West Africa: people to watch
Mali: Didier Dacko – A general for the G5
Malian General Didier Dacko is the commander of the Sahel’s new G5 force representing the joint efforts of the governments of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger in their common struggle against largely Islamist rebel groups in the region. The 5,000-strong force’s headquarters was inaugurated in the Malian city of Mopti in 2017. Dacko will lead the joint force, which, unlike previous joint operations, will have a unified command. The US has not been supportive of the G5 but France provided €50m ($58.2m) to help its initial operations. The year ahead will be a crucial test for Dacko and the G5’s effectiveness as a regional bulwark against terrorist threats. Dacko, 50, has proven his skills in northern Mali, and was named chief of army staff in 2016.
Nigeria: James Ibori – A political comeback?
In December 2016, after serving half of a 13-year jail sentence in the UK for money laundering, former Delta State governor James Ibori was extradited to Nigeria and returned to a hero’s welcome in his home state. Since his return, he has mainly stayed out of the limelight, although in February 2017, when back in London for a court hearing, he indicated he would appeal against the conviction, which imposes a 10-year ban on running for elected office. Were he to succeed, national elections in 2019 may be the moment when Ibori launches a comeback. “What happens in African politics – you are in it until you die,” he told Reuters outside the court in London.
Ghana: Boakye Agyarko – Banking on another oil boom
Appointed Ghana’s energy minister in February 2017, former Bank of New York vice-president Boakye Agyarko will make key decisions in 2018 about two sectors essential to the economy’s growth: hydrocarbons and electricity. The government is borrowing billions of dollars from China to build oil and gas and other infrastructure. Meanwhile, Kosmos Energy and its partners in the TEN oil field have planned a new drilling programme for 2018 after the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled in Ghana’s favour in a border dispute with Côte d’Ivoire. Agyarko, 60, went to the US as a political refugee after being shot during a military coup in 1983. He was policy advisor for the New Patriotic Party’s 2016 election campaign.
Côte d’Ivoire: Amadou Gon Coulibaly – Continuity ticket
Prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly wields a lot of power in the central government and is seen as President Alassane Dramane Ouattara’s (ADO) preferred succesor to the presidency in 2020. To get there, the government veteran will have to fend off challenges from former warlord Guillaume Soro and ADO ally Henri Konan Bédié. As a former agriculture minister, he knows what it will take to keep the economy growing at a fast pace, something that could be a key to victory if voters are looking for continuity when elections come around in three years’ time.
Nigeria: Nnedi Okorafor – Futures and fantasies
The Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor’s star is reaching new heights. She will co-produce the HBO television adaptation of her novel Who Fears Death, which has George R.R. Martin of Game of Thrones fame as an executive producer. She is writing a three-issue comic series for Marvel set in Lagos with a lead superhero called Ngozi, her next novel Remote Control, a fantasy set in a near-future Ghana, will be released at the end of 2017, while the third and final instalment of the Binti novella trilogy, Binti: The Night Masquerade, will go on sale in January. Okorafor has championed more inclusion in the white-male-dominated sci-fi world.
These profiles first appeared in our December/January 2018 print edition of The Africa Report magazine