Tuesday, 30 May 2017

TANZANIA: The next test for Magufuli's resource nationalism

We start this week with another high-stakes battle between a multinational mining company and an African government, this time in Tanzania. The Ethiopian government is celebrating Tedros Adhanom winning the leadership of the World Health Organisation; and Nigeria's Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has delivered a low-key State of the Nation address while President Muhammadu Buhari remains in London for medical treatment. President Jacob Zuma has survived one challenge to his leadership from within the African National Congress but faces another in parliament next month. Côte d'Ivoire is to float a US$1 billion Eurobond to compensate for cocoa losses and pay off mutinous soldiers. Kenya's election is looking tighter.

TANZANIA: The next test for Magufuli's resource nationalismCanada's Acacia Mining, majority-owned by Barrick Gold, is to respond in detail this week to claims by President John Magufuli on 24 May that the company had been declaring less than a tenth of the value of its gold exports. Living up to his 'Bulldozer' sobriquet, Magufuli sacked Energy and Mines Minister Sospeter Muhongo, his departmental permanent secretary Justin Ntalikwa, and the head of the Tanzania Minerals Audit Agency Dominic Rwekaza all on the same day.

Although Acacia disputes Magufuli's claims, which are based on findings from two investigative committees set up by the presidency, the share price plummeted in London. 'We do not understand the findings of the [investigation] committee and believe that they contain significant discrepancies compared to all previous data analysed,' said a company statement released on 26 May.

Senior management at Acacia, we hear, are seeking to discuss the matter with the government this week but have said they will have to consider 'all options' – which could include leaving Tanzania. Last year, gold exports earned the country around US$1.5 billion and mining accounts for 3-4% of gross domestic product.

ETHIOPIA: Tedros triumphs at WHO but tough questions lurkThe election of Ethiopia's one-time health minister, also a former foreign minister, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as the first African director-general of the World Health Organisation was an important diplomatic victory for Addis Ababa after months of tough campaigning.

However, Tedros faced protests from Ethiopian oppositionists outside WHO headquarters in Geneva. An advisor linked to his British rival for the job, Dr David Nabarro, accused Tedros of covering up cholera epidemics in Ethiopia in 2006, 2009 and 2011 when he was health minister. Known for his robust rhetoric, Tedros dismissed the British claims as 'a typical colonial mindset …and discrediting a candidate from a developing country.'

But the bigger question facing Tedros is whether he can lead a substantial reform of the WHO, which came under fire over its handling of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
NIGERIA: Mid-term economic warnings and political doubtsWith President Muhammadu Buhari receiving treatment in London, it fell to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to deliver the government's mid-term report to Nigerians on 29 May, exactly two years since it took office.

Osinbajo emphasised that the country's underperforming economy, slowly recovering from falling into recession last year for the first time in two decades, was the 'biggest challenge' as he sketched out the government's strategy.

After a succession of warnings about a coup plotters and arms caches from the Army Chief of Staff General Tukur Buratai and the former governor of Lagos State Bola Tinubu, Osinbajo kept his comments on Nigeria's febrile political scene to a minimum. Political insiders noted that Osinbajo pared down his trip to the G7 meeting in Italy last week to avoid being out of the country for more than a day.

SOUTH AFRICA: After surviving no confidence debate in ANC's top committee, Zuma is likely to win parliamentary test next monthIt was the strongest attack yet on President Jacob Zuma by senior members of the African National Congress. The National Executive Committee's 70 members debated last Sunday and Monday (28-29 May) whether he should be forced out but his opponents lacked the numbers to force a vote against him and he survived with ease.

However, it's evident that Zuma's support within the party is gradually leaching away. The publication in several newspapers today (30 May) of emails purporting to show that Zuma and his family were planning to set up a 'second home' in Dubai further poisoned the atmosphere against him. The NEC backed the call for a judicial inquiry into the close links between Zuma and businesses owned by the Gupta family which was called for by the Public Protector's report on 'state capture'.
That will create further problems for him ahead of the ANC leadership elections in December. Early next month Zuma faces another no-confidence motion in parliament. Dissident ANC MPs have been told they face tough sanctions if they vote against him.

