Philobiblon: An historic turning point for Africa?

Monday, November 07, 2005

An historic turning point for Africa?

After 14 years of civil war, Liberia is having an election - cause enough for celebration, but what could be even more important is that one of the two candidates in the run-off is a woman. This is not the aspect of the story that has received most Western (or at least European) attention, since her opponent is the ex-star footballer George Weah, a man who did not complete his school education and who has no administrative or political experience.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, by contrast, is a Harvard-educated economist, who has considerable high-level UN experience and has previously been a Liberian government minister.

Women's eNews reports that she would be Africa's first elected female president.

Now I'm lary of suggestions that women are likely to be more competent and less corrupt than men (it is a very large claim, and assumes some fundamental gender difference I doubt is there - think of Imelda Marcos). And in the corrupt, dangerous world of Liberian politics, no one is entirely "clean"; questions have been asked about the people behind Weah, while Johnson-Sirleaf did briefly back the hideous warlord Charles Taylor.

But given Africa's enormous governance problems, something different is surely worth a try.
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