Since last November, Le Point Afrique and Hypermind have been gathering our readers’ predictions on the future of Africa and Côte d’Ivoire in particular via a forecasting contest. Almost 300 participants have competed so far, contributing over 1600 predictions in a first wave of questions that we synthesize here. Article adapted from the joint Hypermind – Le Point’s original piece in French.
Let’s start by looking at the overall predictions for Africa: the possibility of a major political event and the evolution of the Covid pandemic.
How likely is an "Arab Spring" type event in 2022?
11% chance of happening
The collective view of forecasters is that there is only an 11% chance of an Arab Spring type event taking place, and only 8% outside the Maghreb.
They believe that although people have every reason to complain about their governments, previous “Arab Spring” experiences do not seem to point the way to a better future.
The Covid pandemic and worsening economic conditions seem to be leading minds to focus on survival issues rather than politics. Foreign powers – America, Europe, China, Russia – are also looking for stability on the continent. If a few revolts were to break out – in Sudan perhaps? – they would have little influence and would be violently repressed.
With these thoughts in mind, the string of military coups that Sahel countries have experienced since 2021 begs a few questions.
First, with Deby’s succession to his father, who died on the front line in Chad, we can see that something new is in the process of marking political life with the double coup d’état in Mali, with Colonel Doumbouya in Guinea, and Colonel Damiba in Burkina Faso.
A clear divide is taking shape between the civil authorities, despite their elected status, and the people who are showing a degree of support for the various juntas. At the very least, they express relief as authorities are ousted, principally because these are seen as ineffective in the face of security and economic challenges.
What will the maximum daily caseload for Covid be in Africa ?
≈ 60 000
For Africa as a whole in 2022, forecasters estimate that the peak number of daily cases of Covid-19 infection will reach around 60,000.
Forecasters arrive at this estimate by taking into account the increased contagiousness of the Omicron variant, combined with the lack of vaccine coverage. This is expected to far exceed the previous peak of 2021, about 40,000, by a factor of about 1.5, for a total of around 60,000 daily cases.
That said, as impressive as this figure is, it does not tell the whole story about Africa’s situation with respect to Covid in 2022.
Indeed, beyond the clearer integration of social distancing measures and the regularity of mask wearing, even if it is slow, vaccination of the population continues to be a primary concern for governments. At the same time, the emergence of alternative means of controlling Covid, such as tablets, may improve the capacity to manage the epidemic. All this is, of course, provided that no new variant emerges to challenge the current fragile balance.
On the Ivory Coast of the future contest, questions mostly addressed the succession of President Alassane Dramane Ouattara, the main threat to his regime, the security situation of the country, the attitude of the president in relation to his rivals Laurent Gbagbo, and to Guillaume Soro.
Will Alassane Dramane Ouattara run for a fourth term in 2025?
The collective opinion of forecasters is that there is a 71% chance of a fourth term. Supporting this view is the fact that there are few examples of African presidents spontaneously relinquishing power. Former Senegalese President Léopold Sédar Senghor did so in favor of his Prime Minister Abdou Diouf, but in the case of Côte d’Ivoire, the imbroglio surrounding ADO’s candidacy for a third term in October 2019 following a divisive constitutional revision gives the impression that the current president is prepared to do anything to remain in power. In addition, his traditional political opponents, Laurent Gbagbo and Henri Konan Bédié, do not seem to want to retire.
Returning from his acquittal by the International Criminal Court, Bédié has founded the “African Peoples’ Party-Côte d’Ivoire” (PPI-CI), and also remained at the head of the Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire. If one adds that the organization of the succession to the “Rassemblement des Houphouëtistes pour la démocratie et la paix” (RHDP), ADO’s party, has not yet been completed, there are all the signs of a willingness to prolong the game. The only potential obstacle pertains to age related health problems. ADO turned 80 years old on January 1st.
Will Tene Birahima Ouattara succeed his brother as President of the Republic in 2025 or earlier?
Forecasters attribute only a 21% chance to a brotherly succession. In their view, Tene could only take his brother ‘s place if Alassane Ouattara were to abandon the race or to die prematurely.
In view of the political configuration of Côte d’Ivoire, this probability remains low, however, because Tene Birahima Ouattara has evolved in the shadow of his brother, but in the back office, and also because this would give the impression of a quasi-monarchical devolution, which would not be possible in a country recovering from repeated post-electoral crises and attempting to build a new political consensus.
Will President Ouattara appoint a vice president before the end of his third term?
On this question, our forecasters are undecided: the collective prediction stands essentially at a coin toss, with a 52% chance of yes and a 48% chance of no.
According to forecasters, while the constitution requires a vice president to be in office before the next election, the country is no worse off with a vacancy since the resignation of Daniel Kablan Duncan in July 2020.
Since the question of succession is latent, it is perhaps on this position that the question of ADO’s choice could be played out. His approach could give indications of whether he will leave the game open or close it by choosing a vice-president who will be constitutionally legitimate to succeed him, in case of a blow, to complete his term.
