This month’s Style Leader is Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi, and our Election Watch column goes to Sierra Leone.
Unlike clean-shaven predecessor Hosni Mubarak – with his dyed black hair and suspiciously furrow-free brow – Egypt’s bespectacled new premier, Mohamed Morsi, cultivates a neat greying beard and corporate persona.
The US-educated engineer is a devout Muslim but rarely dons religious garb. Instead he has all the hallmarks of a moderate technocrat-cum-statesman. He is perennially suited; in grey, navy and black flannels designed to underline his stance as a moderate.
Morsi spent decades as part of the then-banned Muslim Brotherhood Party and was incarcerated alongside the Block Three cadre of prisoners by the Mubarak regime. But since assuming office he has resigned from the Brotherhood, rowed back on controversial proposals to implement a religious council and vowed to uphold citizenship rights for all Egyptians.
Yet he makes no attempt to slough off his alliance to the Brotherhood or its Islamist policies; he is a humble politician of the people. It’s perhaps his wife, Naglaa Ali Mahmoud, in her tightly fastened khimar who reveals Morsi’s pious values. She is known as “mother of Ahmed”, her eldest son. Upon moving to the presidential palace she was unfazed; “All I want,” she said, “is to live in a simple place where I can perform my duties as a wife.”
Unlike the ultra-conservative Salafis, Morsi’s facial hair communicates a moderate stance; it’s neither pious nor zealous. And he does not sport the Islamic kufi or a traditional gallibaya.
On state business he is often seen in a slick suit and tie. The latter is often striped and colourful; he chose cornflower blue and maroon to wear in Rome, navy in Beijing and glossy black silk to host a smiling Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on his recent State visit to Cairo.
He may be suited but Morsi likes to be one of the people. On the day of his swearing in in Tahrir Square he waved to crowds of supporters declaring he wasn’t wearing a flak jacket because he fears only God and the people. “You own the power,” he said. “It’s your will. You are the source of power.”
The death of Ethiopia’s prime minister Meles Zenawi in Brussels highlighted an uncomfortable fact that many African leaders choose not to use their own poor health services. It seems different rules apply.
The shorts worn by the man in Zambia’s coat of arms (right) is at the centre of a rebranding dilemma causing ructions in the country. Independent from the UK since 1964, the country wants a new constitution. Law professor Michelo Hansungule thinks parliament should also order a makeover of the short-sporting gent, saying he looks like a colonial “houseboy’’ or servant. In defence, veteran independence fighter General Malimba Masheke has called the shorts a symbol with “a rich history about the genesis of this country’’.
Thousands of manufacturing jobs are in the balance as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) comes up for review in 2015. The legislation allows duty-free and quota-free access to the US.
The incoming administration’s handling of the US drought and farming policies will affect food prices. Countries such as South Africa, with many poor people for whom maize is a staple, are vulnerable.
Fiscal policies matter. As an emerging currency, the rand fluctuates almost uncontrollably with the health of the US dollar.
Type: Presidential and parliamentary
Date: 17 November
Candidates: In the presidential contest, incumbent Ernest Bai Koroma is expected to see off former army officer Julius Maada Bio, whose 1996 coup d’etat proved an unlikely stepping stone to democracy.
Issues: Koroma must persuade people that the investments his government has made, in roads and communications in particular, will help remedy Sierra Leone’s poverty and health issues.
Monocle comment: Since the end of the civil war, Sierra Leone has been a tentative success. Its National Anti-Corruption Strategy has had a positive effect and the economy is growing.