Tuesday, 11 October 2016

UNITED NATIONS: Tackling migration will be top priority for Guterres after he wins Secretary General job

This week we start on the international scene with the election of a new Secretary General of the United Nations and a report from the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington DC. In Ethiopia, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has announced a six month state of emergency after weeks of clashes between police and protestors. Two of Africa’s biggest economies, Egypt and Nigeria, both face intensifying pressures on their currencies. In Morocco, the main Islamist party is struggling to find other parties willing to work with it in a parliamentary coalition and in Zimbabwe, opposition leader Joice Mujuru says she can lead a grand alliance against President Robert Mugabe’s ailing government.

UNITED NATIONS: Tackling migration will be top priority for Guterres after he wins Secretary General job
The UN Security Council is due to confirm António Guterres, Portugal’s prime minister from 1995-2002, as the next Secretary General of the UN in a special session on 13 October. All 15 members of the Council have indicated their support for Guterres and will then send their recommendation to the 193-member UN General Assembly.

Diplomats in New York say that one of the main tasks for Guterres, who was UN High Commissioner of Refugees from 2002-2012, would be to lead UN strategy on tackling the biggest wave of refugees and migrants since the end of the Second World War. Last month, the UN hosted a special conference on migration but key decisions were deferred for another two years.

Meanwhile European governments are stepping up efforts to negotiate agreements with their counterparts in Africa and the Middle East to strengthen border controls and crack down on people smuggling. This week German Chancellor Angela Merkel is visiting Mali, Niger and Ethiopia to discuss ways in which her country’s development aid can be used to discourage migration.

IMF/WORLD BANK: Policy shifts urged as growth falls to 20 year low
Top officials of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank set out tough policy prescriptions for Africa’s finance ministers at their organisation’s annual meeting on 7-8 October in Washington DC. The average growth forecast for Africa has fallen to 1.6% this year, its lowest level for 20 years, but several countries with more diversified economies are bucking the trend.

Those countries include Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, according to the World Bank’s Africa economist Albert Zeufack and Vice-President for Africa Makhtar Diop. At a special session on Africa on 7 October, they argued that countries would have to toughen fiscal and monetary policies, strengthen state institutions and diversify exports in response to the global commodity slump. The Bank is forecasting a modest rebound to 2.9% growth for African economies next year.

IMF officials also had a tough message about cracking down on public spending for governments – such as Mozambique, Kenya, and Zambia – seeking fresh loans.  All three countries have been borrowing heavily from the commercial market, raising questions about the sustainability of that strategy.

ETHIOPIA: Government declares state of emergency as German Chancellor due in Addis Ababa
One of Africa’s best performing economies and widely praised by the IMF and World Bank, Ethiopia has announced a six-month state of emergency after weeks of protests which have left hundreds dead. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn says his government would use the time to introduce reforms and open talks with opposition parties.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was due in Ethiopia on 10 October. With its economic gains and its sharpening political conflicts, Ethiopia will show Merkel the complexity of the migration crisis in the Horn of Africa. Protestors have been attacking foreign-owned flower farms and factories, including one owned by Nigerian magnate, Aliko Dangote.

NIGERIA/EGYPT: Currency woes multiply and dollar shortage worsens
Two of Africa’s biggest economies are facing some common ailments – the crashing of their national currencies in the face of an acute shortage of dollars and political unrest. As their foreign reserves come under more pressure, both countries are struggling to stabilise their currencies.

Egypt’s pound fell to 14 to the US$ in the week ending 8 October. That’s 60% weaker than the official rate fixed by the central bank in March. And Nigeria’s naira was trading at N475 to the US$ on the parallel market last week, a 40% loss of value since June when the central bank allowed a managed float of the currency.

MOROCCO: After winning the most parliamentary seats, Islamists face growing hostility
After winning 125 seats in parliamentary elections, the Islamist Parti de la justice et du développement is the biggest party in the 395-seat legislature but will struggle to form a coalition because so many other parties refuse to work with it.

Second in the polls was Parti authenticité et modernité led by Mustapha Bakkoury with 102 seats, it says it is not willing to share power with the PJD and would rather go into opposition. The conservative Istiqlal (Independence) party which won 46 seats, pulled out of a coalition with the PJD in 2013 and its feisty leader Abdel Hamid Chaba doesn’t appear keen to resume the collaboration.

ZIMBABWE: Opposition leader Joice Mujuru fires up diaspora in campaigning trip to Britain
Facing a deepening national crisis, opposition parties in Zimbabwe have to work together and prepare for power, opposition leader Joice Mujuru told Africa Confidential in London on 7 October. The country was facing an economic meltdown, she said, after attempts to negotiate a settlement over payments arrears with the IMF had run into the ground in the face of a chronic shortage of foreign exchange.

As a former Vice-President of the ruling Zimbabwe African People’s Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Mujuru faced both some cheers and hostile questioning during her trip to Britain, when she spoke at the Chatham House foreign affairs think tank and to groups of Zimbabweans around the country.

She says her party, Zimbabwe People First, should have half a million members by the end of the year. Many of them are disillusioned supporters of ZANU-PF who are desperate for economic and political change. But she added she is working with all the main opposition parties for a unity platform.

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