Who will emerge as the leading political opposition figure over the next 12 months?
The question is relevant considering how surprising the Ivorian political game can be. Forecasters see three personalities in a tight lead: Pascal Affi N’Guessan with a 24% chance, followed by Henri Konan Bédié (23%) and Laurent Gbagbo (22%). The possibility of another player is only one chance in six (16%).
The lesson to be learned from this ranking is how much Pascal Affi N’Guessan’s youth plays in his favor. That said, recently acquitted by the International Criminal Court, Gbagbo has nevertheless succeeded in his return to the country by regenerating himself in a new resolutely pan-African party. This outlook echoes the Zeitgeist, favored by many Ivorians and many Africans, wherein a political integration of the continent is seen as necessary and to take place wherever economic integration leads the way (Zlecaf).
The only shadow in the picture: his age. He will be 80 years old in 2025, less than Bédié, but still an octogenarian in a country where 37.45% of the population is no older than 14.
What is the main threat to the regime of President Ouattara?
Super-seeding “no real threat” (at 21%), terrorism in the north of the country is ranked as the main threat to the regime at 25%. Laurent Gbagbo appears in third place at 17%.
Combined with the answer to the previous question, the forecasters’ view suggests that Laurent Gbagbo still pulls his weight in the country. It seems as if the face-off between these two political figures is far from over.
In a context where the jihadist threat looms at the border, with an open of the terrorists to create a corridor to the Atlantic, the point of view of the forecasters must be taken seriously. More than ever, an efficient strategy against the threat of the security situation must be put in place, especially since it is clear that Islamist terrorism has the power to destabilize the armies and institutions of countries in the region.
Mali and Burkina Faso are clear examples of this vulnerability, while in Chad the terrorist threat explains France’s “understanding” view of the transfer of power to Déby’s son after his death.
Will the security situation in the north of Ivory Coast deteriorate in 2022?
Forecasters estimate that there is a 64% chance that the security situation will deteriorate significantly in 2022.
The explanation for the conviction of such a probability can be found in the extremely tense and uncertain regional context. The reassessment France’s strategic operation “Barkhane” , which was to be redeployed alongside Task Force Takuba composed of European special forces poses a serious security risk.
The defiant Russian Wagner group, appears to be accepted by the Malian government, in stark contrast to the Bamako junta’s unwelcoming attitude toward the Danish special forces, which were “insistently” asked to leave Malian soil because of the lack of direct agreements between Mali and Denmark.
If we add to this the growing number of refugees fleeing Mali and Burkina, it appears that the security threat is likely to worsen the economic and social pressure on the region.
Will there be a coup attempt before the next presidential election?
Forecasters are far from ruling out this possibility, giving it a 42% chance. The explanation comes from the real risk of destabilization that impacts both populations and armies. This prognosis entails the government must stay vigilant as it exits a health crisis with deep economic consequences for a large part of the population.
To understand these forecasts, one must look in the rear-view mirror of the country: Since 1960, there have been several incidents that show that the situation can escalate from one moment to the next:
- the 1999 coup d’état (General Robert Guéï overthrew Henri Konan Bédié);
- the September 2002 coup attempt against Gbagbo;
- and Gbagbo’s arrest after refusing to recognize Ouattara’s victory in 2010/2011, resulting in a post-election crisis that left 3,000 dead.
What about the possible pardon or amnesty of Laurent Gbagbo
by President Ouattara during his third term?
Improbable. Forecasters give the possibility of pardon only a 31% chance. The reasoning goes as follows: strategically, Alassane Ouattara needs to maintain this sword of Damocles over Gbagbo’s head to conserve legal power over him, although Gbagbo’s conviction is largely perceived as politically motivated by his supporters.
Given the uncertain political and security situation, this status quo is favorable to ADO, especially since Gbagbo’s first wife, Simone, has been granted a pardon, and Gbagbo has been offered a diplomatic passport. This could mean that slack has already been cut as far as the Gbagbo clan is concerned, and that there is no need to do more.
however, a possible amnesty could be part of a strategy to help Ouattara benefit from a more favorable public opinion at a strategic moment.
What about the possible return to the country of Guillaume Soro during the third term of President Ouattara?
Total uncertainty on this question: 48% see Soro’s return as possible, versus 52% who see exile as the natural continuation.
Everything is still possible in a logic of reconciliation if Soro were to agree to stay out of politics in exchange for his return. But this remains hypothetical given the strong hatred between Soro and Ouattara.
Far from being chosen as a leading opposition figure, let alone a threat, Guillaume Soro is clearly not a priority for ADO although he should not be neglected. According to our forecasters, Soro only has a 25% chance of being a tangible threat to President Ouattara’s regime during his third term.
It must be said that Guillaume Soro is weakened by his exile, which is increasingly eroding his influence. ADO has little interest in any leniency towards him. There is therefore a good chance that his stalemate will continue as long as President Ouattara is in charge
Table of Contents
Forecasts are gathered from the “Africa of the Future” contest offered by the Hypermind-Le Point Institute until the end of 2022, with €5,500 prize money for the best forecasters.