ANGOLA: President Dos Santos's medical checks in Spain trigger more speculationVeteran Foreign Minister Georges Chikoti has dampened reports that the 74-year-old President José Eduardo dos Santos was critically ill in Spain after it was claimed he had suffered a stroke a month ago. Dos Santos's daughter Isabel posted on her Facebook page a denial that her father had passed away.

Although Defence Minister João Lourenço is due to take over the leadership of the governing MPLA after national presidential and parliamentary elections on 23 August, a sudden exit by Dos Santos could destabilise the transition. The MPLA is set to win the elections comfortably but there has been mounting criticism of the influence of the president's family over state institutions.

CÔTE D'IVOIRE: US$1 billion bond to fix budget hole and pay off mutineersAfter a 40% drop in international cocoa prices and several mutinies this year from disgruntled soldiers demanding bonus payments, President Alassane Ouattara's government has announced it will float a US$1 billion Eurobond next month. Despite security worries after protests and clashes involving government soldiers, the government enjoys a better credit rating than most of its quieter neighbours such as Ghana. Finance Minister Adama Kone said the country is also negotiating more credits from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

KENYA: Latest polls put Kenyatta and Odinga neck and neck as tensions riseAssumptions that President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Jubilee coalition would score an easy victory in presidential and parliamentary elections due in August are questioned in the latest analysis by the Ipsos marketing group and other consultancies.

Most analysts say the gap between Kenyatta and his presidential rival Raila Odinga has narrowed appreciably this year mainly because of tougher economic conditions. Odinga's chances will be critically dependent, they say, on his ability to inspire a high turnout in his strongholds in Nyanza, Western Kenya and the Coast.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

America's new African insiders

The appointment of regional security specialist Peter Pham as the United States' Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs has been welcomed by African diplomats in Washington. 'We have an appointee with knowledge and a certain affinity with Africa,' said one insider. Pham has been a director of the Atlantic Council and at his confirmation hearings he may face questioning about its strong support for Morocco's position on the Western Sahara. Former US Air Force officer Rudolph Atallah, appointed last month as Africa advisor on the US National Security Council, was also a fellow at the Council.

The two appointments fit with the administration's emphasis on counter-terrorism and security. But Pham is also a doughty defender of the soft power exercised by the US Agency for International Development, which is under threat in the administration's budget plans. The recent decision by Congress to maintain support for assistance programmes was an important pushback against the more swingeing cuts being planned.

Pham also believes it's in his country's own commercial interests to step up US diplomacy and assistance in Africa, given the continent's over US$2 trillion market. Africa lobbyists in DC have also been urging White House officials to look at how Germany and Japan have been stepping up their Africa programmes. They argue it would be counter-productive for the US to withdraw from Africa or rely purely on a security-led strategy.

Monday, 22 May 2017

ZAMBIA: Mixed messages on copper confrontation with First Quantum

This week we start in Lusaka where the dispute between the government and First Quantum Minerals is still simmering. And then to Mali, where French President Emmanuel Macron has been outlining a tougher military policy. In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma faces an ever-louder chorus of criticism over his links to the Gupta family and another key vote this week. Finally, in the new axis of nationalists Presidents Donald Trump and Abdel Fattah el Sisi hit it off at a meeting in Riyadh.

ZAMBIA: Mixed messages on copper confrontation with First Quantum
Both the government of President Edgar Lungu and the management of First Quantum Minerals have tamped down the rhetoric in their public confrontation over claims that the Canadian-listed mining company was liable for US$1.4 billion for having allegedly broken regulations governing company borrowing. The dispute went nuclear after government officials said that FQM directors could be arrested if they entered the country and be charged with fraud (AC Vol 58 No 10, Spat with FQM continues). FQM has denied any wrongdoing.

Since then President Lungu has sent out his Finance Minister, Felix Mutati, with a more conciliatory message: talks between government negotiators and the company would begin on 30 May and should be over within a week. There has been no further mention of arrest warrants.

