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10 Fascinating Facts About Africa’s Presidents (The Last One Will Surprise You)

Pictures of African Leaders at AU Summit. Photo credit: Flickr

Do you know there are 195 countries in the world and one of them is not Africa?

If you’re one of those who refer to Africa as though it were a country, please stop it!

You can’t keep saying; ‘’I travelled to Africa’’ instead of ‘’I travelled to Tanzania’’ or ‘’I travelled to Namibia’’,  the same way you don’t say I went to America when you actually went to Trinidad and Tobago.

Africans have endured this misrepresentation for too long. It isn’t fair to group a large continent of over 1 billion people by one single name – Africa!

But don’t worry, if you’re guilty and if adjusting will be hard for you, I have compiled some fascinating facts about Africa and its leaders. Hopefully, it will be a starting point to helping you know more about the continent and particularly, the 54 beautiful countries inside it.

1. Longest reign: Paul Biya is the African President with the shortest name but the current longest ruling non-royal national leader in the continent. Elected in 1975, Biya is now in his 44th year in office. He has seen more years (36) as President than South Sudan has experienced as a country. The second longest serving President in Africa is Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea who has been in office for 40 years (elected August 3, 1979).

2. Oldest President: For a continent that is infamous for relinquishing power to youths, it kind of makes sense that Africa’s longest serving president would be its oldest. In 2019, Paul Biya who is 88 years old, replaced Mohamed Beji Caid Essebsi of Tunisia as the oldest President in the continent after he died in office at age 91. I’m not quite sure if he died in office or actually died in the office.

3. Youngest Leader: Africa is young but most of its leaders are grey-haired men. One of the few exceptions to that is Ethiopia Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed who’s Africa’s youngest head of government. The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner is 43 years old (born August 15, 1976). He became Prime Minister on the 2nd of April 2018 at age 41.


Pictorial representation of longest reigning African Presidents.
Pictorial representation of longest reigning African Presidents.

4. ‘Footballing President’: Liberia President, George Weah is a football legend. While the world is still trying to figure out who the greatest of all time is between Messi and Ronaldo, Weah may be considering himself one. In 1995, he was named FIFA World Player of the Year and won the Ballon d’Or, becoming the first and to date only African player to win those awards. In 1989, 1994 and 1995, he was also named the African Footballer of the Year.  In 2018, at age 51, Weah made a comeback to the pitch (while still serving as President) to play in a novelty match for Liberia.

5. Most Tenacious President: Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari contested and lost three successive presidential elections held in 2003, 2007 and 2011 before being elected on his fourth attempt in 2015. He is leading the country for the second time after first serving as a military head of state from 1983 to 1985, taking power in a coup d’état. His pursuit for power can be seen as good or bad but you decide for yourself.

6. Most Educated Leaders: President Jorge Carlos de Almeida Fonseca of Cape Verde is Africa’s most educated President. Besides being a politician, he’s a lawyer and university professor. Another leader who’s deserving of this accolade is the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Law and many other degrees including a Ph.D in law from the French University of Nice Sophia Antipolis where he finished with distinction.

7. Richest Leader: King Mohammed VI of Morocco has got no competition for this one. The businessman/banker is without doubt, the richest African leader at the minute. According to Forbes Magazine, he’s worth US $2.5 billion. His wealth is closely matched by Gabonese President, Ali Bongo Odimba who is worth US$1 billion.

8. Female President: Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia is Africa’s only female President. The position is largely a ceremonial one as executive power is vested in the Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed. She is however the first woman President in Ethiopia’s history.

Presently, there are no female heads of government in Africa. Prior to Zewde, there had only been 3 female presidents in the continent’s history; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who was Liberian President from 2006 to 2018, Joyce Banda of Malawi (2012 – 2014) and Bibi Ameenah Firdaus Gurib-Fakim of Mauritius (2015 – 2018).

9. Most Popular President: This is more controversial than factual because there’s really no scale to measure. However, Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame is mostly held in high regard because of his transformational leadership in unifying the country after genocide. Rwanda is Africa’s most developed since the 2000s and its capital is the cleanest in the continent.

Although Kagame’s opponents often accuse him of dictatorship, he has earned lots of respect from other African presidents because of the country’s progress. In the last election, Kagame secured 93% of the total vote cast, an unprecedented majority in any African election.

10. Most wives: Swaziland has no president; the country runs a monarchical system. King Mswati III who is the functional head of state has unquenchable taste for the good things of life including women. The king has 15 wives and there’s no sign of slowing down. He rose to power in 1986 at age 18 making him at the time, the youngest ruling monarch in the world. King Mswati succeeded his father, Sobhuza II who had 125 wives during his 82 years reign. Now you understand.

Also, let me know your thoughts in the discussion section.

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