Thursday, 16 November 2017

A blow against personal rule

The end of President Robert Mugabe's reign in Zimbabwe – whatever else it presages – sends a clear message to other power families in the region. As Southern Africans were musing over the fin de règne in Zimbabwe, the new President in Angola, João Lourenço sacked Isabel dos Santos from her position as head of the state oil company, Sonangol. Ms Dos Santos, described as one of Africa's richest women with a personal fortune of over US$2 billion, is the daughter of former President of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos. Even before her father left office, some in Angola's military were calling for an investigation into Isabel's business affairs. That could still come, as could a probe into her brother Zenu's management of the country's sovereign wealth fund.

After Zimbabwean military officers put Mugabe and his wife Grace under house arrest, South Africa's President Jacob Zuma thoughtfully telephoned to inquire about their welfare. After being reassured, Zuma went on national television to update South Africans on the change of the guard in their northern neighbour. The ousting of a long-standing president and his wife, mired in political and corporate corruption, may have given Zuma some twinges of anxiety. Just as Mugabe was trying to promote Grace, Zuma has been energetically backing his ex-wife as his successor to lead the African National Congress. This won't help Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's campaign.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

LIBERIA: Supreme Court puts election on hold and tells electoral commission to fix registration lists and vote-tallying

This week we start with a Kenya-style election-on-hold in Liberia and the sacking of one of President Mugabe's oldest lieutenants for disloyalty in Zimbabwe. In South Africa, Jacob Zuma's spies have reverted to apartheid-regime tactics to ban a critical book and in Abuja, we hear President Muhammadu Buhari is going to run for a second term in the 2019 elections.

LIBERIA: Supreme Court puts election on hold and tells electoral commission to fix registration lists and vote-tallyingClaims by defeated candidate Charles Brumskine of wide-ranging mismanagement in the first round of Liberia's presidential election were enough to persuade the Supreme Court to postpone the second round until the issues are resolved.

The decision will frustrate the front-runner, George Weah, who won 38.4% of the votes in the first round, because he could lose momentum during the delay. It gives a boost to Vice-President Joseph Boakai, who got 28.8% in the first round and faces Weah in the run-off.

Liberia's Chief Justice Francis Korkpor shied away from the nuclear option chosen by Kenya's Supreme Court of annulling the elections completely. Instead, he ordered the Electoral Commission to review its operations and hold discussions with the candidates. That lack of precise guidance could prove tricky for the Commission. Ultimately, the Court may have to rule again on whether enough changes have been made to comply with its order.

The Court gave no opinion on claims by some in Boakai's camp that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had intervened with the Electoral Commission to favour Weah. Last week, she rubbished the claims, dismissing them as 'hate speech'. But an advisor to Johnson Sirleaf told Africa Confidential that Vice-President Boakai had been 'captured' by business interests in Monrovia, which could explain her apparent coolness towards his campaign.

ZIMBABWE: Reports of deepening political crisis after President Mugabe sacks Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zimbabwe Defence Force chief Constantine ChiwengaIt was her clearest statement yet of her plans for when her husband dies. On 4 November, Grace Mugabe told Zimbabweans that she could become President if people wanted to work with her.

She was throwing down the gauntlet to Emmerson Mnangagwa, known as 'Ngwena' (crocodile), on the day before her husband sacked him as Vice-President for plotting. The reality is that most of the hierarchy of the governing Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) spend inordinate time plotting against each other as well as the President.

There is no question that Mnangagwa wants to take over from Mugabe as soon as possible, and could win substantial backing from local and foreign business. Britain's Foreign Office has been accused by oppositionists in Harare of secretly backing Mnangagwa, who has cultivated strong links with the country's security chiefs. Some think he offers a good prospect of stability in a post-Mugabe world, even though he is unpopular in the ruling party. His business associations with multi-millionaire John Bredenkamp might help in the next stage of the power struggle.

Until recently, many senior politicians didn't take Grace Mugabe's political ambitions very seriously. But she seems confident that Mugabe would name her Vice-President this week. For Mnangagwa that could be a provocation too far.

