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OBBO: Tshisekedi, Ethiopian Airlines, al Shabaab: Who will take the cup?

Jan 08, 2021
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Finally, a terrible Covid-19 wracked 2020 is behind us. Well, not exactly. This virus is still around, but with vaccines being approved, especially the third-world-friendly Oxford-AstraZeneca that just got the green light in the UK, we are a step closer to getting something in our side of the world.

Looking ahead, a good place to begin is to try and project how the wider East Africa might look on December 31, 2021.

To begin with, I have spoken to two brilliant East African writers who are each working on a novel on life in these parts during the pandemic. You will, in all probability, have a fantastic East African novel inspired by coronavirus on your end of 2021 reading list.

The real big one, though, is that come end of 2021, we shall be doing a list of the Covid-19 winners and losers. In the next few months, the smarter, more competent, and less corrupt states in the region will have mass coronavirus vaccination running. There will be laggard nations where nothing is happening.

The Covid-19 vaccine leading pack will have a tremendous competitive advantage. By middle of 2021, we will likely have thriving vaccine tourism going in one or two places. It will be good business.

At the end of January, the coming into effect of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) that was postponed by the pandemic, will happen. Nothing much will happen in the first few months.


Expect, though, that a few countries, at least two in East Africa, will jump out as early adaptors. They might, for example, provide free long-term business visas for Africans. They will be able to corner a slice of the post-Covid pan-African economy, and separate themselves from the laggards.

At the geopolitical level, with the US pulling out of Somalia (for the second time, the first being in 1993 after the Black Hawk fiasco), and Amisom beginning to wind down, expect a political settlement that brings al Shabaab a piece of the action.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, we are in for another surprise. In late 2018, president Joseph Kabila plotted and helped steal victory for President Felix Tshisekedi, throwing his own party’s Emmanuel Shadary under the bus. It was a clever plan, as Kabila reasoned that way Tshisekedi would be his ultimate poodle.

It started out that way, but turns out Tshisekedi is a python. He’s slowly squeezed Kabila, and seems to have turned the tables. He’s still a Congolese politician, but it seems Tshisekedi has some drips of reformist and democratic blood running in his veins. The man — and DRC — could be in an interesting place next New Year’s Day.

One of the biggest African success stories from the ruins of Covid-19 has been Ethiopian Airlines. It re-invented itself as a global carrier of things Covid-19, and made a fortune for itself as others floundered.

Ethiopia has been roiled by the war between Addis Ababa and its rebellious Tigray state, and many ethnic demons roam its barren lands. But above it, and over the continent, Ethiopian Airlines might by end of 2021, have risen as Africa’s first supranational carrier. It will be some year, 2021.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer and curator of the “Wall of Great Africans”. [email protected]

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