Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly in the first post-apartheid parliament of 1996.  She is currently the chair of the ANC and in a survey of South Africans published in Business Tech Magazine, she was third as the most popular person people want to be the next President of South Africa. 

In the song made famous by Shakira during the World Cup games in South Africa with the refrain “"It's time for Africa"” it may be that "“It's time for an African Woman."”

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