Some Zimbabwean satirists are accusing President Mugabe of trying to keep up with the Zumas: that's a reference to South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, who has been spending much time and resources to ensure that his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma wins the presidency of the African National Congress at its elective conference next month.

SOUTH AFRICA: Government uses apartheid-regime measures to ban book exposing criminal networks around President ZumaVeteran investigative journalist Jacques Pauw might weigh the truth of the adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity. His latest book, The President's Keepers, about Zuma's business allies, has been flying off the shelves of bookshops across South Africa.

Pauw introduces readers to a cast of criminal businessmen and gangsters, all of whom are thriving from their connections to the President. For good measure, he adds that Zuma hasn't filed any tax returns since becoming President and that his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's ANC leadership campaign has benefited from contributions from cigarette-traders accused of serial tax evasion.

The State Security Agency wrote to Pauw's publishers, warning them to 'cease and desist' publishing and promoting the book, which they said breached national security laws. Invoking arguments and statutes from the apartheid era, the securocrats failed to get the book banned. Now, it is circulating on social media and other internet platforms and the clumsy attempt at censorship has had the opposite effect to that intended.
NIGERIA: A whispering campaign insists that President Buhari will run for a second term in 2019 as party dissenters quieten downThis week, President Muhammadu Buhari will paint a much more upbeat picture of Nigeria's economic prospects when he reads the 2018 budget in the National Assembly. Together with his Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, Buhari is backing a Keynesian-style spending boom to reinforce the country's economic recovery after the oil crash of 2015-2016.
The budget will outline bold plans to borrow billions of dollars for new roads, ports, power stations and transmission lines as part of the country's 'technology revolution'. Buhari and Osinbajo insist the money will be used productively as they answer sceptics. Last week, the International Monetary Fund reported that Nigeria was spending over 60% of state revenues on servicing local and foreign debt after the value of oil exports halved.
This spending spree could set up the government for the 2019 elections and we hear that President Buhari will seek a second term on the ticket of the governing All Progressives' Congress. Buhari's advisors believe that he has conquered his health problems after months of treatment in London this year and is up to the rigours of another four years at the top. The plan has been run past some senior diplomats in Abuja who have commented that they think a Buhari-Osinbajo ticket would be a better option than the obvious alternatives at the moment.

So far, we have heard nothing from other contenders in the party such as Atiku Abubakar or Bola Tinubu. For now, such dissenters are keeping quiet, monitoring developments at Aso Rock.

THE WEEK AHEAD IN VERY BRIEF

KENYA: Mobile-money king Safaricom's earnings slow down, hit by serial political problems

COMMODITY TRADING/CONGO-KINSHASA: Activists step up pressure on British authorities to probe trading giant Glencore after Paradise Papers uncover secret Congo deals

BANKING/SOUTH AFRICA: HSBC could face prosecution in the USA after it failed to respond to warnings over handling Gupta funds

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Democrats step up the struggle

Are democrats getting stronger or weaker in Africa? That depends on where you're sitting. In Tanzania, where President John Magufuli's government arrested Zitto Kabwe, the outspoken oppositionist, on 31 October, political freedoms are under siege. Kabwe's arrest, the second in as many months, follows a failed assassination attempt against fellow oppositionist Tundu Lissu in Dar es Salaam on 7 September.

Similarly, Zambia's opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, in London this week for talks with the Commonwealth, faces a mountain to climb to launch serious negotiations over political reforms with President Edgar Lungu. Hichilema was detained on treason charges until the Commonwealth intervened in August, after which he was freed and the charges dropped.

Kenyan politics seemed to be opening up after the Supreme Court annulled the 8 August presidential election citing serious flaws in the tallying and transmission of results. But the re-run, held on 26 October against a backdrop of violence and threats, hasn't earned President Uhuru Kenyatta the legitimacy he sought. Instead, it has fired up opposition leader Raila Odinga to launch a people's assembly and a national resistance movement to campaign against Kenyatta. In contrast, Liberians reacted nervously to the news that their Supreme Court has halted the second round of presidential elections to hear claims that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf interfered in the first round.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

IMF: Ballooning public debt and political risk cloud Africa's economic prospects

We start with a set of dour forecasts from the IMF sounding alarms about debt and political turmoil. On cue is the latest round of ructions coming out of Liberia's and Kenya's national elections. Up in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari is stepping up activities on the anti-corruption front. Down in South Africa, the battle between the anti-graft campaigners and an array of politically-linked companies is intensifying, despite the strident efforts by President Jacob Zuma to make it all go away.

INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND: Ballooning public debt and political risk cloud Africa's economic prospects
Economic growth across Africa is expected to edge higher to 3.4% next year, up from a projected average of 2.6% this year, according to the latest forecasts by the IMF. But those figures must be set against a background of structural and socio-political problems.

The most serious in the short term is the rapid rise in public debt to an average of 53% of Gross Domestic Product this year from 48% in 2016. As countries are finding it harder to float Eurobonds, more governments are borrowing from local banks, putting pressure on their country's financial systems and crowding out other borrowers. For the vital small to medium-scale companies this means the credit crunch will worse, further choking off funds for investment and development.

More widely, the effects of the borrowing splurge in the past few years threatens to turn into a full-blown debt crisis unless remedial measures are taken soon. Debt service is forecast to consume more 60% of government revenues this year, the IMF forecasts, threatening spending on education, health and housing.

The other red flag raised by the IMF is socio-political. Although it scrupulously avoids anything that obviously smacks of partisan comment, the Fund uses an elaborate code to suggest deepening problems in countries such as Congo-Kinshasa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe where basic state services are deteriorating rapidly. More nuanced are the fund's commentaries on authoritarian regimes in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania which are posting the highest growth rates in Africa.

Although West Africa, which now boasts democratic transfers of power in Ghana, the Gambia, Nigeria and Senegal, pluralistic politics is yet to translate into transformative economic growth. Next year, the countries to watch will be Ghana, which is forecast to pick up speed to grow at 9%, and Nigeria, whose commercial capital of Lagos produces more revenues than several small African countries.

KENYA: Court hearings, street protests and economic boycott will mark next round in the political fight
An exasperated state official said that he feared his country risked being locked in a 'Kafka-esque' cycle of elections, petitions and court hearings. That is indeed the prospect in the short term.

After winning 98% of votes in the 26 October rerun election President Uhuru Kenyatta conceded in his speech that his victory was likely to be challenged in court. In fact, there are multiple petitions in the queue for a court hearing in the coming weeks. They include a catch-all hearing in the Supreme Court about the legitimacy of the 26 October re-run; that was postponed from 25 October, when five of the seven judges on the panel were mysteriously unavailable to hear the petition. Lawyers differ on whether there is any point in even considering the issues that the court should have decided last week.

Another petition, brought by an opposition sympathiser, will argue that the re-run presidential election should be annulled because it was not held in four counties in the west of the country. Outside of the courts, opposition leader Raila Odinga wants to push forward with his campaign of civil disobedience, which will put him on a collision course with President Kenyatta.

This will include more street protests, demands for constitutional change, and most seriously, calls for an economic boycott of all companies Odinga sees as supporters of Kenyatta's Jubilee party. They include the Daily Nation publishing group and the Safaricom mobile phone and data company.

One idea that looks destined to go nowhere was a proposal from Deputy President William Ruto that the government might offer Odinga a 'retirement package' should he agree to bow out gracefully from politics.

LIBERIA: Claims of plot and counter-plot will help George Weah ahead of next week's run-off election
In comparison with events in Kenya, Liberia's election was looking straightforward: the incumbent president leaves office after her constitutional two terms and there is level playing field for the 20 or so candidates to succeed her. Suddenly it is no longer so simple.

Bad relations between the outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her deputy Joseph Boakai are no secret in Monrovia. Johnson Sirleaf's failure to give any endorsement to Boakai, who served as Vice-President since 2005, reflected that froideur. With Boakai and the ex-footballer George Weah in the run-off poll on 7 November, the Johnson Sirleaf issue has become a critical factor in the vote.

Boakai's camp is accusing Johnson Sirleaf of aiding Weah's campaign because of its promises to her son Robert Sirleaf and sundry other favoured politicians. Weah, who beat Robert Sirleaf for a senatorial seat, has been courting the presidential son for several months. Now, say Monrovia insiders, it could be paying off.

