New Leaders, New Direction

In recent elections across West Africa opposition mantras of change have succeeded in convincing voters to oust incumbent governments. The five countries focused on in this edition of West Africa Insight - Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia, Sierra Leone and Liberia - have all seen an opposition presidential candidate emerge victorious since 2015. But faced with significant challenges and high expectations how are they doing in office?

In Nigeria, where President Muhammadu Buhari will soon stand for re-election, Cheta Nwanze provides an assessment of his government’s economic performance. Arguing that whilst Buhari was dealt a “bad hand” when he assumed office in 2015, his approach has done little to improve the situation and in fact has exacerbated some of the economic challenges further.

In The Gambia the removal from office, after more than two decades, of the dictatorship of Yahya Jammeh was unexpected and thrust the little-known Adama Barrow into the country’s highest office. Barrow, who headed a coalition of opposition groups, has taken steps to reform the system of government but as Ismaila Ceesay notes it hasn’t all been plain sailing, with internal politics, accusations of corruption and pressing challenges, such as youth unemployment, styming progress.

In Ghana, Wunpini Mohammed looks at how marginalised women are being included in the New Patriotic Party’s dispensation. She argues that symbolic appointments of women to ministerial positions masks a lack of government action when it comes to supporting women who hail from the country’s poorer northern regions.

In the last year incumbent presidents in Sierra Leone and Liberia respected term limits to stand aside, but watched their parties lose the subsequent election. In Liberia that brought George Weah, a footballer turned politician to office. Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei looks at whether the early signs are that his administration will be able to deliver on key election pledges.

In Sierra Leone, where President Bio has been in office for only six months, Andrew Lavali and Hassan Kallon offer some initial reflections on progress made on key electoral promises - tackling corruption and free education - and ask whether this government can do more to push ahead with much needed national political reconciliation.

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