Is poverty a catalyst for coups in Africa?

In the wake of the Gabon coup, earlier this week- a closer look at the patterns that have led up to nine coups in the last 3 years is pointing to poverty as a major cause.

During a session on “Follow The Money – Coups in Central Africa Region: The Economic Effect” hosted by Nairametrics, Olumide Adesina stated that poverty plays an essential role in these recurrent coups.

  • “Why do we continue to struggle with the fundamental structures of governance in humanity? The answer lies in poverty. The colonization methods of the English and French have also played a role. Many African countries are rich in natural resources, yet the continent is home to some of the world’s poorest people. Frustration is mounting, and this frustration is reverberating in Nigeria, creating geopolitical sensitivity.”

Adesina highlighted three critical factors that are at play in Nigeria currently. First, there is a resounding message within Nigeria, where the middle class is shrinking daily, with 1.8 million leaving the country last year.

  • “Companies are relocating, and wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few. No matter how strong your security is, discontented citizens can pose a threat. The most effective guard is education and empowering the populace.”

He also analyzed the success of coups in the region, emphasizing the citizens’ deteriorating conditions, electoral system abuse, and the importance of strong institutions, as advocated by Barack Obama.

He cited factors like rising rice costs, the India ban, the Ukraine war, and US dollar liquidity, as well as the proliferation of arms in the West, contributing to the instability.

  • Adesina concluded, “In the long term, these events send a message to Africa that it cannot perpetuate economic depression among its citizens. Military dictatorships seldom yield positive results and Nigeria and France have emerged as the biggest losers, as their vulnerabilities become exposed, and they face increasing isolation.”
  • He stressed the urgency of addressing these issues: “Nigeria must adapt swiftly, addressing poverty-stricken citizens. Prioritize education, enact political reforms, and take measures to appease the middle class, providing palliatives and adjusting consumption. The consumer industry is struggling, and it’s essential to safeguard farmers and the agricultural value chain against violence and disruptions.”

Gabon’s unemployment rate currently stands at 32%. In tandem with this, poverty remains a formidable challenge, with a staggering 35% of Gabonese citizens living below the poverty line, surviving on less than two dollars a day according to reports.

What you should know

So far, since 2020, there has been a noticeable increase in military coups across the African continent, evoking memories of the 1960s.

To date, approximately 9 coups have occurred in various African nations, including Gabon, Niger, Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Sao Tome, Cape Verde, and others. Countries like Niger which are the 7th largest contributor to global uranium supply, find themselves in a precarious position as one of the poorest nations worldwide.

The poverty index shows an estimated 10 million people (41% of the total population) grapple with extreme poverty.

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