Africa in August: Presidential elections, solar projects, and more

By The Africa Report

Posted on Tuesday, 17 August 2021 13:53
Zambia's new president Hakainde Hichilema. (AP/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Zambia held their elections on 12 August, and incumbent Edgar Lungu conceded defeat on Monday 16 August.

The Africa Report takes a look at significant events happening on the continent in the month of August.



On 12 August, Zambians headed to the polls to vote in general elections, which are held every five years. Opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema was declared the winner.

Due to heavy borrowing and a combative relationship with mining firms, Zambia is struggling to pay its debts. Incumbent Edgar Lungu’s backers wanted him to stay to spend more on infrastructure and talk tough to mining companies. A populist, he sought to get more support from women and young people with projects to boost agricultural production.

However, since the 2016 election that gave him the legitimacy of a popular vote – he originally stepped into the presidency when Michael Sata died in office – Lungu has been accused of authoritarianism.

In 2017 the Conference of Catholic Bishops, who rarely speak out publicly, made a statement concluding that Zambia ‘is now all, except in designation, a dictatorship’.

One of their complaints was that opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema had been arrested on a trumped-up treason charge – a claim supported by Amnesty International. Hichelema was released, but the possibility of re-arrest was still hanging over him.

A businessman campaigning on a programme to fix the economy, who lost in the 2016 elections by about 10,000 votes, Hichilema and his United Party for National Development had an uneasy ride to victory.


Senegal’s President Macky Sall backs a drive for rich countries to reallocate some $100bn of their special drawing rights at the IMF to provide more finance for African countries.

South Africa

The government in South Africa is trying to approve 1GW of solar photovoltaic projects as part of its Renewable Energy IPP Procurement Programme.

Food insecurity

NGOs are warning of an ‘unprecedented’ rise in the number of people facing acute food insecurity in the Sahel and West Africa in the upcoming lean season, which runs from June until August. The biggest contributor to the rise is the growing number of food-insecure in Nigeria.


  • South African Airways, which suspended commercial flights in September 2020 due to Covid-19 and debts, aims to restart in July or August if the health situation permits.
  • Surendran takes over as CEO of Airtel Nigeria on 1 August 2021, when Olusegun Ogunsanya moves to Airtel Africa. Surendran was CEO of Airtel’s largest Indian subsidiary in Karnataka.



Multi-award winning South African singer-songwriter and recording artist Amanda Black will release her latest album, Mnyama, this month. She first came into the spotlight as a contestant on the TV show Idols SA.

Speaking about the new album, the singer said: “We want better days […]. We seek healing from the incredulous [sic] losses we have experienced during this time [the Covid-19 pandemic] and I hope people can find it through my story.”


Waiting for Gebane: For six years, South African artist Senzeni Marasela wore the same symbolic dress, through which she inhabited her alter ego, Theodorah Mthetyane. In this solo exhibition, she narrates Theodorah’s story – and a universal story of women waiting – using textiles, embroidery, photography and painting.

When Theodorah’s husband, Gebane Hlongwane, leaves her in a rural town to look for work, he gives her an ishweshwe dress, signifying marriage in Xhosa culture, which she wears in the hope he will return. The exhibition is at the Zeitz MOCAA – Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town until 29 August.


Leïla Slimani’s third novel, released in French last year, is out in translation this month. In the Country of Others (Random House) is a story about freedom and belonging in colonial Morocco, and is set to be the first part of a trilogy.

This article was first published in The Africa Report’s print magazine. 

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