A new year means new beginnings - İBRAHIM TIĞLI

A new year means new beginnings

Even though 2018 was a tough year for Africa, it was a year in which important steps were taken in the name of peace. A portion of the fights, clashes and cold wars that have been ongoing for years reaching an end in 2018 gave African peoples room to breathe. Children that grew up in the shadow of civil wars have now started holding pencils and books rather than seeing weapons.

The war that has been ongoing between the government in power and armed opposition groups in South Sudan ended with the peace deal. The civil war in South Sudan had started in 2013, after it declared gained independence in 2011. The South Sudanese not only fought against weapons, they also struggled against hunger and migration. Close to 10 million people lived on the threshold of starvation, and 2 million people migrated to neighboring countries and became refugees. In addition to war, close to 10,000 people died due to diseases like cholera, malaria, typhoid, and yellow fever. During this period, only 5 percent of South Sudanese children were able to continue their education on a regular basis.

The parties of the war, South Sudan government's President Salva Kiir Mayardir, and insurgent Riek Machar, shook hands in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in late September and took the first step to peace. A new era started in South Sudan - an era in which children can go to school.

One of the most important peace attempts in Africa took place between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The two neighboring states that have been warring for two decades; after Abiy Ahmed came to power in Ethiopia, East Africa achieved the peace it had been longing for. Later, countries like Somalia and Djibuti also joined this peace alliance.

The elections that had been postponed for the last two years were held in the Democratic Republic of Congo on the last days of December. Even though there are security problems in the southern and eastern regions, a major step has been taken to achieve political peace in Congo, one of the biggest countries in Africa in terms of surface area and mineral sources. State President Joseph Kabila not joining the elections was a significant step in terms of ensuring stability.

Major progress has been made in ending the Azavad revolt that started in Mali in 2003, and preventing terror operations. Security was provided and efforts aimed at preserving cultural heritage in cities such as Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal, which bear Islamic heritage, were intensified.

The Boko Haram attacks that started in Nigeria and spread through to the other surrounding countries decreased in comparison to previous years. Boko Haram could not be eliminated, but five coastal countries united to form a joint defense force.

Meanwhile in Sudan, demonstrations have been organized to call Omar al Bashir, who has been in power for 29 years, to leave the government due to economic problems. Sudan's fate will largely be determined by the demonstrations to be held today. Jan. 1 is also Sudan's Independence Day. Omar al Bashir is either going to suppress these demonstrations and seek ways to reconcile with opposition, or refrain from running in the elections again in 2020.

The drop in oil prices in 2018 left oil-producing countries in a tough situation, primarily Ghana and Angola. Economic development in Ghana, which is considered the star of Africa, slowed down. However, Ghana is still on the path to being one of Africa's star countries. Ghana's economy is going to pick up in 2019 and the stagnant economy is going to gain new momentum.

Yet, 2019 seems like it is going to be a tough year for Angola. The impact of fast vertical growth did not bring welfare for a large portion of the people. While the executive class in the country that is still under the influence of a one-party socialist administration added to their riches, the people became poorer.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is entering 2019 with elections. The new government has two choices: continue the old political and economic structure or solve the security problem and build a new Congo. It seems the Democratic Republic of Congo will be a country to leave its mark on the world in 2019. It is either going to come up on the agenda with incidents of violence or as a country that has achieved economic peace.

The year 2019 is a year of hope for Rwanda. Even though it does not have rich mineral sources, the stability it has achieved and its support of foreign investments shows that this year will be one of development for Rwanda. Rwanda is also the area of application of the free trade zone that African countries accepted among themselves a short period ago. Many African companies are going to invest in Rwanda and direct trade from this little central African country.

Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya are going to be countries to closely follow this year. There are elections in both Nigeria and South Africa. No radical changes are expected in either country; it seems the previous administrations will continue. We are going to start seeing more of China, the U.K. and U.S. in these driving African countries.

Mozambique, Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast seem to be countries that will start an economic attempt for 2019. Infrastructure investments will pick up speed, especially in Mozambique; national peace in Ethiopia will turn into global peace, and the Ivory Coast will eventually find the chance to realize a dream on the path to becoming the Singapore of Africa.

We are going to hear more of Turkey's voice in Africa in 2019. We are going to see numerous products produced in Turkey in many continental countries, primarily as food, furniture, clothes, and construction goods. New economic and diplomatic moves will start to be made in Africa, and in the end, both "rising Africa" and "rising Turkey" will win.

Every New Year is a new hope, a new beginning. Now, it is time to spend more time and effort in Africa. Grease to your elbow.

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