Monday, 5 June 2017

After global protests over Washington's withdrawal from the Paris climate treaty, how will Africa react?

We start with the aftermath of the United States' withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and its implications for Africa. Then we go to Morocco, where protests are spreading. In South Africa, the relentless drip of information and claims about President Jacob Zuma's relations with the Gupta family continues while there are some glimmers of positive economic news in Nigeria. Finally, there's more news on the prospects for testing negotiations between Tanzanian President John Magufuli's team and the country's biggest gold miner.

AFRICA/UNITED STATES: After global protests over Washington's withdrawal from the Paris climate treaty, how will Africa react?European and Asian countries responded quickly and critically to US President Donald Trump's pull-out from the 2015 climate treaty on 2 June but the African response has been muted so far. This is despite the fact that seven of the ten countries most damaged by global warming are in Africa.
Africa produces just 3.8% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from its oil and coal industries. This compares with China's production of 23% emissions, while the US produces 19%. China now leads the global solar power industry in terms of units produced and is matching the US research effort. Africa is a key market for solar power projects from both Chinese and US companies – regardless of the politics over the Paris deal.

Some African politicians say discreet lobbying to persuade the USA to contribute to the proposed US$100 billion climate change adaptation fund would be of more use than joining the public criticism of the Trump government over its pull-out from the COP22 treaty. They say that they could get backing from US green energy companies.

Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, has called for much more determined action by African governments to promote the continent's 'Energy for all' campaign which aims for a 'low carbon' transition to a power sector that provides economical and sustainable electricity for most of the continent. With its 1.1 billion people and the fast rising demand for power, Africa's plans for a green electricity industry should become a showcase for the Paris accords, says Annan.

But little of the climate adaptation funding has been released to Africa so far, says Annan. This is due mainly to a lack of integrated plans and policies for the rapid expansion of energy provision on the continent, he adds. Those countries that have pressed ahead with sustainable energy projects – such as Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Morocco and South Africa – are already bringing in substantial outside finance.

A big weakness is the paucity of regional and cross-border power projects, says Annan. Less than 8% of power is currently traded across borders in Africa. That, he argues, means a big boost to regional transmission lines, new power trading accords and a harmonisation of national grids.a
MOROCCO: Escalating street protests test King Mohammed VI's resolve a week after the arrest of dissident in El Hoceima.

The protestors are not going away in El Hoceima in the northern Rif region, a week after the arrest of activist Nasser Zefzafi. This dissident mobilisation, extremely rare in Morocco, represents a growing challenge to the new Prime Minister and the Makhzen, the royal establishment around King Mohammed VI.

It was the death of a fishmonger, Mouhcine Fikri, in clashes with security forces last October that triggered the latest round of mass protests in the area. Then the government stepped up security but made some concessions to local people.

Dissident leader Zefzafi and his allies have been lambasting the regional authorities for poor services and corruption. People were enraged when the government failed to address the complaints and instead sent in security forces to put down the protests and arrest Zefzafi. In neighbouring Imzouren, police fired water cannon to break up fresh protests.

SOUTH AFRICA: Deluge of leaked emails points to the huge influence of the Gupta businesses over President Zuma and his ministersA week ago, President Jacob Zuma survived yet another bid by the National Executive Committee of the governing African National Congress (ANC) to sack him over his family's ties to the Gupta family's conglomerates. This week, the campaign to oust him continues, with the release of some 200,000 emails from the Guptas' companies purporting to show their influence on Zuma and other top politicians.

This deluge of secret emails from the company, uncovered by the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism and the Daily Maverick, adds more weight to claims of impropriety at the highest levels of government. The Johannesburg Sunday Times, one of the best-selling papers in the country, says it has evidence that the Gupta family has bought Zuma a US$25 million mansion in the United Arab Emirates. It said the story had been corroborated by local business people and senior officials in the ANC.

It follows allegations last week that the Guptas were arranging UAE nationality for the Zuma family. This claim about the Dubai mansion elicited a rare response from the Presidency, which comprehensively denied the allegation, insisting that Zuma owns no properties outside South Africa. But the ANC has called for an investigation into the credibility and origins of the leaked emails.
All of this material could become legally important if the call for a judicial probe into relations between the Guptas and government officials is heeded. The Public Protector, the country's top anti-corruption body, demanded the probe but Zuma has challenged the proposal in court. He may be fighting a losing battle. Although the NEC declined to debate a call for his removal, it agreed that there should be a judicial enquiry into links between the Guptas and his family and senior officials.

NIGERIA: New data signals some economic respite as President extends London medical tripVice-President Yemi Osinbajo is making halting progress on the economic front while President Muhammadu Buhari stays on in London for medical attention. At the end of May, the National Assembly passed the 2017 budget, after long delays, and the Senate passed a new version of the Petroleum Industry Bill. After Nigeria's share index rose 12% over the past month, local bankers forecast that it could be the start of a stronger recovery.

The next key step is for the Presidency to sign the budget and trigger the distribution of ministerial and state allocations. It's unclear whether Osinbajo will do so this week or wait until Buhari's return. Meanwhile, the National Statistics Agency is due to release key figures on exports, imports and unemployment on 6 June which should give a clearer picture of economic progress.

TANZANIA: Mining company talks with top government officials will wait for report on second presidential probeCritical negotiations between Acacia Mining, majority owned by Barrick Gold, and top state officials over tax levels, royalties and local processing will not start before the release of a second presidential report into the industry. The first presidential report accused Acacia of massively under-declaring its production, a claim that pushed down the value of its shares by 30%. Due to the robust resource nationalist position of President John Magufuli, the dispute with Acacia has taken on strong political overtones.

Officials at Acacia, led by its Chief Executive Officer Brad Gordon, met top government officials in Dar es Salaam last week and deny all wrongdoing. However, Gordon says the company is willing to discuss plans for increasing processing in the country and would finance a study in the commercial viability of establishing a local smelter plant. 

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