Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Valletta summit tries for new migration deal

This week African and European leaders head to Malta to discuss new plans to limit migration while Senegal hosts a summit on the growing security problems in the region. Tomorrow, Nigeria's President Buhari is due to announce his cabinet at last and some massive spending plans as UN officials sound alarms on the worsening crisis in Burundi. And Tanzania's new President, John Magufuli, gets down to work while Nigeria's old President, Goodluck Jonathan, tries to mediate in the row over the annulment of Zanzibar's elections.

EUROPEAN UNION/AFRICA: Valletta summit tries for new migration deal
A report by the European Commission that some 3 million migrants are to arrive in Europe over the next two years – and boost the region's economic growth in the process – sets the stage for the Africa/EU summit in Valletta, Malta, on 11-12 November. Migrants are projected to add 0.2-0.3% to Europe's gross domestic product by 2020, according to the report.

The figures highlight the contradictions about migration as the delegates try to find ways to reduce it. Highly-skilled migrants from Africa and the Middle East boost European economies but could weaken their places of origin. Anti-migration groups are pressuring Europe's political establishment. Plans for reception centres for migrants outside the EU, some in North and West Africa, will be set out at the summit as will new aid deals for African governments which try to control migration. There is also a plan to cap the transaction costs on remittances from Europe to Africa at 3%. Most companies charge around 8% in this highly lucrative business.

SENEGAL/WEST AFRICA: President Sall hits out at Islamist groups
Chairing a security summit in Dakar, President Macky Sall has lambasted militants pushing an 'excessive form of Islam' and urged mainstream Imams to do more to promote religious tolerance. The Islamists should not be allowed to 'impose another form of religion' which does not correspond to 'our traditions or our conceptions' of Islam, Sall said. Some Islamist proselytising was encouraging jihadist groups in the region, he added.

President Sall's statement is particularly significant because of Senegal's powerful Islamic brotherhoods which are adherents to Sufi and more liberal Islamic traditions. In neighbouring Mali, Wahhabi groups financed by Saudi Arabia have taken control of the National Islamic Council and are lobbying for much stricter religious laws. Over the weekend a group of men accused of affiliation to the Nigeria-based Boko Haram jihadist fighters were arrested in Senegal, following a fresh series of attacks by the group in southern Chad and northern Cameroon.

NIGERIA: New cabinet to be named after plans to double the budget emerge
President Muhammadu Buhari is set to name the new cabinet on 11 November following a ministerial retreat in which it emerged that state spending in 2016 could go up to US$40 billion, almost twice the size of the 2015 budget. The boost is said to be part of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo's plan for massive investment in agriculture and infrastructure to counter the country's economic downturn. No details were given about how such spending could be financed although Nigeria's external debt is still regarded as low given the size of its economy.

The other main points emerging from the retreat included a concerted effort to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice and wheat within three years, that is before the next elections, in 2019. Other spending goals are said to include the building of a million new houses and a new north-south highway to unite the country.

BURUNDI: UN to mull intervention as killings risePrince Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has called for the most serious international response to the growing violence in Burundi over President Pierre Nkurunziza's assumption of a third term after winning controversial elections in July.

The UN Security Council should consider all options to stop the killings, Al Hussein said in New York on 9 November, including asset freezes and even external intervention. France strongly backed his calls and over the weekend, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame publicly criticised what he characterised as Nkurunziza's abdication of responsible leadership.

TANZANIA: President Magufuli gets tough on tax and officialsFollowing his inauguration, President John Magufuli has quickly got down to work with new rules banning foreign travel for officials unless specifically approved and plans for a massive boost to the government's tax-collecting apparatus. He is also due to set up a special court to try all corruption-linked offences.

Meanwhile, Nigeria's former President Goodluck Jonathan is trying to mediate in the bitter political dispute after the annulling of elections in Zanzibar where the opposition Civic United Front had been clearly in the lead.

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