For this first wave of the contest, 296 forecasters participated between November 15, 2021, and January 6, 2022.
Participants are self-recruited volunteers based on their interest in the subject, among the readers of Le Point and Le Point Afrique, as well as other seasoned forecasters of the Hypermind prediction market.
- 1,681 predictions were recorded on 15 questions, with 55 to 204 forecasters per question.
- Hypermind consolidated and optimized individual forecasts based on algorithms used in the most advanced research in collective intelligence.
- The additional analyses proposed following the probabilities are both a synthesis of the reasoning put forward by forecasters, and the analyses of the journalist of the editorial staff of Le Point Afrique who treated them
A prediction market is a competitive betting game designed to predict specific future events or quantities by tapping into the collective intelligence of a large group of participants. Prediction markets combine many diverging viewpoints, expressed as probability forecasts, into a single probability. This collective estimate changes in real time according to all the available information to human minds.
Individual forecasters place bets on outcomes and receive payouts based on their success. The best forecasters are given more weight in the final mix.
Businesses and governments have been using prediction markets in various settings:
- Intel, Hewlett Packard, Ford, Eli Lilly, and EDF (Electricité de France) have used prediction markets to anticipate KPIs, market shifts, sales volumes, a product’s chances of success, and delays in projects.
- The US intelligence community used prediction markets in geopolitical forecasting to understand the likelihood of election results, wars and diplomatic events.
- In the public health sector, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security has used crowd forecasting to anticipate the spread and severity of infectious diseases like dengue, malaria and Covid-19.
Prediction markets are most useful when forecasting short to medium term observable events (under 24 months), especially in the following cases:
When the past becomes irrelevant:
Traditional forecasting methods such as time series forecasting rely on the past to predict the future, the assumption being that the past can inform the future.
But sometimes you’ll have little relevant or reliable data at your disposal to make useful projections, and hanging on to historical data may skew your forecasts. Predictions markets aggregate all the available relevant data using the wisdom of crowds.
When knowledge is decentralized:
Nobody knows everything, but everybody knows something. Usually, we solve hard problems by asking an expert: an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer. But sometimes when a problem is too complex, when too many variables are involved for a single expert to handle, or when there is too little data to train an artificial intelligence individual expertise falls short.
When the situation is fluid:
Forecasts need to integrate new information continuously, you need real time forecasts to be able to react accordingly.
Human forecasters excel at integrating new information because they spot things that AI would miss, information available on the ground but not yet in data bases.
Prediction markets (or prediction polls) offer 3 main advantages for companies and governments seeking a clearer view of the future:
- Prediction markets shine under uncertainty. They excel at accurate prediction where other methods fail because they do not rely on AI crunching structured data, but on the informed guesswork of a diversely minded crowd of humans. (hence “crowd forecasting”)
- Prediction markets offer precise predictions expressed as probability forecasts. Saying an event is “probable” means different things to different people. “Probable” could mean a 60% chance to one person, but 85% to another. Numbers make things crystal clear, so you can make an informed decision.
- Prediction markets are a sturdy and trustworthy forecasting method. By gathering information from many minds thanks to an objective aggregation process, prediction markets easily outperform biased or noisy individual judgments. Relying on a crowd helps reduce the risk of listening to the wrong person, instead trusting a decentralized network of independent points of view.
The first modern prediction market began in 1988 as an academic research project at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business and offered forecasts on that year’s US presidential election. The World Wide Web soon enabled the launch of larger prediction markets targeted at the general public, sometimes bearing other names, like betting exchanges or idea futures.
Over the years, this form of “crowd wisdom” has acquired an impressive track record of accurate forecasting in diverse fields ranging from sports and film to business, elections, geopolitics and even medicine.
Prediction Market forecasts are probabilistic. They answer the question: “What are the chances that this or that outcome will come true?” The best way to assess accuracy in the absolute is over many events, by comparing the probability estimations against observed event frequencies.
Here’s a comparison at every level of probability from 1% to 99%, over 8.5 years, on 816 questions with 2535 possible outcomes, on a range of international topics from elections, geopolitics, economics, and business.
The figure allows us to answer the following question:
“Of all the events predicted by Hypermind to be x% likely, what percentage actually occurred?”
The closer to x% the answer; i.e., the closer the data points sit to the chart’s diagonal (bottom left to top right), the more accurate the market’s probabilities.
You can use prediction markets to forecast four types of questions:
- binary: “will John Doe win the election ?” (yes/no)
- discrete: “who will win the election ?”(John, Jane, Kane)
- ordered: “what will John Doe’s share of the vote be ?” (more than 55% / 50 to 55% / 45 to 50% …)
- linear: “what will John Doe’s share of the vote be ?” (market price = predicted vote share in %)
They have been used to predict events in various application domains like sports, elections, geopolitics, medicine, science and technology.