Accusations from Boakai's camp and its allies have gone further still to suggest that Johnson Sirleaf has been trying to influence the electoral commission in favour of Weah. Celebrating her 79th birthday over the weekend, Johnson Sirleaf has dismissed such claims but they will liven up the last week of campaigning and could further help Weah.

NIGERIA: Buhari finally sacks top civil servant as he tries to get the anti-corruption campaign back on track
A stronger-looking President Muhammadu Buhari is combining a busier diplomatic schedule – two major foreign trips within a month – with a more active executive style. Criticised for the slow pace of appointments, reshuffles and lack of sanctions against malefactors, Buhari will be picking up speed in the coming months according to his office.

A big part of that will be trying to persuade Nigerians that Buhari's enthusiasm for punishing corruption and recovering stolen funds is as strong as ever. The first sign is the sacking of Babachir Lawal, the Secretary to the Federal Government, who was suspended six months ago after claims surfaced that a company linked to him had benefited from state contract awards in the war-torn north-eastern region of the country.

Then there is the recovery of about US$400 million in Nigerian funds, most of it stolen by the late military leader General Sani Abacha and deposited in Switzerland. It also includes $85 mn. deposited in British banks, apparently the proceeds of a deal between Abacha's oil minister Dan Etete, President Goodluck Jonathan's government, Royal Dutch Shell and Italy's ENI for the multi-billion dollar oil prospecting licence number 245.

The legality of that deal is currently being thrashed out in Italy's high court. The last piece in the jigsaw is the fate of Jonathan's oil minister and close friend Diezani Allison-Madueke whose passport has been held by the British authorities for the past two years. Insiders say that if the police in London don't charge her in the next few weeks, they may have to abandon the case, which would mark a massive failure by the British and the Nigerian authorities, which have been collaborating over the case.

SOUTH AFRICA: Barclays and Standard Bank sack McKinsey consultants for Gupta ties as more multinationals suffer collateral damage
The reputations of those multinational companies benefiting from the Gupta business empire and its political affiliates in South Africa are melting down. British lobby firm Bell Pottinger, which ran a racially-charged campaign to distract attention from the Guptas' financial practices, has gone out of business.

Several South African companies have dropped KPMG as their auditors following the company's work for the Guptas. This is despite KPMG's fulsome apology and the sacking of managers linked to the deals. McKinsey's apologies so far have been less full and it is contesting claims of wrongdoing in court. But it is also hit by the fall-out with two of the country's biggest banks – Barclays and Standard – announcing that they are sacking McKinsey's as their corporate consultants. Meanwhile, parliament's special committee on public enterprises is probing whether McKinsey was complicit in the transfer of funds to the country's ailing state power company to Trillian, a company controlled by a business ally of the Guptas.

Local activists in Corruption Watch are working on a report calling on the United States Department of Justice to investigate McKinsey's relations with Trillian and the Guptas.

THE WEEK AHEAD

TANZANIA: Barrick Gold – not its local subsidiary Acacia –  will pay most of $300 million settlement with government

SOUTH SUDAN: US envoy Nikky Haley says President Salva Kiir has to be held responsible for his role in the country's civil war

COMMODITY TRADING: Glencore's profits are booming despite fresh claims of malfeasance in Chad and Congo-Kinshasa

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

KENYA: Kenyatta steams ahead with 26 October vote in face of disarray in electoral commission and boycotts

All eyes are on Kenya's political dispute and the re-run of the presidential election which looks to be going ahead on Thursday (26 October). By contrast, the second round of the Liberian election due on 7 November should be a quieter affair. South Africa's budget day will test the political agility of Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.  Tanzania's President John Magufuli believes he has won the latest round of his long-running dispute with foreign mining companies.

KENYA: Kenyatta steams ahead with 26 October vote in face of disarray in electoral commission and boycotts
As more civil society organisations call for the election re-run due on 26 October to be postponed, pressure is mounting on the two protagonists in the country’s election drama – President Uhuru Kenyatta and ex-Prime Minister Raila Odinga – to meet for talks to defuse a growing crisis.