All this comes as Zambia is also negotiating a balance of payments facility of at least $1.2 bn. from the International Monetary Fund. Last week World Bank Vice-President for Africa, Mahktar Diop, was in Lusaka and agreed new development financing of $600 million. Although the two Washington financial institutions have not commented publicly on the FQM affair, their officials and United States diplomats are known to be extremely concerned about the Lungu government's direction of travel. On 21 May, opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema's wife, Mutinta, launched an international appeal on behalf of her husband, who has been in prison for over five weeks for supposed treason. Officials say that some of Hichilema's foreign backers have also been lobbying on behalf of FQM.

AFRICA/FRANCE: President Macron draws Germany closer in anti-terror alliance
In a strong statement about his commitment to fighting terrorism, France's new President, Emmanuel Macron, flew to Mali on 19 May for talks with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and to meet the 1,600 French troops stationed there. Although one of the main impediments facing the United Nations and regional forces in Mali appears to be a failure of negotiations between the Bamako government and Tuareg nationalists, little of substance emerged about the discussions between the two presidents. Keïta's officials have been increasingly critical of French policy in the Sahel under Macron's predecessor François Hollande.

Macron made much of the need to speed up the tempo of the international military operation 'to secure the Sahel' – an area bigger than Europe. Greater collaboration with Germany in that anti-terror campaign would be critical, said Macron, which would be providing more advanced attack helicopters and armoured cars.

SOUTH AFRICA: What next after ANC rejects return of Zuma ally to run state power company?
After another daring round of appointments and subterranean moves against his opponents, President Jacob Zuma faces yet more tests this week with a key vote on his presidency at the National Executive Committee of the governing African National Congress. In past debates, Zuma has circled the wagons, drawn enough loyalists from his home province of kwaZulu-Natal and from the so-called premier league of provincial premiers to see off any serious threats.

Last month, an attempt to sanction Zuma for his sacking of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan at the ANC's National Working Committee ended in ignominy for some of his main foes as they publicly withdrew their criticism. Since then sentiment in the ANC has moved further against Zuma.
A key point of contention has been the state power utility Eskom's decision to reappoint Brian Molefe, a Zuma ally, as its chief executive. Molefe resigned from the post last year after a report by the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, suggested the close relations between Molefe and the Guptas had a hugely negative effect on Eskom's policy-making and finances.

Several senior ANC officials have called on Zuma to reverse Molefe's reappointment and the issue looks certain to be raised at the NEC. On 21 May, Vice-President Cyril Ramaphosa made a strident call for the ANC to stop South Africa being turned into a mafia state. He also called for a judicial inquiry to investigate Madonsela's reports on the influence of private business interests on the Zuma presidency.

EGYPT/UNITED STATES: Mutual admiration society on the Trump-Sisi axis
On the first foreign tour of his presidency, Donald Trump lavished praise on Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el Sisi after a meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Telling journalists that 'safety seems to be very strong in Egypt', Trump said that he has been having 'very important talks' with President el Sisi. He also admired El Sisi's shiny black shoes.

In turn El Sisi described Trump as a 'unique personality capable of doing the impossible'. Trump shot back, 'I agree.' Last November, El Sisi was the first foreign leader to congratulate Trump on his election victory. The two men shored up US-Egypt government relations, lubricated by $1.4 bn. a year in military aid and a common opposition to militant Islamist groups in the region. There is some speculation that Trump will support Egypt's role in neighbouring Libya, where El Sisi backs the hardline nationalist leader Khalifa Haftar. But no details emerged of any policy  change.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

UN's new Africa economy chief to open international financial parley

This week we start in Addis Ababa for an international conference on development finance. And then to Côte d'Ivoire where the government is insisting the army mutiny is over. In South Africa, the African National Congress is divided over the reappointment of Brian Molefe, a presidential ally, to run the national power company. There are signs of scepticism about Western policy on Somalia as well as doubts about the ability of the new government there to deliver. Finally, Nigerian officials are to resume negotiations this week with representatives of Boko Haram to free more of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls.

