Global calls for youthful leaders and youth participation in national politics have hit a brick wall across all continents. The older leaders are very reluctant to pave way for the young ones. The African continent is infamous for some of the world’s oldest active Presidents. Most African leaders are notorious for not being eager to retire office even where old age has become an impediment on their ability to execute cumbersome executive roles. The zeal to die or be stuck in power, more often than not erodes the legacy of some of prominent African leaders who had the potential to be termed heroes.
Close examples of such decorated African leaders include the late President Robert Mugabe who stayed in power for a record 37 years until he was eventually toppled in the November 2017 coup. It only takes personalities like Nelson Mandela to leave the dance floor while the audience is still yearning for more. This is an art that Mandela mastered, opting for a single term in office following the end of apartheid in the southern African country.
1. Cameroon’s Paul Biya
President Paul Biya, a close friend and contemporary of Zimbabwe’s former president the late Robert Mugabe, is the oldest sitting President in Africa. Paul Biya who was born in November 6, 1933, Paul Biya is currently 89 years old and still a serving president of Cameroon. The second president of Cameroon is the 5th in the list of oldest leaders in the world. He is the second-longest-ruling president in Africa, the oldest head of state in Africa, and the longest-ruling non-royal leader in the world. Apart from overstaying his welcome, President Paul Biya has been criticised as an authoritarian with the Parade Magazine ranking him 19th on the Biya Top 20 list of "The World's Worst Dictators."
2. Ivory Coast’s Alassane Ouattara
President Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast is the second oldest sitting President in Africa. President Ouatta, an economist by profession was born on the 1st day of January, 1942. He is aged 80 years old. Before assuming office in December 2010, Alassane Ouattara was formerly an economist with the International Monetary Fund. Prime Minister of Côte d'Ivoire from November 1990 to December 1993, appointed to that post by former President Félix Houphouët-Boigny. President Ouattara’s tenure in office was supposed to have ended in 2020 but due to political doctoring of the constitution, he has managed to extend his stay in power for a further term.
3. Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa
Zimbabwe’s incumbent President Emerson Mnangagwa is the third oldest sitting President in Africa. Once the country’s Vice President and personal assistant to the then president Mugabe, Emmerson Mnangagwa eventually succeeded his former boss through a military assisted coup in November 2017. At the age of 79 years, Emmerson Mnangagwa was born in 15 September 1942. Before becoming the president of Zimbabwe, he served in various cabinet posts such as defence, legal and security ministries. He was at one time the Speaker of Parliament. His first term in office end in 2023 and he looks to face cut-throat contestation from 44 year old opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa.
4. Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari
Outgoing Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is also 79 years old but was born later than his contemporary Emmerson Mnangagwa and earlier than Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo. Bornin December 17, 1942 Buhari was democratically elected in 2015 after three unsuccessful bids in 2003, 2007, and 2011 general elections. Prior to assuming office in 2015, Buhari had served as head of state from December 31, 1983, to August 27, 1985 after taking power in a military coup d’état. President Buhari’s tenure in office is however close to an end with the ruling party picking former Lagos state governor 70 year old Bola Tinubu as its presidential candidate for the upcoming 2023 elections. Tinubu is poised to face stiff competition for the top post from opposition’s 75 year old Atiku Abubakar.
5. Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo
Born in March 29, 1944, Akufo-Addo had first ran for president in 2008 and again in 2012. He succeeded on the third attempt by defeating a much younger John Dramani Mahama in the 2016 general elections. Currently, Akufo-Addo is 78 years old, only 5 months older than Uganda’s longest serving and sitting President Yoweri Museveni. In 2020, Akufo-Addo was re-elected for his second term, which will end on 6 January 2025. Previously he served as Attorney General from 2001 to 2003 and as Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2003 to 2007 under the Kufuor-led administration. He is one of Africa’s septuagenarian leaders who has managed to amass generally positive acclaim for progressive socio-economic and political policies.