Here are five African elections to look forward to this year

A number of African nations will be holding presidential, legislative and municipal elections this year.

It however remains a key pillar of democracy and certainly the most legitimate way of choosing leaders. A number of African nations will be heading to the polls this year seeking select leaders of their choice.

And with 2017 seeing the departure of long-serving rulers in Zimbabwe, Angola, and the Gambia, it can only be hoped that these elections will herald a new wave of political leadership across the continent.

We look at some of the elections to look forward to this year:

1. Egypt

Egypt's presidential elections,to be held no earlier than 8 February 2018 and no later than 8 May 2018, come at a time when the country is grappling with a sharp economic downturn and a number of deadly terrorist attacks.

Current president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi still remains the man to beat having made clear his intentions to run for a second and final term in a newspaper interview. He is however likely to face off with close to five candidates including former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq,  prominent human rights lawyer Khaled Ali as well as Anwar Sadat, nephew, and namesake of Egypt’s former assassinated president.

2. Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's election is highly decisive in many dimensions. For a country that has for many years held farcical elections, all eyes will be on the new government to deliver a free, fair and credible poll.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is serving the remainder of Robert Mugabe's term, is expected to lead his ZANU-PF party into the presidential polls in late July. Mnangagwa and the ruling party will be tasked with reviving the country's economy as well as tackling the rising unemployment rates and currency instability.

3. Cameroon

President Paul Biya has been in power since 6 November 1992, making him one of Africa's longest serving leaders. At 84, Biya is expected to run again in the country’s general elections in October.

Celebrated lawyer Akere Muna is poised to challenge Biya for the top seat and has urged the opposition to unite in order to remove him from office.

The polls come after a year-long crisis in its Anglophone regions which also saw the government shut down Internet for three months in the two Northwest and Southwest regions.

4. Mali

Mali is set to hold regional, presidential and national elections in various stages in the period between April and November. Despite the landlocked nation holding credible polls over the years, a short-lived military coup d’état and conflict in the northern half of the country between the Tuareg rebels and Islamist militias are factors that create vulnerabilities for electoral violence in 2018.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, 72, is seeking re-election but will face off with Kalifa Sanogo, whose party, Alliance for Democracy in Mali (Adema), ironically supports Keita’s Rally For Mali (RPM) in parliament.

5. Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone will hold its elections early in March with more than a dozen parties fielding candidates in presidential, parliamentary, mayoral and municipal election.

Foreign affairs minister Samura Kamara will be vying under the All People's Congress party ticket as the successor to president Ernest Bai Koroma, who will step down after a decade in power. Opposition candidate Julius Maada Bio, is also expected to run in the upcoming elections.

The polls are being held at a time when the West African nation is coming off the back of a tragic mudslide that claimed hundreds of lives and displaced more in 2017.

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