We start in Nigeria where the central bank is holding critical meetings on interest rates and foreign exchange policy. After its budget last week, Zambian officials continue talks with the International Monetary Fund and political tensions rise in neighbouring Congo-Kinshasa. Officials from the Central African Republic are to discuss spending plans after raising pledges worth $1.5 billion at a donor conference in Brussels last week and member states of the International Criminal Court, meeting in the Hague, wind up discussions about the body’s future on Thursday (24 November). Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh, facing a more determined opposition in national elections due on 1 December, has banned European observers.
NIGERIA: Oil and inflation up and politics wobbling
There is a strong possibility of a hike in Nigeria’s base or
policy interest rates – to 15% or 16% from the current rate of 14% –
after the Central Bank of Nigeria's monetary policy committee
meets today (21 November) and tomorrow.
This comes against the backdrop of 'stagflation', weak
economic performance but with steadily rising prices. Inflation was
18.3% last month, more than double the central bank's target. CBN
directors are to seek the prosecution of people hoarding dollars as
part of its plans to step up capital controls.
On the more positive side, the ratings agency Moody's
forecasts that Nigeria's economy will grow by at least 2.5% next year
if the recent improvements in oil output are maintained. The latest
figures from Deputy Oil Minister Emmanuel Kachikwu show
that production is back up to 2.1 million barrels a day. This follows a
meeting on 1 November between President Muhammadu Buhari and
several leaders from the Niger Delta led by veteran politician Edwin
Further meetings between presidency officials and Delta groups
are likely this week. But there is still no sign that the Niger Delta
Avengers, the most active militant group this year, will be joining the
talks. So far, the talks have discussed extra subventions and
investments in the Delta, which have been heavily criticised by the
Avengers, who argue that the cash gets diverted by corrupt officials.
There are also signs that the partisan battles in the Delta
between supporters of President Buhari and his predecessor Goodluck
Jonathan are still raging. Rivers State governor Ezenwo Nyesom
Wike has been a particularly fierce critic of Buhari and
is seen as a frontrunner to lead the opposition People’s Democratic
ZAMBIA: Will copper boom bail out government in tough
talks with IMF?
More discussions between the government and the IMF are likely
this week in the wake of the Finance Minister Felix Mutati's
budget, announced on 11 November. The IMF is said to want tougher curbs
on spending and more accountability on public finances. If these
measures are agreed, the two sides would be on course to announce a new
IMF programme in January.
Yet the current boom in the world copper price, at its highest
level for six years with futures jumping 20% in New York last week,
could complicate the talks. President Edgar Lungu may
see the prospect of higher revenues from copper and cobalt as a way to
avoid the unpopular spending cuts insisted on by the IMF. At the same
time, the government is boosting spending on the police in anticipation
of protests over the withdrawal of food and fuel subsidies.
Traders differ on how long the copper price boom will last but
most say it will not maintain its current momentum. Asian copper buyers
have been stepping up purchases, mainly because of plans to increase
production of electric cars whose components use substantial quantities
of copper and cobalt.
Political crisis deepens as Kabila
plans to stay put until 2018
Like neighbouring Zambia, Congo-Kinshasa should benefit from a
global copper boom but the country remains mired in its worst
political crisis for two decades. Pressure will mount on President Joseph
Kabila as the official deadline for the end of his second
term of office on 19 December approaches.
Security forces cracked down on an attempt by the opposition
alliance, known as the Rassemblement, to organise
demonstrations in Kinshasa on 19 November. Police also blocked all
routes to the home of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi.
These latest attempts to launch street protests follow
Kabila's appointment on 17 November of Samy Badibanga,
a former ally of Tshisekedi, as Prime Minister. The Rassemblement called
Badibanga's appointment a 'non-event'. Opposition activists are
expected to regroup this week to plot a more effective plan to force
out Kabila, mobilising local support and getting backing from
international organisations and foreign governments.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: After aid conference,
government told to focus on crisis relief measures
This week officials are working on plans for the management of
the US$1.5 billion pledged following President Faustin
Archange Touadéra's presentation on 17 November of his
five-year plan for the country.
Touadéra was speaking at a special conference convened by the
European Union and the United Nations and several non-governmental
organisations in Brussels. Reflecting the strong concerns which remain
in the wake of recent clashes, several NGOs urged the President to
prioritise short-term humanitarian projects.
INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT: Fight intensifies for
the court's future
The United Nations and human rights organisations are urging
member countries of the International Criminal Court to stand firm on
Article 27 – that is the provision that allows the court prosecutor to
issue charges against everyone from ordinary citizens to the President.
Some African countries attending the court's Assembly of State
Parties Conference in the Hague, which ends on Thursday (24 November),
have been lobbying for immunity for sitting heads of state. This year's
Assembly of State parties could prove critical for the court's future.
Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire,
Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia and Sierra
pledged support for the Court. Burundi, Gambia
and South Africa have promised to leave.
Many other African countries are sitting on the fence. Last week Russia added
its voice to opponents by stating that it would not ratify the 1998
Rome Statute, which established the Court. The United
States has still to ratify the Rome Statute, which looks
unlikely under Donald Trump's presidency.
GAMBIA: Yahya Jammeh blocks international
observers ahead of 1 December elections
Facing businessman Adama Barrow, who is
back by eight opposition parties, in national elections on 1 December,
President Yahya Jammeh has barred election observers from the European
Union. This suggests the election could be much closer than previous
contests and that the opposition has a better strategy. But there are
also growing fears about violence and rigging in the election. Two
opposition politicians have died in state custody this year.
Earlier, the Banjul government had said it would allow in
foreign observers and has accredited a team from the African Union. The
EU had sent an observer team to the 2011 elections although the
regional organisation, the Economic Community of West African States
declined to send a team on the grounds that their work would be