Following a round of elections, the elected president can rule until the end of their term, which is usually four to seven years long in Sub-Saharan Africa. Having term limits refers to limiting how many times a person can serve as president. This policy has been beneficial to many countries in the region.
WHY TERM LIMITS ARE GOOD
Having term limits can foster democracy in a country. This means that the current president will not try to hold on to power, but instead they will step aside after their term ends. If one president supports term limits, future ones will too, which means a positive cycle can be established.
Term limits are also linked to more accountability. If a president does not expect to hold office indefinitely, they are more likely to accept constraints on their power. They will want to leave a positive legacy, so they will be more likely to implement good governance practices. This includes things like the respect for the rule of law, which means that they will obey and promote the laws of the country.
Finally, term limits allow young Africans to get involved in politics more easily. This allows young people to participate in shaping their future for the better.
Overall, term limits are beneficial for many reasons, and indeed studies have found that the majority of Africans support them.
TERM LIMITS IN PRACTICE
In the 1990s and 2000s many African countries instituted term limits. The limit generally tends to be two terms, although the Republic of Congo, for example, has a three-term limit. Most presidents have obeyed the term limits.
For example, in 2018, Sierra Leone held presidential elections. Former President Ernest Bai Koroma, having ruled the country for two five-year terms, could not run for another term. The election led to Julius Maada Bio winning office, and he will serve for a five-year term, with the option of running for one more term in office in 2023.
The number of countries with term limits, and the number of countries whose presidents respect term limits, is on the rise. This change leads to better democracies, policies and more youth participation, so it should be welcomed.