Why Sub-Saharan Africa Will Not Have an Arab Spring

ByMarianne Pretorius

The actions of one desperate Tunisian man forever changed the course of the history of North Africa and the Middle East, and some academics suggest the Arab Spring has not even yet reached its peak. Yet, it is unlikely that sub-Saharan Africa will also follow suit, as history has shown that Africans residing in the southern countries have only resisted oppression when it has been enforced from the outside. They have been surprisingly enduring of their own regimes, taking food from their mouths, giving almost no medical care, and blatantly ignoring the development of an effective education system.

A country such as Zimbabwe immediately springs to mind, doesn’t is?

While the Arab Spring was getting into full swing, a Bulawayo resident, Vikas Mayhudzi posted a message on the Facebook wall of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, urging him to topple President Robert Mugabe, who in December will have been serving as president for a quarter of a decade.

“I’m overwhelmed,” writes Mayhudzi. “… don’t know what to say, Mr. PM. What happened in Egypt is sending shockwaves to all dictators around the world. No weapon but unity of purpose. Worth emulating hey..” Mayhudzi was arrested after posting this message.

Instead of starting a revolution, citizens turn into fugitives, becoming a burden for other countries who are also struggling to keep afloat in the midst of not only the economic crisis, but also the unemployment crisis, healthcare crisis, housing issues, and more.

Neighboring countries aren’t quite ready to accept responsibility for these people. Namibia currently struggles to get everyone fed with every second person being unemployed. South Africa, the most developed country in SADC, is fighting 23% unemployment.

Africans could mobilize resistance better when the oppressor was from outside. The oppression that led to the Arab Spring came from their own leaders. Most Africans have great difficulty rising up against their own because they are afraid of being accused of being stooges in imperialist hands, and very often they are.

It took a lot of guts and strength for the youth in the Arab Spring to mobilize the communities, says Namibian political analyst, Prof. Joseph Diesco. The youth in Africa is the weakest as they are controlled by ruling parties through patronage and all forms of corruption.

Africa will have to undergo its own frustrations and develop a new generation of people with different values of worth, belonging, service, even heroism, before they will ever follow the example set by the Arab youth.

At the moment, the heroes are artificial and manufactured by those in power in order to remain in power. The youth is fed falsehoods and until the youth discover themselves in their own context — not based upon race or struggle politics, it is difficult to anticipate real change. 

Photo Credit: Marianne Pretorius