Like much of the world, sub-Saharan Africa saw an explosion of protest in the decade following the Arab Spring of 2011. Did the region simply get swept up in a global wave of unrest, or has it followed its own unique trajectory? In other words, what is African about African protests? This article compares contemporary protest in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions while acknowledging intra-regional variations. New technology has led to some convergence in protest tactics, but African protests retain several distinct features. These include class alliances and the continued use of "old" media, in contrast with the class conflict and a greater reliance on "new" media characterizing protests in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. The nature of African protests reflects broad trends in African political economy, namely chronic poverty and a string of presidents reneging on democratic bargains forged in the 1990s. The scale of poverty and a longer experience with democracy set sub-Saharan Africa apart from North Africa and the Middle East, whose uprisings in 2011 ostensibly inspired events farther south. African protesters have enjoyed some notable victories, suggesting that activists elsewhere might gain from borrowing their strategies.


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pp. 65-75
Launched on MUSE
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