AFRICA/UNITED NATIONS: UN's new Africa economy chief to open international financial parley
Vera Songwe, the highly-regarded new executive secretary of the UN's Economic Commission for Africa, will preside over the continent's biggest financing conference, the Africa Regional Forum, in Addis Ababa, which starts tomorrow (17 May). Its aim is to finalise the continent's strategy and list of priorities ahead of the UN's High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development in September, which is to be attended by over 180 governments and funding agencies.

The starting point for the discussions in Addis Ababa will be growing inequality across Africa and the failure of its economies to generate more jobs after a decade of economic growth averaging 5%. Songwe has said one of her main concerns will be policies and projects that work for the more than 70% of Africans currently dependent on seasonal, rain-fed agriculture.

After the forum ends, many of the delegates will travel to Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India where the African Development Bank is holding its annual meeting this year on 22-25 May.

SOUTH AFRICA: Molefe returns to Eskom as Zuma tries to keep Russian nuclear deal on track
African National Congress dissidents and anti-corruption activists are railing against Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown's reappointment of Brian Molefe as chief executive officer of Eskom. A group of senior figures in the party have called on Brown to reverse the decision immediately.

Molefe resigned as head of Eskom last November after a report by the office of the Public Protector, an official anti-corruption body, found mismanagement and fraud at the highest level in the company. It also pointed to the heavy influence of the Gupta family, business associates of President Jacob Zuma, on Molefe. In particular, it found that Molefe didn't follow company's rules when awarding a lucrative coal supply contract to the Guptas.

Last month, the High Court in the Western Cape ordered Eskom to abandon a planned US$70 billion deal with Russia to build nuclear power stations because parliament had not been consulted. The government said it won't appeal against the ruling but it will reopen negotiations with Russian nuclear power companies. Overseeing those talks would be one of Molefe's first tasks if he stays in the job.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Mutineers deny minister's claim of a deal on pay arrears
There are doubts about government claims of a deal over soldiers' pay after mutineers insisted early today (16 May) that they would continue with the protests which have shut down the commercial capital Abidjan and the northern town of Bouaké in the north since the end of last week.

The rebel soldiers, who fought for President Alassane Ouattara during his confrontation with ex-President Laurent Gbagbo, had been offered bonuses of CFA12 million (US$20,000) after protests in January. But most of them have received just CFA5 mn. because the state treasury has been hit by the precipitate fall in revenues from cocoa exports.

AFRICA/UNITED STATES: Washington's new Africa policy chief to face critics over Somalia policy shift
One of the first tasks facing Peter Pham, who we understand has been appointed Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, will be to explain President Donald Trump's more militarised policy, which has removed some safeguards designed to keep civilian casualties to a minimum.

Critics say the new rules enable US officers to kill Somalis 'perceived' as terrorists but without clear information that they specifically threaten Americans and this targeting would permit the killing of civilian bystanders if deemed 'necessary and proportionate'.

Coming alongside the Trump administration's plans to cut budgets in the US Agency for International Development, which has been financing urgent drought and famine relief, there are concerns the new policy will exacerbate Somalia's crisis. Critics add that the combination of higher risks to civilians from military attacks and worsening social conditions is likely to strengthen Al Shabaab's position.

SOMALIA/BRITAIN: Grave doubts despite promises over money and military at London conference
One of British Prime Minister Theresa May's few foreign policy outings was her opening of the latest London conference on Somalia on 11 May but despite the upbeat talk, the plans to defeat the insurgency in two years and deal with the effects of drought lacked credibility.

Critical shortages of food and water amid attacks by the Al Shabaab militia have driven over one million Somalis from their homes and another 600,000 into neighbouring countries. Somalia's new President Mohamed Abdullah Mohamed 'Farmajo' set out his goverment's National Security Plan which is to boost the strength of the national army to 18,000 and guarantee regular pay. Al Shabaab would be defeated within two years, insisted Farmajo, and the government would restart national reconciliation efforts.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson promised a boost in support for Farmajo's government but not the extra weaponry, including attack helicopters, requested by Somalia and its neighbours in the regional intervention force against Al Shabaab.

