Crazy, impossible but possible: 12 Black Swan events for Africa 2015-2016

From a Cameroon invasion of Nigeria, Apple buying M-Pesa and rolling it into Apple Pay, a new ‘White Nile Republic’, to drones in Rwanda and Botswana

A BLACK Swan:  An unprecedented, unexpected, extremely difficult to predict event with a major effect - and is often inappropriately rationalised after the fact with the benefit of hindsight (popularised by scholar and statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s bestselling 2007 book,  The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable).

So what are the very unlikely events that are, well, likely to happen as not to happen in Africa in 2015 into 2016, and change nearly everything we have ever thought about the continent?

1.  The February elections go horribly wrong after the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of President Goodluck Jonathan loses elections to the opposition All Progressives’ Congress (APC) in February and refuses to hand over power. In the ensuring chaos the Boko Haram militants quickly overrun most of northern Nigeria, and now establish a caliphate over half of the country. Cameroon, which has upped its attacks against Boko Haram positions inside its country, joins forces with Chad and invades Nigeria to create a buffer.

2. An African film becomes one of the most viewed and highest-grossing in world markets for 2015, turning the actors, directors and producers into dollar millionaires and changing forever the fortunes of film on the continent.

3.  These two events happen simultaneously: A sickly South African president Jacob Zuma hands over power to Deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, at exactly the the same time 91-year-old Robert Mugabe falls into a coma, and the ruling ZANU-PF puts forward a progressive replacement. The new leaders in the two countries begin on aggressive reform agendas that attract massive new investments allowing South Africa to shake off the lethargy of recent years, and Zimbabwe to begin recovery again as one of the world’s most efficient agricultural economies.

4. The generals in Zambia successfully seize power in a coup for the first in the face of a weakened and incompetent regime that emerges after elections.

5. A pan-Arab force led by Egypt  invades Libya to deal with the threat of Islamic State that has taken hold there after being defeated in Iraq, as Israel returns to the Sinai peninsula for the first time since it withdrew following the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace agreement, in agreement with Cairo to help fight terror groups there.

6.  Following a series of events that include long heavy rains water levels in Lake Victoria and River Nile rise dangerously, bursting two dams along the river basin and flooding large areas of the River Nile Valley up to into Egypt.

7. With the failure of the South Sudan belligerent sides led by President Salva Kiir on one side, and his adversary former vice president Riek Machar on the other, late in 2015 Machar declares a “White Nile Republic” in the areas under his control. At the same time an attack on Chinese peacekeepers there by a rogue militia forces Beijing, to change its mission to an aggressive combat one and to flood South Sudan with troops in its first substantial military engagement in Africa. 

8. Two big massacres of Christians in Kenya by Somalia’s al-Shabaab militants leads to revenge attacks in which thousands of Muslims, most of them Somalis, are affected. A massive flight of Somalis, including Kenyan Somalis, to southern Somalia is unleashed – and the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia collapses.

9.   A consortium of African researchers led by researchers at the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa make a major breakthrough in HIV/AIDS treatment and also develop a vaccine. This follows discovery of a malaria vaccine in Tanzania. A new storyline about Africa as a land of science begins to emerge, attracting billions of dollars into medical research in the continent and beginning a process that will change millions of lives of poor Africans forever.

10. Rwanda launches Africa’s first drone service, as Botswana opens its desert areas to drone testing with the most liberal testing laws in the world. A scramble begins and 10 other countries announce they are entering the race to allow drones do deliveries to remote areas, and fast-track collaboration with Google and Facebook on providing internet services to the millions on the continent still living in web dark spots. 

This revolution also sees a massive uptake of 3D printing by young enterpreneurs that unlocks the continent’s youthful energy.

11. Apple decides it wants a piece of the lucrative African mobile payments market and decides to buy Kenyan giant telco Safaricom’s M-Pesa (the pioneer and early world leader in the business), integrating it with Apple Pay and rolling it out globally. It’s the biggest technology deal in African history.

12. An African video game replaces exams, as a dozen enlightened governments on the continent race to ensure their children have skills for the real world and not for rote learning. It quickly catches on in the rest of the world.

-Got your own Black Swan events for Africa 2015? Email to

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