6 people to watch in North Africa in 2014

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Wided Bouchamaoui (left), Ziad Bahaa Eldin (left top), Ghazi Salah al-Din al-Atabani(bottom left), Ali Benflis (bottom right), Wafik Al Shater (top right), Omar Balafrej (right)


The Arab Spring has produced a new wave of influential people across the North African sub-region. Our top six people to watch in 2014 list includes Tunisia's Wided Bouchamaoui who turned down calls to take over as prime minister.


Sudan: Ghazi Salah al-Din al-Atabani - Old ally of young rebels

Amid unease within the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), Ghazi (pictured below) has become a critic of President Omar al-Bashir.

Protests about the lifting of fuel subsidies rocked the government in September.

Ghazi joined 30 other senior NCP members to write to Omar to ask him to rescind the fuel subsidy reduction, to investigate the killings of protestors and to open a dialogue for national consensus.

Omar instead ordered an investigation into the dissidents within the party.

Ghazi is a supporter of the Sa'ihoun, an Islamist group of mainly military members and younger critics of the government.

Omar sacked him from his position as presidential adviser and then as leader of the NCP caucus in parliament in April 2013.

As a veteran member of the Islamist movement with ties to the mercurial Hassan al-Turabi, he is positioning himself as a key ally of the younger dissidents.


Morocco: Omar Balafrej - Business leader bred by politics of the left

Balafrej is part of a generation of Moroccan politicians who are distancing themselves from traditional politics.

He spent four years managing the Fondation Abderrahim Bouabid, named after his uncle, a former secretary general of the Union Nationale des Forces Populaires (UNFP).

This political heritage did not stop him from leaving the Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires – which was formed after a schism in the UNFP in 1975 – in 2010 and launching a new movement called Clarté, Ambition, Courage, which aims to awaken the Moroccan left.

It is planning its first conference for March 2014.

Balafrej is also an experienced manager and is director general of Casablanca's Technopark, a cluster of information technology and offshoring companies. He is pushing for the Moroccan government to support innovation among small businesses.


Egypt: Ziad Bahaa Eldin - Last liberal standing

A centre-left lawyer who opposed former president Mohamed Morsi, Bahaa Eldin is the leading voice in government for reconciliation with the Islamists.

As deputy minister for economic affairs he is one of the architects of the government's economic stimulus plan.

More importantly, he is seen as the last true senior liberal in a government that has shown no qualms about a bloody crackdown on the Islamists.

He has argued that the future of the country is still in the making and that it is up to him and others to make sure the result is a democratic and tolerant state.

Should he believe he cannot make a difference, he will probably resign.


Algeria: Ali Benflis - Quietude wins plaudits

The former prime minister is set to make a dramatic comeback to the political stage by running for the presidency in 2014.

Pushed out in May 2003, Benflis has won plaudits for an exemplary Charles De Gaulle-style political exile: not leaving the country but instead keeping his mouth shut.

His quietude has won friends among those who are keen to see the country take a different course, including the security sector grandees.

He was secretary general of the ruling Front de Libération Nationale from 2001 to 2004 and counts on friends in its ranks.

If he can rally more, he could be a winning consensus candidate when President Bouteflika steps down in 2014.


Libya: Wafik Al Shater - Rewiring a pan-African ambition

After working as an adviser to the post-revolution team, Wafik Al Shater returned to telecoms.

In late 2011, the 46 year old became chief executive of LAP GreenN, the state-backed telecoms company whose pan-African expansion plans were stopped by the revolution.

He wants to fend off some legal challenges in 2014, the most difficult with the Zambian government, which renationalised LAP GreenN-owned Zamtel in January 2012.

He may also look for a telecoms licence on his home turf.


Tunisia: Wided Bouchamaoui - Boss of the bosses

Despite turning down calls to take over as prime minister, the first woman to head Tunisia's chamber of commerce will remain a key participant in the dialogue to get the economy moving again.

She supports a free trade area between Tunisia and Algeria, a review of the investment code and greater openness to African economies, and has called for vigilance about unemployment.

Credit: The Africa Report


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