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Will the Arab Spring turn into the African Summer?

While there has been a great deal of speculation around whether the nonviolent uprisings in the Arab world will spread south to sub-Saharan Africa, Alex Thurston argues in the Christian Science Monitor that in some ways it already has—with “serious protests in Burkina Faso, Senegal, Uganda, and elsewhere”—and that resistance appears to be taking a new shape.

Now it’s summer, and I’m wondering whether it’s time to start talking about a wave of strikes, rather than a wave of protests. Although many African economies are experiencing rapid growth, problems like rising food and fuel costs, economic inequality, and dissatisfaction with government taxes and other policies are driving workers to shut down businesses and take to the streets.

Last week, I wrote about strikes in Uganda by traders and taxi drivers (teachers have since threatened to strike as well). This week, Nigerian workers are preparing a national strike from Wednesday to Friday over a non-implemented minimum wage increase – though a last-minute promise by governors to pay the wage may avert the strike.

He also mentions that a series of strikes have wracked South Africa this summer, and in our “Experiments with truth” feature, we’ve picked up on protests in Kenya and strikes in Zimbabwe over the last couple months.

These varied protests, however, have yet to take on the scale necessary to bring down governments, like they did in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year. Nevertheless, as Thurston argues:

The causes and the intensity of the strikes taking place in Africa vary, but I think there is something of a trend, and I think it’s worth watching. With many African economies under pressure, especially from inflation, we may see more strikes soon.