West Africa | People to watch in 2019
CÔTE D’IVOIRE | Simone Gbagbo
Fiery former first lady
“We are going. We are going, and we are not going to stop,” intoned former first lady Simone Gbagbo when she was freed from prison based on a presidential amnesty in August. Many say that she could be the candidate of the opposition Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI) in the next elections in 2020. A stronger FPI will complicate calculations about who will replace President Alassane Ouattara when his second term ends. Simone’s husband, former president Laurent Gbagbo, is still detained in The Hague. However, his popularity in Côte d’Ivoire is rising now that there is talk that he could be freed.
By Olivier Monnier
Photo: Issouf Sanogo/AFP
MALI | Kamissa Camara
Rising star of Malian diplomacy
The 35-year-old Malian-French-American became Mali’s foreign affairs minister under the new government of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. Kamissa Camara is the youngest and first female foreign minister in Mali’s history, the star of the government’s new focus on promoting a new generation of leaders. She is known for speaking up when she thinks something is wrong, and has been critical of the government’s policies. A political analyst previously based in the US, Camara is now crisscrossing the globe to get support for the G5 Sahel peacekeeping force. She is pushing for a multidisciplinary approach to the crisis in northern Mali that uses political, military and development tools.
By Olivier Monnier & Bram Postumus
Photo: Vincent Fournier/JA
NIGERIA | Mr Eazi
aka Mr Popular
In a few years, Mr Eazi (born Oluwatosin Oluwole Ajibade) has carved out a space for himself in the crowded Nigerian pop scene. Known for his catchy hits like ‘Leg Over’ and ‘Pour Me Water’, Mr Eazi is as interested in the music as he is the music business, having signed with Universal Africa, a subsidiary of the US-based Universal Music, in July 2018. As a student in Ghana he set up several businesses before making it big. Now guest spots on songs such as Major Lazer’s ‘Let Me Live’ are giving him more exposure in markets outside of the continent, and he is touring Europe and North America to build up his fan base.
By Marshall Van Valen
Photo: Courtesy of Mr. Eazi/@mreazi
SENEGAL | Moustapha Cisse
The sort of brainy star that generations of African nerds look up to, Senegal’s Moustapha Cisse is now managing Google’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Lab in Ghana. He has his fingers in many cutting-edge pies, having launched a master’s programme in machine intelligence at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in July, arguing recently in an op-ed that “fewer African AI researchers and engineers means fewer opportunities to use AI to improve the lives of Africans”. He hopes countries on the continent can leapfrog a stage of development, like they did with mobile phones.
By Billie McTernan
GHANA |Ernest Addison
Front and central
Ghana’s central bank governor will continue to be in the headlines in 2019 for shaking up the banking industry in the footsteps of former Nigerian central banker Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. With Ernest Addison’s institution raising minimal capital requirements in 2018 to push banks to raise funds, or merge to form bigger banks that can lend more, he has been a calm hand as several banks collapsed due to mismanagement. The central bank has withdrawn the licences of seven local banks and merged five of them into the Consolidated Bank Ghana.
By Marshall Van Valen
Photo: All rights reserved
NIGERIA | Peter Obi
Reformist running mate
The vice-presidential candidate on the opposition People’s Democratic Party ticket for February 2019’s elections, former Anambra State governor Peter Obi has boosted presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar’s hopes of victory. While many of Nigeria’s governors leave their states poorer after pilfering their coffers, Obi left office in 2014 with the state’s finances in better shape than when he found them. Obi will bring Atiku votes from the south-east and strengthens the team’s reformist credentials. On the campaign trail, Obi is championing issues like education, where the current government has performed poorly.
By Eromo Egbejule
This article first appeared in December-January 2019 print edition of The Africa Report