In Busy Election Year, African Leaders Enjoyed High Approval

In Busy Election Year, African Leaders Enjoyed High Approval

The FINANCIAL -- Majorities in 21 of the 28 African countries that Gallup surveyed in 2015 -- a year marked by elections across the continent -- said they approved of the job performance of their respective nation's president. Ratings were highest in Botswana, Burkina Faso and Kenya, where roughly four in five said they approved. Approval was lowest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (28%) and Mauritania (32%).

More than a dozen national elections took place across the African continent last year, with some observers perhaps expecting to see more changes than they did. But ahead of the ballot, incumbent candidates enjoyed relatively high approval ratings and, in most cases, they were able to win another term. Burkina Faso and Tanzania are the notable exceptions. In the former, although acting President Michel Kafando enjoyed an approval rating of 80%, he could not run in last November's elections. In the latter, 64% of Tanzanians approved of Jakaya Kikwete's job performance, but he could not run again because of constitutional term limits. However, a candidate from the ruling party won the election in Tanzania.

So far this year, several national elections have already taken place, and incumbents have retained office, most notably in Chad, the Republic of the Congo and Uganda. Of the seven countries where leadership approval drifted below 50% -- the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritania, Ghana, Gabon, Liberia, South Africa and Zambia -- five have elections scheduled for later this year. But relatively low approval ratings in these countries suggest significant challenges for incumbents, provided the elections are free and fair.

Africans With Favorable View of Job Market Far More Likely to Approve

In general, there are few differences in presidential approval ratings by gender or age. In most countries, less educated Africans and those living in rural areas are more likely to approve of their country's president. But Africans' positive views of the job environment appear to factor more substantially in presidential approval.

It should be noted that in most African countries, a majority or near-majority said it was a bad time to find a job in their communities in 2015. As many as three in four residents in Ghana and Zimbabwe said it was a bad time. In just a few countries -- Mozambique, Niger and Ivory Coast -- a slim majority said it was a good time for job seekers.

In most countries, majorities of Africans who said it was a good time to find a job were more likely to approve of their president's performance than those who said it was a bad time. Differences were largest in Mauritania and Senegal. In South Africa, however, attitudes toward job conditions did not appear to make much of a difference in approval ratings (41% approval from those who said it was a good time vs. 46% approval among those who said it was a bad time). This could suggest voters will look beyond jobs when they cast their ballot in the coming general elections.

Bottom Line

The findings provide a lens into Africans' support for presidential incumbents just a few months before re-elections in some countries. Overall, the African leadership picture has changed little after the last round of elections. In general, high approval ratings suggest incumbents can win another term, although Africans' approval of their leaders ranges widely. Further, Africans' attitudes toward the local job climate, which may be based not only on candidates' promises during electoral campaigns but also on Africans' perceived ability to earn income from labor, appear to be a factor in approval ratings in many countries.

Over the long term, the creation of a climate conducive to job creation and entrepreneurship will become a formidable task for leaders as sub-Saharan Africa's working-age population is expected to exceed that of the rest of world combined by 2035. An estimated 18 million new jobs per year would be needed in the region to absorb the flow of working-age Africans, a daunting challenge, to say the least, for leaders in any region.



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