NIGERIA: Security services push ahead with Boko Haram talks to free more abducted schoolgirls
Fresh negotiations are due this week between Abuja's security officials and representatives of the Islamist militia Boko Haram to secure the release of more of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls. By most counts the militia still holds at least 150 of the girls.

Shehu Sani, a senator who has been involved in the negotiations, says the government had preferred to trade some of the militia's captured commanders for the release of the schoolgirls rather than pay ransoms. Some government officials believe the latest round of negotiations could broaden out to other matters. Security conditions in north-eastern Nigeria remain precarious.

Getting aid to the estimated 4.7 million Nigerians in the area who are desperately in need of food and water has been complicated by military threats and bureaucracy, according to United Nations officials. Aid organisations there say they will run out of money by the end of June unless donors honour the pledges they made at a special conference in Oslo in February.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Cyberwar goes to the polls

Data-mining is coming to an African election near you. President Uhuru Kenyatta's re-election campaign has contracted Cambridge Analytica, the data company widely credited with having swung last year's United States' presidential poll for Donald Trump and Britain's European Union referendum for 'Leave' with its digital targeting campaigns on social media.

Owned by American Robert Mercer, a billionaire hedge fund owner and biggest donor to the Trump campaign, Cambridge Analytica paid Facebook and other third-party data companies for information about potential voters in the USA and Britain. It then bombarded voters with social media posts, adverts and news snippets of varying degrees of veracity. In Kenya, where internet and Facebook use is high, such tactics would hugely help the Jubilee party.

In countries such as Russia, Iran and Moldova, Cambridge Analytica's operations have proved highly successful. With some staff drawn from military intelligence, it is also expert in psychological warfare. The spectre of a highly secretive data mining company using such techniques is raising serious concern among Kenyan activists. They point out that wounds have barely healed from the 2007 post-election violence. Electoral regulations are yet to catch up with the data-mining age: a new report describes Britain's electoral laws as 'weak and helpless' in the face of such cyber techniques. The same would apply in Kenya.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

FRANCE/AFRICA: President-elect Emmanuel Macron set to fly to Mali in first Africa trip after inauguration

This week we start with the celebrations greeting the newly-elected President of France and look at some implications for Africa. Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari is back in London for more medical treatment as his deputy puts the finishing touches on this year's budget and a couple of security deals. Another tough few weeks face South Africa's President Jacob Zuma as his support dwindles and he prepares for a no-confidence motion in parliament. Algeria's parliamentary elections have done little to settle the country's biggest economic and political questions. Finally, a new cooperation pact on cocoa between Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire could offer some ideas to Africa's hard-pressed commodity producers.

FRANCE/AFRICA: President-elect Emmanuel Macron set to fly to Mali in first Africa trip after inaugurationAlthough the technocrat and political centrist Emmanuel Macron, who won 66% of the votes in France's presidential elections on Sunday (7 May), will focus heavily on economic restructuring at home and reforming the European Union his government is set to make some shifts in Africa policy. Expect to see further efforts to shut down the old Françafrique networks – which had sustained the Gaullist and Socialist political parties – if Macron's En Marche party wins substantial support in next month's parliamentary elections.

One of the candidates that Macron is considering as Prime Minister is Pascal Lamy, the former director general of the World Trade Organisation, who takes a keen interest in African economic development. Lamy is on the board of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, set up by the Sudanese telecoms billionaire, in London.

Macron's first port of call in Africa is likely to be Mali, where a French military contingent is working alongside United Nations peacekeepers in one of the most dangerous international missions. Last week, a group of insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades into a UN camp on the outskirts of Timbuktu, killing about five soldiers.

An early priority for Macron's team will be to improve relations between Paris and President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta's government in Bamako. Security specialists in Paris say the Keïta government's policies in Mali's northern regions have been sending recruits into the arms of the jihadists.

Macron may also choose to work more closely with Algeria, which remains a key player in Sahelian security matters. Earlier this year, Macron went to Algiers and had some substantive discussions Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra.