A carefully-worded statement by foreign diplomats in Nairobi called for dialogue between the two main parties and advised that the goal of ensuring the elections are credible should take precedence over meeting this week's deadline. The diplomats also urged Kenyatta not to sign amendments to the electoral laws before the elections and cautioned opposition demonstrators under Odinga's banner to respect the law.

The governing Jubilee party is determined that the re-run should go ahead on 26 October in spite of the admission by the Chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Wafula Chebukati, that the body cannot guarantee a free and fair election so soon.

Chebukati was speaking after one of the IEBC's Commissioners, Roselyn Akombe, resigned and flew to New York telling journalists, including an Africa Confidential correspondent, of serious flaws and political biases in the organisation.

The political temperature is rising fast, with Odinga's National Super Alliance (NASA) stepping up protests against the election while some of its more militant members insist they will prevent the poll going ahead in their areas.

LIBERIA: Ex-soccer star Weah and Vice-President Boakai stitch together alliances for the second round of presidential poll on 7 November
One of the biggest questions in Monrovia this week concerns outgoing President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's preferences in the elections that will determine the fate of her legacy and shape the country's direction for at least the next five years.

On 7 November, Liberians make a stark political choice between ex-star footballer and former UN Goodwill Ambassador George Weah, and the veteran politician and technocrat Joseph Boakai. President Johnson-Sirleaf offered no endorsement of Boakai, even though he was her deputy for the past twelve years. This may be down to Boakai's refusal of her suggestion of running mate.

Both Boakai and Weah are courting the candidates that came in just behind them: Charles Brumskine, who got 9.8% of the vote; former businessman Alexander Cummings (7.1%); and warlord-turned-evangelical preacher Prince Yormie Johnson (7%).

Political sources in Monrovia says that Brumskine and Cummings, both seen as technically competent, have been offered senior positions by Weah, partly to compensate for his own lack of government experience. If they agree to that, they could stitch together a winning coalition pushing the soccer star comfortably over the winning line.

Yet if Johnson-Sirleaf decides to back Boakai, even at this late stage, it could make a big difference. Another factor the election is the presence of warlord Charles Taylor's ex-wife, Jewel Howard, on Weah's ticket as Vice-Presidential candidate. Although Taylor is serving a life sentence in Britain for crimes against humanity, most believe he will try to find ways to influence a Weah-Howard administration.

SOUTH AFRICA: Finance Minister Gigaba faces a stern budget test this week as he struggles with the cost of corruption and state capture
Tomorrow (25 October), Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba will explain how he intends to plug an estimated 40 billion rand (US$2.9 bn.) hole in public finances caused by falling tax revenues and rising state liabilities. None of the options look good.

They will include higher taxes, cuts in spending and the sale of prime state assets. If Gigaba wants to avoid another ratings downgrade, he will have to resist political pressure to step up spending on the state-owned companies, including the ailing South African Airways.

Gigaba's decision day comes as rumours swirl about President Jacob Zuma's next move ahead of elections for the African National Congress in mid-December. The markets have already reacted to rumblings about possible plans by Zuma to sack his Deputy Cyril Ramaphosa.

The run-up to the ANC December conference is looking extremely busy for Zuma, as his favoured candidate, his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, falls behind Ramaphosa in the race to win the top job in the party.

Zuma also has been given until 30 November by his ally, Director of the National Prosecuting Authority Shaun Abrahams, to make fresh representations about why he should not answer 783 charges of corruption in court. Much more legal manoeuvring between Zuma and his critics lies ahead.

TANZANIA: Magufuli's tactics win offer of $300 million and equity in gold mines after the latest talks with Barrick Gold
There are still many more questions than answers about the draft agreement made between Canada's Barrick Gold and President John Magufuli last week. In principle, Barrick has agreed to pay Tanzania $300 mn. and grant the state a 16% stake in three of its mines.

With its majority stake in Acacia mining, which is the main party in the dispute with the government, Barrick Gold appears to be setting out a problematic agenda. Acacia has already said it doesn't have $300 mn. on its books now, and has requested more clarity about the equity stake commitment.


