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West Africans to vote this weekend

By Edith Mutethya in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2019-02-22 07:43

A police officer walks pass a tricycle with campaign posters of People's Democratic Party candidates, former vice-president Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, ahead of Nigeria's presidential election in Abuja, Nigeria, on Tuesday. [Photo/Agencies]

70 candidates are running in Nigeria; re-election of Senegal's Sall expected

This weekend is momentous for two West African states: Nigeria and Senegal are set to vote for presidents to steer their countries' economic growth in the next four and five years.

Nigeria, the second biggest economy in Africa and the continent's most populous country of 190 million people, will hold its elections on Saturday after the postponement of the ballot on Feb 16.

On the other hand, Senegal, one of the most stable countries in West Africa, with a population of 15 million people, is set to vote on Sunday.

In Nigeria, 70 candidates are competing for the top job while Senegal has five presidential candidates.

In both cases, the outgoing presidents are seeking re-election and are optimistic to win. In Nigeria, the contest is a hot. President Muhammadu Buhari, 76, is up against the former vice-president Atiku Abubakar, 72. The third major candidate, a woman, is Oby Ezekwesili, 55, who leads the social media campaign named #BringBackOurGirls to rescue girls kidnapped by the Boko Haram extremist group.

Buhari, vying under All Progressive Congress party, or APC, has promised to move the country to the next level of a prosperous, strong, and stable country. He is promising to create 500,000 jobs and train 200,000 for outsourcing jobs in technology, services and entertainment.

Atiku Abubakar of the People's Democratic Party, or PDP, promises to revive the country's economy, by attracting investment and supporting SMEs, double the GDP to $900 billion by 2025, create a minimum of 2.5 million jobs annually, and lift at least 50 million people from poverty in the first two years.

Gerishon Ikiara, international economics lecturer at the University of Nairobi, said whoever wins the election will be faced with the challenge of curbing corruption, eradicating poverty and uniting the country.

Ikiara said despite Nigeria being the leading African producer of oil, the profits have yet to trickle down to the common people.

According to the International Labour Organization, the official unemployment rate for the working age population is 7.5 percent, while 43.3 percent of the youth (15-24 years old) is either unemployed or underemployed.

In Senegal, incumbent President Macky Sall, 57, is campaigning on his economic achievements. Phase two of his program would involve transforming key sectors like healthcare, agriculture, education and public administration by 2035.

Sall is expected to win the election following the banning of two of the strongest contestants, Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade, from participating in elections because of corruption allegations.

However, Ousmane Sonko, 45, and the youngest among the contestants, is likely to cause an impact, noting that 60 percent of the Senegalese population is under 25 years. They are anxious for change and are likely to vote for a young leader.

Unlike most of the African countries, Senegal has had peaceful elections and transitions since independence from France in 1960.

However, despite significant economic growth and decades of political stability, Senegal still faces serious development challenges, according to World Food Programme. More than one-third of the country's population live below the poverty line, and 75 percent of families suffer from chronic poverty.

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