Macron's other significant African interest is Nigeria where he worked as an intern in the French Embassy about 16 years ago. A French businessman told Africa Confidential that Macron had turned down a job in the United States for a temporary post in Nigeria on the basis that its mixture of cultures, religious faiths, and oil-fired politics would tell him more about new global trends than a stint in Washington DC. Friends joke that Macron speaks English with a uniquely French-Nigerian accent.

Macron is still fondly remembered by some Lagosians, we are told, some of whom have closely followed the latest step in his career after he launched his new political movement just a year ago. At Macron's victory party at the Louvre museum in Paris, his African credentials were further burnished when the Ivorian band Magic System, which pioneered the Zouglou sound, topped the list of artists entertaining the crowds.

NIGERIA: New security strategy emerges as President Buhari returns to London for more treatmentTwo big security initiatives – one in the Niger Delta and the other with the Boko Haram militia in the north-east – are taking shape as President Buhari receives yet more medical treatment in London. Officials didn't release any further information about the nature of his ailments or the expected length of his stay in London, but Buhari has notified the National Assembly that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo will take over again as acting President in what is set to be a busy period, with negotiations over the 2017 budget, new financing arrangements, and some important changes in security policy.
The government's latest deal with Boko Haram, announced just before Buhari's departure for London last Sunday (7 May), secured the release of 82 of the 200 Chibok schoolgirls abducted three years ago in return for the release of some militants detained by the army.

About 20 of the Chibok schoolgirls were released last October in a deal organised by the Red Cross. President Buhari has confirmed that his government is talking to Boko Haram about the release of all the abductees but officials won't give details.

Boko Haram has been pushed out of much of the territory it controlled in north-east Nigeria since Buhari took over, but remains a powerful threat in the area, launching cross-border suicide bombing missions from north-western Cameroon.

The government is also changing its policy in the Niger Delta, tripling its budget for the amnesty programme for former militants to 30 billion naira (US$95 million) for this year, with a further N5 bn. in prospect. Initially, the Buhari government's plan was to wind down the Niger Delta amnesty, replacing it with a more wide-ranging development strategy for the region. But the government's priority now is oil production. Militant attacks had cut it to 1.2 million barrels a day last year amid concerns that the amnesty programme was going to be stopped and militant leaders would be arrested. This year, under the direction of Vice-President Osinbajo, a new policy of dialogue with local groups in the Delta appears to be bearing fruit, although six soldiers were killed in clashes with militants in Ondo state, west of the Niger Delta, last weekend. The military said the soldiers were breaking up gangs involved in stealing oil and kidnappings but the Ijaw Youth Council, one of the key groups in the Delta, said the violence was the result of local resistance to the army acting an occupying force.

SOUTH AFRICA: New court challenge to President Zuma ahead of confidence voteIt has been an exceptionally bad week for President Jacob Zuma as he prepares for another motion of no confidence in parliament. It threatens to be the closest yet. He was chased from yet another public meeting, at Vuwani, Limpopo province on Sunday (7 May). Also, he must shortly respond to a North Gauteng High Court demand that he explain why he sacked Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
Initially, Zuma claimed he was acting on an intelligence report that Gordhan and his Deputy Mcebisi Jonas were plotting against the government. Once these reports were discredited by top African National Congress figures, Zuma then claimed he had sacked Gordhan to inject 'young blood' into the government. Since Gordhan's departure, three international ratings agencies have downgraded South Africa's credit status, which is likely to prompt further capital outflows.

ALGERIA: Small election win for FLN doesn't allay fears over oil cash and ailing President BouteflikaThe governing Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) can take little solace from the results of the parliamentary election on 4 May. The FLN's strength in the 462-seat Assemblée Nationale is down to 164 from 221 seats in the elections five years ago. Turnout at 38.25%, down from 43% in 2012, was one of the lowest ever in Algerian elections, although the real figure is believed to be far lower, reflecting widespread alienation from the mainstream political process. Indeed, many believe that political change – when it comes – is likely to be led by the military or the powerful security services.
The biggest party in a very divided opposition, the Rassemblement national démocratique (RND) won 97 seats, up from 70 in the last election. A coalition of Islamist parties won 30 seats.

