This Is Why Africa Has Pretty Old Presidents


Africa is one continent where leaders do not give the young a chance in governance. Africa’s longest serving presidents have ruled for a stretch of 30-37 years against the mandate of the people.

Till his death in 2011, Gabon’s Omar Bongo ruled for 41 years. This is particularly disturbing because Africa is home to the youngest population in the world.

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African leaders are generally known for prolonged governance. It is arguable that Africa has the oldest leaders in the world.

According to David E. Kiwuwa, an Associate Professor of International Studies,

“85% of Angolans were born after President Dos Santos came into power in 1979 while 83% of Zimbabweans were not born when President Mugabe came into power in 1980.”

“Africa’s five longest presidencies now stretch between 30 and 37 years and give a total of 174 combined years in power.” 

And why do they refuse to comply when their tenure is over? Why is the continent with the largest youth population being ruled by incredibly old leaders? A range of reasons might clarify the air for us.

 1. Culture:

Has culture led to the distrust of African youths? From time immemorial, Africans accord so much respect to the elderly, and uphold a general notion that the young ought to learn and look up to them.

While there’s nothing wrong with that school of thought, there seem to be an accompanying misconception that almost delineates the opinion and potentials of the younger generation.

It is not gibberish that African youths definitely have something to offer in the world of politics. In an acclaimed democratic society, it is sheer facade that we will have leaders who have ruled from independence till date.

Beyond the culture of looking up to elders, Africa’s longest serving presidents must also realize they will not be there forever. So accommodating the young in politics is the only way to practically prepare them for the future.

Having youths participate in the running of the nation will help boost their maturity. It will also help relate to the younger generation in a language they will understand.

2. Greed: 

What else can make Africa’s longest serving presidents sit glued to their presidential thrones for ages if not the vice called greed. Proving this point is the state of economy as well as the living conditions of the people with the sight-tight leaders.

Presidents such as Dos Santos and  Teodore Obiang have been accused of kleptocracy. They can’t get enough of the wealth.

3. Pan-Africanism:

Most of these longest serving African presidents  actually started off on a good note in their youth. Their guiding vision was to guard their countries and Africa from Western manipulations.

Unfortunately while still maintaining the stand as in the case of Mugabe, the leadership pattern does not guarantee the well-being of the people. Sadly they have made the Pan-African mission too personal that it is adversely affecting the people.

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4. Power Thirst:

You know what they say, ” Absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Such is the case of many African leaders. Some have been grossly intoxicated with power that they cannot let go. This is also why they are allergic to opposition. Africa’s longest-serving presidents are scared of losing the immunity that comes with power.

5. No One Does It Better…

The no one does it better syndrome is the underlying idea behind African dictatorial leaders. Let’s just call it superiority complex or plain disillusionment.