Egyptian Protests Have Africans Looking Harder at Their Leaders
(Network Journal) — As the Egyptian government and opposition figures met for talks earlier this month, the country’s financial system, businesses and traffic seemed to begin to creep back toward normal. The massive protest against 82-year-old President Hosni Mubarak, insisting that he step down, sparked outflows of funds and a clamor for the U.S. dollar, weakening the Egyptian pound. Analysts at French investment bank Credit Agricole said the turmoil was costing Egypt at least $310 million a day. Fueled by fury over financial deprivation, the unrest in Egypt threatens to diminish the country’s economic growth. The stock market plummeted 20 percent within a week as investors fled in droves, undermining a vibrant private sector led by a construction boom and vibrant. The protests in Egypt, triggered by an uprising in Tunisia that led to the departure of President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power, spotlight popular distaste for “Big Man” politics elsewhere in Africa, where autocratic leaders are increasingly resisting change and struggling to hang on to power at all costs. These leaders may not last very long, however. “The region is being battered by a perfect storm of powerful trend,” warns U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “This is what has driven demonstrators into the streets in Tunis, Cairo, and cities throughout the region. The status quo is simply unsustainable.” Among recent holdovers, Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki, accused of stealing an election and plunging his country into a deadly civil conflict in late 2007; Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, accused of doing the same in 2008; and Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo, who lost elections in November but has so far refused to hand over power to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally-backed winner.