In our series of letters from African journalists, film-maker and columnist Farai Sevenzo looks at what could be in store for the continent in the next 12 months.
2015, with its many elections and third-term bids and violent encounters of the terrorist kind, is behind us.
What, then, can Africa hope to find in 2016?
President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that Boko Haram has been driven into hiding and is a shadow of its former self.
We are told by the Nigerian president that his army has “technically” defeated the Islamist militant group, that they have now been reduced to fighting with improvised “explosive devices and indoctrinating young guys to carry out suicide missions in churches and mosques”.
To those on the receiving end of such attacks, this does not seem much of a reduction of the insurgents’ activities but rather examples of their usual modus operandi.
And President Buhari’s definition will come as scant comfort to the people of the north-east, with many thousands still displaced from their homes and the frequent suicide attacks on markets by a group that has sworn allegiance to the so-called Islamic State (IS).
The figures are concerning – a six-year insurgency is said to have killed 17,000 and displaced more than 1.5 million people.
The Islamist insurgency has also spilt over into neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon – with the United Nations Children’s Fund saying this has meant the closure of more than 2,000 schools and the disruption of over a million children’s schooling.
Come April 2016, it will be two years since the Chibok girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram and the hash tag #BringBackOurGirls will have long acquired the dusty feel of failure. Can Mr Buhari bring them back in the coming year?
‘Third-term fever continues’
2016 will have Africa watching its other main terror group – al-Shabab – after reports from Kenya that a failed bus attack had been linked to IS.
Kenya’s police chief has told us that the Somali-based Islamist group has split into two factions, loyal to al-Qaeda and IS respectively.
With events in a Bamako hotel earlier in the year and the global reality of random attacks, 2016 may prove to be a nervous year in which the African Union must harness what collective power it has to protect its citizens from the biggest madness of the millennium.
And of course the attention-seeking pronouncements of long-term leaders like Yaya Jammeh – who will declare a war on witches one year and declare the Republic of The Gambia an Islamic state in another – shall need to be considered far more carefully as Mr Jammeh marks 22 years in charge of The Gambia – and is likely to seek another five-year term in December.
In elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo in November 2016, will Joseph Kabila keep the third-term flag flying? And will Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni make it to his fifth term after February?
Further south, Robert Mugabe will be entering his 36th year in charge of Zimbabwe. His official birth certificate tells us he will be 92 in February 2016.
His wife graciously told the nation that he would be willing to captain the ship of state from the comfort of a wheel chair – such were the fawning pleas of his lieutenants and subordinates at the Zanu-PF congress in December for him to stay on and impart his wisdom.
Key events to look out for
- February: Elections in Uganda – Museveni standing for 5th term
- February: Tokyo Sexwale seeks to become first African Fifa president
- November: Elections due in DR Congo – but they might be postponed
- August: Will African athletes shine at Rio Olympic?
- December: Elections in The Gambia – will Jammeh stand again?
As thousands of fired civil servants enter the New Year jobless, Harare has forged stronger economic ties with China by accepting the Chinese renminbi as a currency of trade.
Zimbabweans will be getting used to using the renminbi as one of their main everyday currencies since the abandonment of the billion dollar notes back in 2009.
The world at large has been unkind over this new deal, claiming that Zimbabwe has now become a Chinese colony.
But it comes as no surprise to many Zimbabweans, for President Mugabe has always preferred to “look East” to China for his economic ties.
The US dollar and pound sterling, however, remain legal tender in a country rich in diamonds yet exporting little to fill the national coffers and regularly in need of food aid.
The falling South African rand is no longer the currency of choice for Zimbabweans – and South Africa’s new Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan will have his work cut out trying to calm markets and reassure investors. How he fares could decide President Jacob Zuma’s legacy as the politicking begins over succession for 2019.
Creating employment will surely be a priority for the ANC government, even if they’ve been at that task for 22 years.
“Whatever happens, 2016 will probably not produce a single dull month, but we may all need to chew some kola nut, indulge in some khat or sip some Chinese tea to reduce our rising levels of anxiety”
Will elephant poaching end?
Over in Dar es Salaam, Tanzanians will be trembling in their boots, worried about a spot visit from their new president.
The rest of us can only hope John Magufuli – aka “The Bulldozer” – will continue on his war path against laziness, as it is a godsend for cartoonists and comedians and people may, for a while, put in a full shift at the government offices.
Away from the politics, some of us live in fear that every year further into this new century brings us closer to the extinction of our elephants, our lions and our rhinos as criminal syndicates in cahoots with Asian markets diminish the herds and the prides of the African plains.
Will there be a concerted effort to stop poaching in 2016?
The new year will also bring us much sport after a year in which Africa’s block vote was unashamedly thrown behind the man who currently appears in every photograph with a band-aid plaster on his unshaven cheek – Sepp Blatter – pleading innocence and victimisation over corruption allegations.
In an interesting February ballot, South African billionaire Tokyo Sexwale will try and court the African vote to be elected president of Fifa while the rest of the Western world mispronounces his name and makes puerile connections to Japan, sex and whales.
Meanwhile, can the Kenyans knock doping allegations on the head by shining again in the long-distance events at Rio 2016?
And can an African team win gold at the Olympic football tournament?
How many footballers of African origin can we count at Euro 2016 in France? And will they be safe?
Whatever happens, 2016 will probably not produce a single dull month, but we may all need to chew some kola nut, indulge in some khat or sip some Chinese tea to reduce our rising levels of anxiety.
More from Farai Sevenzo:
- South Africa’s student revolts
- Keeping the peace – Africa and the UN
- What Cecil the lion means to Zimbabwe
- Kenya’s inspiring exports