In Africa, many want a new Mandela to heal wealth divide

In Africa, many want a new Mandela to heal wealth divide

NAIROBI - Mourning the loss of a man who bridged South Africa's racial divide, many Africans hope their leaders today will be inspired by Nelson Mandela to heal another rift widening dangerously across the continent: the wealth gap.

"We need the next Mandela to fight for the poor," said Thomas Kozzih, 30, a community worker in Nairobi's Kibera slum - an expanse of metal shacks butting up against smart new flats that testify to Africa's new growth that has left many behind.

"We have to get a person who is not after his own riches, a common man. The poor are marginalised," he said echoing the sentiments of Africans long used to the politics of "Big Men" who have lived in luxury as their citizens scrabble to eat.

Mandela, who died aged 95 on Thursday, delivered what many thought impossible after his release from prison in 1990 by building a democracy where both white and black had the vote.

But he was stung by some critics who said the deal which gave majority blacks the biggest say in politics left minority whites in charge of the economy and big business.

That wealth gap in South Africa, the biggest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa, remains stark today. For some on the continent, it is a blot on Mandela's legacy.

"If I can think of one area where Mandela did not impress me so much was failing to help black people to a good level (of living)," said Joel Tugume, 28, who runs an internet café in the Ugandan capital Kampala.

"He allowed whites to remain in control of the economy and that will forever maintain the huge economic difference that we see between blacks and whites in South Africa. I think he should have done much more in uplifting blacks economically," he said.

Africa has changed dramatically in the almost quarter of a century since Mandela left his prison cell, becoming an icon for a continent that had for decades only seemed to hit headlines because of war, famine and corruption.

Those still make front page news, but so too does the "Africa Rising" narrative, a story of a continent that now boasts growth that industrialized nations and even some other emerging markets view with envy.

Growth rates of 6, 7 or 8 per cent are common, giving Africa its best chance ever to start dragging its citizens out of poverty. A commodities boom has helped, but so has the growing number of middle class consumers.

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