South Africa’s President Ramaphosa welcomes the President Buhari of Nigeria. Photo: GovernmentZA via flickr.com. CC BY-ND 2.0

Transatlantic Dialogue V – Africa’s New Leaders – Changing the Guard or Changing Systems?

The fifth session of our transatlantic dialogue series “Troubling Trends in Transformation”, co-hosted with the Bertelsmann Foundation North America, took stock of the kind of change brought about by Africa’s new leaders – with expert insights from Malawi, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Africa’s “old men” are slowly, but surely, being replaced. For the last few years, the political landscape has been dominated by significant political transitions such as in Ethiopia (2018), South Africa (2018), Sudan (2019) and Zimbabwe (2018), where change promised to bring about not only a new leader at the top, but also a new political and economic direction. Along with peaceful transfers in several other countries, including the most recent case of Malawi, the arrival of leaders who pledged widespread reform also gave a much-needed boost to pro-democracy activists across the continent. But does this new wave really bring meaningful change or is it just “old wine in new wineskins”? In this session, the panelists discussed what effect the rejuvenation of leadership has had on democratic governance across the African continent and what it takes to bring about real political change.


Nic Cheeseman
Professor of Democracy and International Development, University of Birmingham

Chipo Dendere
Assistant Professor, Wellesley College

Boniface Dulani
Senior Lecturer, University of Malawi, Zomba

Isayat Hassan
Director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Abuja

Robert Schwarz (Introduction)
Senior Project Manager, Bertelsmann Stiftung

Anthony Silberfeld (Moderator)
Director, Transatlantic Relations, Bertelsmann Foundation North America

About the dialogue series:

The dialogue series “Troubling Trends in Transformation”, co-hosted by the Bertelsmann Foundation North America (BFNA) and the Bertelsmann Stiftung, intends to dig deeper into the findings of a troubled decade, both regionally and thematically. In cooperation with like-minded institutions and well-connected think tanks around the world, we discuss the current and future challenges to political and economic transformation as well as governance perfomance. The results of the BTI serve to kick off a broader debate on how to strengthen democracy, market economy and good governance in a post-COVID world.

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