There is a high risk of civil violence and political unrest as a result of the 19 upcoming major elections in African nations with the potential for the so-called “Arab Spring” to spread from the Middle East and North Africa.
These upcoming elections, combined with the recent uprisings in parts of the Arab world, present the greatest potential for violence and civil unrest in recent memory.
In many instances these elections are in highly corrupt and opaque regimes where elections are nothing more than public relations exercises. In other cases there are countries which are trying very hard to be democratic but the situation is highly volatile. In either instance there is usually an extremely disenfranchised voter base, many of whom will have been paying close attention to the people’s revolts in Egypt and Libya.
There is a strong likelihood that at least in some of these upcoming elections the voter base will use Presidential or National elections as a trigger for a democratic uprising. Of particular note are countries with recent history of violent civil unrest such as Cameroon, Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritania, South Africa and Tunisia – all of which have elections this year.
Zimbabwe also presents a risk of violence where supporters of President Robert Mugabe are pushing for an early election to enable them to end the power-sharing arrangements with Morgan Tsvangirai and his opposition party.
In both Cameroon and Zimbabwe, and in many other countries, there will be real and significant risks to business interests that must be planned for.
Companies operating in Africa needed to develop:
• A keen awareness of when elections are coming up in the countries in which they have commercial interests – please see below for Dynamiq’s 2011 African Election Calender
• A thorough risk assessment for their business activities, based on historic examples and likely scenario’s from the country in question
• A contingency plan around what the organisation would do to protect its people, its operations and its sovereign interests under the worst case scenario