This op-ed, a short excerpt of which appears below, was written by Emily van der Merwe, and featured on the Daily Maverick, a South African daily online newspaper.
An African leader who knows when to step down is an exception. Former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was elected in 2012 and was responsible for several significant achievements. Then he resigned in 2018 to make way for a new leader who could continue to democratise the country.
Africa’s heads of state have a tendency to “hold on too long”. Leaders like Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (41 years in office), Cameroon’s Paul Biya (38 years in office), Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni (34 years) and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame (20 years) have set the tone for a lifelong kind of leadership.
In this context, an African leader who knows when to step down is an exception. Hailemariam Desalegn, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, is therefore not your average African leader.
Under his watch, the country enjoyed success and stability: double-digit growth throughout his tenure, an end to the longstanding conflict between his country and Somalia, a reduction in poverty from over 70% to below 25%, and the delivery of several big infrastructure projects such as hydro energy infrastructure and several industrial parks.
For a video summary of this interview, see below.