THE WEEK AHEAD IN VERY BRIEF

UNITED NATIONS/ZIMBABWE: Embarrassment as UN Health Chief Tedros bows to political and funding pressure to withdraw envoy appointment to President Mugabe

MOZAMBIQUE: Rio Tinto faces another legal battle over fraud claims by US and UK stock market regulators over mining deal

LIBYA/UNITED NATIONS: Talks on power-sharing wind up without conclusion or setting date for fresh negotiations

Thursday, 19 October 2017

China's global reach

In terms of its economic impact and geo-political weight, the Congress of China's Communist Party this week matters more for Africa than a presidential election in the United States. Already regarded as the most powerful Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping, President Xi Jinping wants to preside over the next stage of the country's economic transformation, in which he sees the government playing a leading role, making state enterprises 'bigger and stronger'.  But he is far less enthusiastic about 'market forces' than his recent predecessors, partly because of rising inequality in the Western mould, insiders say.

Beijing's promise to boost consumer spending and innovation will be keenly watched in Africa. More resources will go into the 'One Belt, One Road' project, a branch of which cuts through East Africa en route to the Middle East and Europe. Alongside that project, Xi envisions a sharp expansion of China's global role as a 'major and responsible country' in the 21st century. That includes a growing role in the UN and other international organisations as well as consolidating its leadership role in Asia.

Africa's authoritarian leaders will pay particular attention to Xi's views on the need to strengthen national security and control the internet, 'to oppose and resist erroneous viewpoints'. On that front at least, regimes in Egypt, Togo, and Cameroon – who are fond of shutting down the web – are keeping pace with Beijing.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

KENYA: Political chasm widens with calls for Kenyatta to be sworn in after Odinga announces boycott of fresh presidential elections

This week, the breaking news comes from Kenya with opposition leader Raila Odinga's withdrawal from planned fresh elections. The constitutional mess there contrasts tellingly with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's elegant exit from power in Liberia as competitive multi-party elections are held there this week. With his eyes on Zimbabwe's elections next year, President Robert Mugabe is pushing back against his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa in a cabinet reshuffle. And Nigeria sceptics admitted to being heartily impressed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo who explained the government's plan for economic revival at a conference in London.

KENYA: Political chasm widens with calls for Kenyatta to be sworn in after Odinga announces boycott of fresh presidential elections
Minutes after opposition leader Raila Odinga announced he was pulling out of the rerun of the presidential elections, President Uhuru Kenyatta told a rally in southern Kenya that it would make no difference. 'We have no problem going back to the elections. We are sure we will get more votes than the last time.'

His supporters went further, arguing that without Odinga's participation there would be no need for an election and that Kenyatta should be sworn in immediately. No chance, say the leaders of Odinga's National Super Alliance (NASA) camp, the country is now facing a constitutional crisis.

Those behind Odinga's boycott want it to trigger a restarting of the electoral cycle with all parties allowed to participate in fresh elections within 90 days. NASA official are still insisting on the replacement of several top officials of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and sweeping reforms of electoral management before a new round of elections could be held.

The IEBC, which Odinga singled out for particularly harsh criticism at his press conference today, has called an emergency meeting to decide on the next steps. Whatever plan it announces is almost certain to trigger a resort to the Supreme Court by one side or the other.

Officials from both the Kenyatta and Odinga campaign are due in Europe and the United States this week to explain their position as outsiders become increasingly bemused by this extended electoral crisis and the economy slows down.

LIBERIA: Establishment and 'disrupter' candidates vye to succeed Johnson-Sirleaf in this week's landmark electionsPeople clutching voters' cards started queueing before dawn on 10 October across the country in elections in which 20 contenders are competing for the Presidency. It is the first time that an outgoing Head of State has organised multi-party elections on a universal franchise to choose a successor. It is also probable that the presidential elections will go to two rounds.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has earned plaudits for keeping her distance from the race to succeed her and for insisting she will continue to live in Liberia after she leaves power. She would become the first retiring leader in the country's recent history to do so.

Most candidates in the race have paid lip-service to Johnson-Sirleaf's record of achievement but she has drawn criticism for appointing family members to key posts and failing to crack down harder on corruption. Some within her governing Unity Party fault her for unwillingness to offer a more enthusiastic endorsement of her Vice-President, Joseph Boakai, 72, who is running to succeed her.

