Progress toward institutionalizing the norm of presidential term limits in Africa has been mixed. Leaders in 5 countries have evaded term limits since 2015, bringing the number of countries lacking term limits to 18. In contrast, 21 African countries have upheld presidential term limits, and an additional 15 now have such limits on the books. These limits, in turn, have wide-ranging implications:
- Of the 21 African countries that have upheld term limits, the executive officeholders have been in power for 4 years, on average.
- The average time in power for the 10 African leaders who have evaded term limits, in contrast, is 22 years.
- Countries lacking term limits tend to be more unstable. A third of these 18 countries are facing armed conflict. In contrast, just two of the 21 countries with term limits are in conflict.
- Strong regional variations in adherence to term limits are evident.
- Eight of the 10 countries where term limits have been undone are in Central Africa.
- The Horn of Africa has the highest concentration of countries without term limits.
- Southern and West Africa have made the greatest strides in adhering to term limits.
- While clearly fragile, term limit statutes are now in place for most of the countries in North Africa.
Africa Center Expert
Joseph Siegle, Director of Research
- Dorina Bekoe, “Africa’s Most Challenging Elections in 2018,” Spotlight, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, February 16, 2018.
- Paul Nantulya, “The Troubled Democratic Transitions of African Liberation Movements,” Spotlight, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, December 14, 2017.
- Joseph Siegle, “Changing the Political Calculus,” The Cipher Brief, October 11, 2016.
- Joseph Siegle, “Why Term Limits Matter for Africa,”blog, Center for Security Studies, July 3, 2015.
- Africa Center for Strategic Studies, “Africa and the Arab Spring: A New Era of Democratic Explanations,” Africa Center Special Report No. 1, November 2011.