We have commercial and political diplomacy in Nigeria and South Africa, a crowded field of presidential hopefuls in Benin, and a last and very ambitious bid at conflict resolution by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
SOUTH AFRICA: Finance Minister Gordhan on mission to
London and New York
Determined to get South Africa's case across to the international
markets, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan arrived
in London yesterday (7 March) to meet investors who have been rattled
by the country's recent political shenanigans. The London leg of the
trip is being managed by Deutsche Bank and Investec. After London,
Gordhan flies to New York for more investor meetings.
We hear that Gordhan is to meet senior officials in the London
offices of Old Mutual, South Africa's US$9 billion financial services
group. Over the weekend, details were emerging of Old Mutual's plans to
break up the group, sell some assets and restructure some its holdings
such as its stake in the leading South African Bank, Nedbank.
This follows the decision, announced last week, of Britain's
Bank to sell much of its stake in its African banking operations,
expanded in the wake of its takeover South Africa's ABSA investment
bank a decade ago.
NIGERIA/SOUTH AFRICA: President Zuma in Abuja to
repair frayed ties
The agenda is likely to be packed when South Africa's
President Jacob Zuma arrives
with a full retinue of ministers and
business leaders for a two-day state visit starting today (8 March).
Zuma and his foreign minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, are
scheduled to meet top officials in Abuja including President Muhammadu
Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo,
and Zuma will address the National Assembly.
Relations between Nigeria and South Africa in recent years
have been what one diplomat in Abuja described as 'unnecessarily bad',
shaped as they are by petty consular disputes rather than big issues.
Both countries have been badly hit by the fall in commodity prices and
are looking for ways to diversify their economies and promote more
The biggest outstanding dispute between the two countries is
the Nigerian telecoms regulator's decision to fine South Africa's MTN
some $5.7 bn. for failing to re-register all its SIM cards in line with
new security procedures. Although the fine was subsequently reduced to
$3.2 bn., MTN wants a further reduction and the South African
delegation will almost certainly raise the issue in Abuja. But to make
progress, the MTN team will have to offer some more serious concessions
on their side about paying local corporation tax and more technology
BENIN: Results due after 33 candidates contest for
Prime Minister and former investment banker Lionel
Zinsou heads a crowded field of 33 candidates after
Benin's presidential election on Monday (6 March). Other front-runners
include another former premier, Pascal Koupaki,
and a former top official at the International Monetary Fund, Abdoulaye
Although many of the candidates are technocrats offering
ambitious programmes to restart economic growth in the country, the
elections were hit by serious administrative shortcomings. There is
also suspicion that the departing President, Thomas Boni
Yayi, may have too much influence over the favourite to
win, Zinsou. If, as seems likely, no single candidate gains more than
50% of the vote, the top two candidates will fight a second round,
probably on 20 March.
MOROCCO/WESTERN SAHARA: UN chief tries to restart
talks on territory
Notwithstanding the fact that his tenure has been marked by
horrific chaos and terror in the Middle East and parts of Africa,
outgoing Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, is
evidently looking for new challenges in his remaining months in the
job. He has announced the restarting of negotiations between Morocco and
the Polisario Front to end the four-decade long war over the Western
After the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, the issue of the Western
Sahara's sovereignty is generally
thought to be the dispute on which least progress has been made.
Rabat's offer to Saharawi nationalists of autonomy within a Moroccan
confederation has been roundly rejected.
Visiting the Saharawi camps in Algeria's Tindouf
region on 5-6 March, Ban said he wanted to relaunch negotiations so the
tens of thousands of refugees can return home. Given France's
the United States's unrelenting support for
Morocco's position it will prove extremely difficult, even for the head
of the UN, to produce a practical basis for resolving the