GHANA/COTE D'IVOIRE: New plan to tackle fall-out from cocoa crashNeighbours Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire are discussing a common response to the 40% crash in cocoa bean prices over the past year. Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana are respectively the world's biggest and second-biggest cocoa bean producers. Their governments' discussion on joint investments to process more beans locally and create economies of scale have been helped by good personal relations between President Alassane Ouattara and Ghana's new President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo. They are asking the African Development Bank to draw up plans to boost regional capacity to process cocoa, and boost to the local manufacture of chocolate.

They are also discussing ways to coordinate production and marketing; last year Ouattara joked that what Africa needed was a 'Chocpec', which like the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries would coordinate production levels among member states. The possibility of such coordination among producers outside Africa looks remote.

One of the main problems for Africa's cocoa producers has been the high volume but low-quality cocoa producers of countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, which sell into the expanding Asian market.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

SOUTH AFRICA: President Zuma chased from May Day rally as no-confidence vote looms

It was a harsh May Day for South Africa's beleaguered President Jacob Zuma, who was chased off the podium by an angry crowd in the Free State. From the UN in New York, there are signs of movement in the deadlocked Western Sahara dispute. In Zambia, President Edgar Lungu faces a raft of political and economic problems. The still ailing President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja hopes to push his budget through the National Assembly this week. Finally, the formal end of the search for Uganda's veteran warlord Joseph Kony raises major questions about responsibility for the more than 100,000 killed in this brutal conflict.

SOUTH AFRICA: President Zuma chased from May Day rally as no-confidence vote looms
Another humiliation has hit President Jacob Zuma at a May Day rally just days before he is due to face a motion of no-confidence in parliament. After an angry crowd booed and heckled Zuma at a Congress of South African Trades Unions (Cosatu) rally in Bloemfontein, he and his entourage were rushed from the stage before he could speak. Zuma's key allies – parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete and deputy Secretary General of the African National Congress, Jesse Duarte, were also booed off May Day podiums in Durban and Limpopo.

It was especially humiliating that Zuma should suffer this blow in Bloemfontein, capital of the Free State, which is meant to be one of his strongest areas of support outside KwaZulu-Natal. As a sign of Zuma's falling popularity, the debacle in Bloemfontein is far more significant than the mass public rallies against him in the major cities last month.

Zuma's latest setback follows the South African Communist Party's and Cosatu's call for his immediate resignation. As Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is ramping up his campaign for the ANC Presidency, another party veteran, Matthews Phosa, has announced his candidacy for the post. We also hear that support is building for a bid for the presidency by Lindiwe Sisulu, daughter of the late, much-revered, Walter Sisulu, a long-time friend of Nelson Mandela.

Meanwhile, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma's ex-wife and his preferred candidate to succeed him, has disappeared from public view. Zuma's granting of a state security detail and government vehicles to her – apparently on security grounds – has been criticised as an abuse of state resources.

WESTERN SAHARA/MOROCCO: Fresh talks over the conflict are likely after UN extends mission there
Hopes for a fresh round of negotiations between the Polisario Front and Morocco are looking up after the UN Security Council passed a resolution on 28 April extending the UN peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara for another year. The cleverly-crafted resolution refers both to Polisario's proposal, a referendum on the status of the territory, and Rabat's, which is to grant it political autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.

The new Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres, last month called for the two sides to reopen talks. There has been no serious movement on the crisis since 1991, but Morocco's withdrawal of forces from a buffer zone and Polisario's matching pullback of fighters last week is a positive sign. A statement from Algeria's Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra backing the UN resolution also augurs well. Algeria has been the principal backer of Polisario. The issue has caused a cold war between Algiers and Rabat for three decades.

ZAMBIA: Opposition leader's detention continues as the IMF is due in Lusaka for difficult talks
Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND), remains in custody and is expected to appear in court again on Thursday (4 May) while prosecutors work on the charge of treason against him. Hichilema was arrested on 11 April after his motorcade clashed with President Edgar Lungu's en route to a Lozi traditional ceremony three days before.
Lungu claims he wants to let ‘the law take its course' although he is widely believed to have inspired the prosecution. The controversy complicates the already difficult negotiations between the government and the International Monetary Fund over a US$1.6 billion loan.

