As we approach the start of the new year, The Africa Report, a magazine focusing on that continent’s politics and economics has been releasing its list of 11 ideas for 2011.  The list seeks to compile “simple ideas which could make a real change for the [continent’s] better in the new year.”  Today’s idea calls for an end to gerontocracy in Africa, stating that “[f]or too long the continent has been ruled by a gerontocracy that refuses to let go of power. It is time for Africa’s youth to take charge of their future.”

According to the editors: “[t]hough age may carry wisdom, experience and perspective, it brings the baggage of patronage, long-undelivered promises and frailty.”  They add that: “[m]en … who have spent years clambering over opponents to the top, run for office in their twilight years, plumped-up by personality cults that force little incentive to change the status quo.”  As a result, they conclude that “[n]obody who is over the age of 69 should be allowed to take office, whether its for their first term, or a second, third or fourth one.” They further justify their argument by noting that  “while the … developed world confront[s] a childless future, 41% of Africa’s population was under 15 in 2010, according to the Population Reference Bureau. Only 3% were over 65. The continent’s leaders should also speak for and come from this younger constituency. Not just so they can understand how to communicate on Facebook. But because it would make both political and economic sense to their efforts to woo voters and create opportunities for this demographic dividend.”

Former Ghanaian President John Kufuor takes a different approach.  He argues that “leaders need to be groomed for political office. They must be shown the ropes of local governance and parliamentary legislation and learn how to argue their country’s interest on the world stage. They must understand its history, and its options going forward.”  He then concludes that a leader’s age should be left to the judgment of he people, noting that “[y]ou may have a young 70-year old”.

Share your thoughts on this proposal with IAHSA. Should national leaders hail from the largest age groups of the countries? Have Africa’s aged leaders overly-benefited the continent’s elderly population? Is there an alternative way to solve the problems that have been tied to the dominance of older leaders? Do similar debates occur in your community?  See the full article here.


Andry Rajoelina, Pres. of Madagascar (L) and Robert Mugabe, Pres. of Zimbabwe (R)