This week South Africa's African National Congress starts preparing for next year's municipal elections after their policy conference and predictions of more economic troubles. Political troubles could worsen in Guinea as the opposition refuse to accept the results of the first round of presidential elections while Egyptians seem little interested in what the main parties have to offer in parliamentary elections due this month. Ghana and Zambia, two of the countries worst hit by commodity price falls, face more difficult economic adjustments in the months ahead and doubts still linger about the sincerity of President Joseph Kabila's plans to leave office in Congo-Kinshasa next year.
SOUTH AFRICA: Economic crisis? What crisis?
Delegates to the ANC's policy forum last weekend
were more exercised by the crisis in their own organisation than the
economic storm clouds gathering. True, the fall in ANC members to
around 750,000 today compared to 1.2 million in 2010 makes grim reading
for the leaders of the governing party. Grimmer still because no one
had a good explanation for this falling support.
Certainly, it will make the elections in the country's key
areas – such as Johannesburg, Tshwane/Pretoria and Port Elizabeth – a
more important test for the party with rising support for the Economic
Freedom Fighters on the left and the Democratic Alliance on the
Although the policy forum talked about the need for state
agriculture, more power stations and the steel industry, the debates on
the economy at the forum lacked much sense of urgency. But outside the
party bubble, the International Monetary Fund was forecasting that
economic growth would fall to 1.3% next year, the lowest since the
recession of 2009.
Part of the reason for that is due to the China slowdown. Falling
demand from China for South Africa's platinum, iron ore and gold –
metals that make up about half the country's exports – is threatening
jobs and state revenues. Such financial pressures, combined with the
government's plan to boost spending ahead of next year's elections,
will complicate Finance Minister Nhlanhla
Nene's target of cutting the
budget deficit to 2.5% of GDP next year from its current level of 3.9%.
Another bit of bad news for the ANC was delivered by French economist
Thomas Piketty whose
pioneering research on global inequality cast
more doubt on the success of the government's black economic
empowerment programme. Despite the programme's aims, said Piketty at
the Nelson Mandela memorial
lecture at the beginning of the year, South
Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the world with less
than 10% of the population owning about 65% of the wealth. Of the
wealthiest 5% of the population, some 80% are white, added Piketty.
GUINEA: Condé's contest turns
Agreements on the electoral rules and hundreds of election observers
notwithstanding, Guinea's second multi-party elections on 11 October
have triggered widespread protest and an opposition walk out. In the
country's complex coalition politics, no single party was likely to win
outright in the first round but the results announced this week are key
to how the parties line up for the second round of voting next month.
As the early results indicated a resounding lead for President
Condé, opposition parties responded with accusations of blatant
and interference with the collation of votes. Celou Diallo, veteran
politician and Condé's closest rival, is refusing to accept the results
announced so far.
EGYPT: Parliamentary polls go
back to the future
The much delayed legislative elections, now due in two rounds on 17-19
October and 22-23 November, could see the return to power of many
politicians from the National Democratic Party of deposed leader Hosni
Mubarak. Hundreds of former NDP members, the party was dissolved
the 2011 uprising, are standing in the contests to elect the 568
members of the new parliament.
With their wealth and business connections, many of these
members are expected to do well and are likely to endorse the
strengthening of the executive powers of the presidency under the
General-turned-President Abdel Fattah
How much legitimacy the new parliament will have, as criticism
the El-Sisi government's arbitrary methods, is another matter. Local
commentators say the turnout is unlikely to exceed 30% of the
GHANA: Another high-price loan
Finance Minister Seth Terkper
has got his billion dollar bond but at a
price. Ghana had to offer 10.75% interest on the the US$1 bn. bond to
bring in the investors; a year ago it floated a billion dollar bond at
The higher rate that Ghana had to pay signals an end to the
African sovereign bond issuance, at least until commodity prices start
to rise again. The good news for Terkper is that as market analysts
reported that Ghana's bond was 'comfortably over-subscribed', it shows
a continuing international interest in Ghana despite an 'annus
horribilis' of power cuts and floods.
Lambert Mende, chief
government spokesman, is insistent: President
Joseph Kabila has no intention of seeking a third term in power and
will leave office on schedule next year. Clear enough? Not quite
because the Kinshasa rumour mill is full of stories about plans to
extend the presidential mandate for 'reasons of security' or even the
need to complete 'vital infrastructure' projects.
And the departure of Father Apollinaire
Malu Malu, head of the electoral
commission, has nothing to quieten the speculation. Meanwhile the
opposition parties are making their own plans. It sees that the former
Governor of Katanga, Moise Katumbi,
has great support from those
opposition parties planning to unite around a single candidate in next
year's elections. And those parties seem to view Kabila's plan to leave
power next year with great scepticism.
ZAMBIA: Bashing budgets
without the IMF
Its economy hit by tumbling copper prices and spiralling debts, Zambia
has been hit by the China slowdown syndrome. After a stint of using
copper and cobalt exports to pay for several ambitious road, rail and
power projects, Zambia is facing a reckoning. Its kwacha is now rated
the worst performing currency, having lost 47% of its value against the
dollar this year.
Undaunted, Finance Minister Alexander
Chikwanda, 76, says he will cut
the budget deficit to his target of 3.8% of GDP without the help of
money or policies from the International Monetary Fund. His confidence
is based on his prediction of a 20% boost in tax revenues, despite the
closure of several mines.
Bankers are heartily sceptical with some forecasting the
be as high as 8.7% next year. Although Chikwanda talks sternly about
the need for 'greater fiscal discipline' he will face huge pressure
from his political colleagues who are facing a difficult national
election next year.