Finance Minister Felix Mutati says the government needs the funds to bolster foreign reserves which have shrunk following an expensive election campaign last year, ballooning budget deficits and undulating prices for the country's copper and cobalt exports. The economy is growing at its lowest rate since 1998.

NIGERIA: National Assembly to debate record $23 billion budget after government liberalises forex rules
The 2017 budget – which plans record spending of N23 trillion (US$23 billion) – could be approved this week by the National Assembly after a tortuous review which was almost derailed when police raided the home of Senator Danjuma Goje, chairman of the Appropriations Committee last week. Goje is subject of a corruption investigation, which he says has been orchestrated by his enemies. The budget includes plans to borrow $7 billion from China's Eximbank, the African Development Bank and the World Bank over the next year.

Relations between the Senate and the presidency oscillate between very difficult and utterly poisonous. The Senate has rejected several government nominations in recent months, the most important being its candidate to chair the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu. The presidency won't back down, so Magu is likely to remain acting chairman of the EFCC for the remainder of Buhari's presidency. The fact that Magu has been investigating several top politicians, including Senate President Bukola Saraki, has not endeared him to powerful members of the National Assembly.

Ahead of the budget debate, the government has announced a new foreign exchange regime. It is another partial liberalisation of exchange controls through a complex system of new rules. Known as the Investors' and Exporters' FX window, it should allow traders more access to foreign exchange at competitive prices through the official market. Central bank governor Godwin Emefiele thinks the new system will bring enough dollars in to the system without forcing a full-scale devaluation, and all its inflationary consequences.

It should work like this: each morning, authorised foreign exchange dealers are to submit bids through a system backed by the central bank known as the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Rate Fixing (Nafex). Then, at midday, the trading exchange rate would be announced for the day. That would be the benchmark for all future trading contracts agreed that day.

For now, the formal exchange rate would stay at US$1=N315, and the central bank would release foreign exchange at that highly preferential rate for specific transactions. The lack of transparency from the central bank over who gets access to foreign exchange at that rate suggests to some analysts that it could be open to major abuse.

UGANDA: The US abandons the hunt for warlord Joseph Kony in face of President Museveni's indifference
This month, the mission to capture veteran warlord Joseph Kony is effectively being called off. The United States is to speed up the withdrawal of the 250 Special Forces troops and Air Force personnel it had deployed to hunt for Kony, after reportedly spending US$780 million on the mission, according to security experts AC Vol 58 No 9, Concealing disappointment). Uganda has long given up any serious effort to find and arrest Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army.

Set up as a rebel force in the late 1980s in northern Uganda, the LRA has murdered over 100,000 civilians and abducted tens of thousands of people. At first, President Yoweri Museveni prosecuted the war against Kony and the LRA vigorously, and he became one of the strongest advocates for the International Criminal Court, whose help he wanted in capturing Kony.

Ugandan oppositionists dismissed all this as posturing and lambasted Museveni for using the war on Kony to gain credibility in the West. They argued that Museveni's forces were subjugating northern Ugandans, including holding hundreds of thousands of civilians in appalling conditions in camps 'for their own protection', and had no interest in pursuing the LRA.

By the early 1990s, Kony became a regional threat after the government of Sudan gave him arms, money and training to create mayhem in southern Sudan and the region. It was then that an unwieldy coalition of local and international non-government organisations joined with regional and western militaries to pursue Kony. Neither Kony, nor his backers in Khartoum and elsewhere, have been brought to account let alone faced any sanction for their murderous campaign.

The sole LRA fighter to be put on trial at the ICC in the Hague is Dominic Ongwen, a lieutenant of Kony's and former child soldier. This abandoning of the hunt for Kony, together with the lack of any restitution for the victims of the long war in northern Uganda, means its bitter aftermath will haunt the country for years to come.