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  • Writer's pictureMichael Padilla-Pagan Pay

Five African Countries, Six Coup d'État, It Time to Understand Social Risk

It’s not hard to pinpoint why companies all over the world are turning their attention to Africa - growth. The continent is seeing one of the fastest booming consumer markets across the globe, and it’s set to stay that way. But caution should be taken. Consumer economies are only a part of the bigger picture.

Two of our firms, Al Thuraya Consultancy and ICE24 have been embedded in work across Africa for the last 20 years. In our work and travels (and from the experiences of our local colleagues on-the-ground) myself and Jerry Davis, head of our ATC Consulting Divisions, we have seen clearly the rise of social risk, and civilian support for military coups is becoming a more widespread reality. And it’s a reality that can impact interests and strategies when entering these markets.

Over the last three years, we have witnessed the military seize control of six West African nations. Although there are several factors that thread across these coups, it’s important that five of them are former French colonies. France itself has been referenced on several occasions during these political turmoils because, as a Western Power and former colonizer, it has become extremely present not only the domestic politics of these independent nations but also in security assistance.

The finger is pointed toward France at present, but the real overarching issue that needs to be grappled with is the security threat and the threat from terrorism that we’ve seen becoming more prominent across the region over the past ten years plus.

Because of this security issue being faced across some parts of the continent, these countries have had to take on international security assistance. This has definitely played a role in how domestic politics have played out, but also how presidents have also used security as a way to strengthen their stature internationally.

I’m not pointing fingers, and I’m aware of the historical and current context of international and political relations. But, I want to underline that as we operate in these areas, we need to retain (or for some, develop) hope in the broader future of the region – especially as it is the continent with the youngest population worldwide.

In a Coup, there’s a belief that strongmen can better face the security risks. The reality is that a military takeover doesn’t necessarily lead to a more effective response against insurgencies — continuing attacks in Mali are evident still today. Military powers are kind of there to stay and doing everything to cement their own power.

Grounded by Truth: people at the end of their tether.

People are mad. People are angry. Across the continent, people are desperate for change. Autocratic figures – with only their personal gains in sight – have clawed their way into a position of power.

So then, is it any wonder that when the military stepped in and removed these people, the public rejoiced? Where they had failed through their demonstrations and protests, the military had succeeded.

What these coups showed, in most of these cases, was that the outward manifestations of democracy – the ritual electioneering, the voting (in most cases rigged), and the loud claims of victory at the end of the exercise – had been exposed for what they were: shameful distortions of what real democracy should be; horrible fakes that no longer fooled anybody, least of all the electorate.

This is the reality behind the public support for the military coups in the region recently. The public are fed up with charlatans who have become expert at occupying the seats of power and refusing to budge.

The nations of Africa, as well as international and supranational entities, should be taking this more seriously and discussing why coups have become a seemingly permanent fixture.

Condemning the phenomenon and imposing sanctions without acknowledging the root causes – the hideous failure of governance by those who manipulate the system to gain power – will not stop more coups from happening. Only a root-and-branch purging of the discredited systems has a chance of working.

The People have every right to expect a real democracy. Many have only had the right to democratic representation in recent history. They can see the opportunity ahead of them – the opportunity for stability, representation, and betterment for all (not some few), and to be a part of the present that will guide their country’s future.

History shows us that sooner or later, the will of the people will prevail. Meanwhile, they will tolerate the military in its role as a sweep, clearing out the rubbish and hopefully laying the groundwork for real patriots genuine leaders to emerge and take their countries forward.

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