In a speech in Washington last week, Johnson Sirleaf, 78, said she hoped the elections would usher in a new generation of leaders to build on her legacy in Liberia. Skipping a generation would rule out a government led by either of the front-runners: Boakai or Charles Brumskine, 66, another veteran politician.

Of the younger generation, Johnson-Sirleaf doesn't think highly of the former top footballer, George Weah, 51, who has chosen Jewel Howard, the former wife of gaoled military leader Charles Taylor, as his running mate. Some insiders say that Johnson-Sirleaf would have liked to back the candidacy of Alexander Cummings, 60, a youthful-looking businessman who returned to the country two years ago. We hear that Johnson-Sirleaf has held back from saying positive things about Cummings to avoid weakening her own party. All the parties are fighting legislative elections as well.

ZIMBABWE: Mugabe moves against his deputy Mnangagwa and promotes his 'homeboy' to finance post in reshuffleAfter months of bitter fighting in the ruling party over the succession, President Robert Mugabe's latest cabinet reshuffle undermines Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his allies. It is a decisive blow in favour of Mugabe's wife Grace, 52, whose faction in the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) has become a rallying point for opponents to Mnangagwa.

Mugabe has stripped Mnangagwa, 75, of the Justice Ministry, a key post which could determine the management of the sucession within the party and the country. Mugabe's long-time ally and former intelligence chief, Happyton Bonyongwe, takes over the Justice post.

This has been a bad year for Mnangagwa, who was hospitalised in South Africa in August complaining that someone had tried to poison him. Dismissing such claims as blatant lies, Grace Mugabe accused Mnangagwa of lacking patriotism and ratcheting up grievances in the ruling party.

Mnangagwa's ally and fellow lawyer, Patrick Chinamasa, has been moved from the Ministry of Finance, from where he was nudging through contentious economic reforms, to a new Ministry of Cyber Security. Although this new job will play an important role in quashing opposition campaigns, activists have ridiculed Chinamasa's obsession with social media calling him the 'Minister of Twitter and Whatsapp Affairs'.

In Chinamasa's place at the Finance ministry is Ignatius Chombo, the former Home Affairs minister who comes from Zvimba in Mashonaland West, a key local support base for Mugabe. There is still no organised challenge to Mugabe's continued rule within ZANU-PF. His latest appointments clearly strengthen the position of his wife within the political hierarchy.

NIGERIA: Vice-President Osinbajo talks up forex policy and investment revival but rules out a run for the presidency
In an assured performance in London on 9 October, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo said that Nigeria had attracted pledged investments worth over US$20 billion this year as the economy recovers slowly from recession. Osinbajo, the lead author of Nigeria's medium-term economic reform programme, says the government plans to spend a third of this year's budget on roads, railways, ports and power stations.

A new 3,000 Megawatt power station in Lagos State, the country's commercial centre, is being planned and that will encourage more investors to set up productive ventures, added Osinbajo, who was speaking at the Financial Times 'Africa Summit' on 9 October. When asked at the meeting whether he would consider running for the presidency in 2019, Osinbajo replied with a smile that it 'wasn't on the cards'.

Earlier this year, Osinbajo won high praise when he took the helm of the country during President Muhammadu Buhari's lengthy periods of medical leave in London. There has still been no announcement about whether Buhari intends to stand for a second term in 2019 but there is an assumption that whoever wins the nomination will hail from one of the northern states. Osinbajo was born in Lagos in the south-west.


THE WEEK AHEAD IN BRIEF

SOUTH AFRICA: State electricity company seeks $115 million in compensation from McKinsey and Trillian after claims of corrupt payments 

IMF/WORLD BANK: African finance ministers due in Washington DC as Chinese trade and ballooning commercial loans overshadow Bretton Woods' role

CONGO-KINSHASA: Opposition leader Moïse Katumbi pledges to return in December to fight presidential election, promising journalists seats on his plane

TANZANIA: Energy and Mining ministries broken up as Magufuli pushes ahead with economic nationalist agenda