Learning the Lessons of Protests 

While the removal of long-term dictatorial leaders is undoubtedly a cause for celebration, it seems that protestors and opposition groups in Algeria and Sudan have learned lessons from the the removal of such leaders by the militaries and ruling parties of countries elsewhere on the continent. Unlike in Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe’s successor and one-time close ally – military darling Emmerson Mnangagwa – received almost a hero’s welcome from oppositionists, demonstrators in both Algeria and Sudan have maintained pressure on their interim leaders after changes in leadership. 

Protestors in both countries have rejected a simple military takeover and have remained on the streets, calling for genuine democratic reforms prior to any electoral process. It appears that demonstrators in these two countries have learned from mistakes elsewhere and this is especially evident in Sudan, where the phrase “either victory or Egypt” has become a popular slogan. This statement is a reference to the failure of the Arab Spring to bring about genuine long-term reforms in Egypt, where recent constitutional changes have enabled former military general turned President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to extend his presidency until 2030.

It is too early to tell whether the protestors and opposition groups in Algeria and Sudan will be successful, as both the Transitional Military Council (TMC) in Sudan and Algeria’s interim government are determined to protect the status-quo. Although the TMC recently agreed to form a joint-governing body with opposition groups, there is good reason to suspect that this will be used to manipulate demonstrators.

Either way, it appears that African opposition groups have learned from experiences elsewhere on the continent and, therefore, militaries and ruling parties will now be less able to quell demonstrations through simply removing a figurehead. The longevity of such pro-democracy protests is likely to increase across the continent and, if they do not lead to meaningful reforms, widespread and lasting unrest should be expected.

This article originally featured in Africa Integrity’s May 2019 Newsletter. To join our newsletter mailing list, please contact us.

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Britain Dances Around Relations with Africa

Africa Integrity finds it remarkable that five years elapsed between former prime minister David Cameron’s attendance at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in 2013 and prime minister Theresa May’s official visit to Africa in August this year. The most recent previous prime ministerial trade mission was in 2011. Quite apart from a tendency to treat the entire continent as one country, it is also striking how limited both leaders have been in their continental ambitions. In 2011, Cameron had intended to spend five days on the continent, visiting South Africa, Nigeria, Rwanda and the then-newly formed South Sudan.  In the event, he cut the visit to just two days and then slashed that paltry window of time by seven hours to return home for domestic political reasons.  He managed to make flying visits only to South Africa and Nigeria, both pretty obvious destinations that already enjoy reasonably cordial trade relations with Britain.

In August, Theresa May did slightly better, calling again on South Africa and Nigeria, and adding Kenya to her itinerary, where she showed off her dance moves and extolled a bright trading future between Britain and Africa.  If this is what she intends, her actions don’t match her rhetoric. A whirlwind tour of the three anglophone giants among the African economies is simply not good enough.  Where is the engagement with francophone economies, some of which (such as Rwanda and Gabon) have made symbolic overtures to the UK by bringing the English language to the centre of their political and commercial spheres? Why are Britain’s diplomats and politicians hesitant to engage meaningfully with the francophone bloc, which – with its currencies tied to the Euro – is increasingly keen to break free of the constraints put on it by the European Central Bank and reduce its dependency on the former colonial power?

Where is the engagement with Angola, an oil-economy to rival Nigeria that has recently embarked on an exciting new post-dos Santos era?  Why did Zimbabwe, historically so close to the UK and now struggling to free itself from the mire of the Mugabe-era, not merit a supportive visit?  And, as for South Sudan – which so badly needs friends in the west – and Somaliland – which wishes to establish itself as independent from Somalia – they might as well not exist.

Africa is a mighty continent, with a young, generally well-educated population that is as hungry for political change as it is for consumer goods. Whether or not Brexit is the right choice for Britain, it is looming large.  And, in Africa Integrity’s experience, many Africans embrace Brexit. They see opportunities for post-Brexit Britain to adopt a more inclusive global immigration policy.  And they are optimistic about the advantages that potentially freer trade with Britain – still held in such high regard and affection by many Africans – will bring.  The youth of Africa no longer see themselves as supplicants for aid but as potential partners to a more globally-orientated Britain after its departure from the EU.  The response from Britain’s political leaders to date has been woefully inadequate, if not insultingly dismissive, and will only weaken its relationship with the continent as other international players increase their engagement.

This article originally featured in Africa Integrity’s October 2018 Newsletter. To join our newsletter mailing list, please contact us.

Bridging Nations

On 21st March 2018, 44 African heads of state signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which seeks to remove tariffs on 90 percent of continental trade. For many years, experts have recognised that increasing intra-African trade is key to economic development; however, this has been hindered, not only by tariffs, but also by Africa’s infrastructure deficit. Nevertheless, there are recent encouraging signs of improvement, particularly in the south and east, which should complement AfCFTA.

Infrastructure Deficit

In March 2018, the Export-Import Bank of India claimed in a study that inadequate transport infrastructure adds 30 to 40 percent to the cost of goods traded among African countries. In May 2017, the African Development Bank (AfDB) claimed in a report that, although intra-African trade has increased, transport and communication infrastructure is less developed between countries on the continent than it is between Africa and the rest of the world. Given this situation, it is unsurprising that intra-African trade continues to struggle.

However, there are signs of change. In Southern and Eastern Africa there are many transport infrastructure projects in development, seeking to build economic (as well as literal) bridges between nations and open the interior to international trade.

Port Expansion

International trade in Southern and Eastern Africa has been through a small number of ports, many of them in need of development. In the past year, improvements have started to be made. In July 2017, the World Bank approved a $345 million loan for the expansion of the Port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and in October 2017, it was announced that the Japanese government would provide a loan worth close to $350 million for the second phase of expansion at the Port of Mombasa in Kenya. Even Africa’s largest and most developed port – the Port of Durban in South Africa – commenced an upgrade and expansion project in 2017.

There has also been a growing number of rehabilitation projects at undeveloped ports along the eastern seaboard. Nacala in northern Mozambique, the mega-port at Bagamoyo in Tanzania and Berbera in Somaliland are three examples of such projects. These projects are vital to landlocked countries, which are often over-reliant on a specific transport route for exports. For example, nearly 95 percent of Ethiopia’s foreign trade is through the Port of Djibouti; a dependency that should be alleviated by rehabilitation of the Port of Berbera.

Opening the Interior

It is recognised that developments on the coast must be matched by infrastructure projects inland. The development of the Port of Nacala is part of a wider Nacala Corridor project, which includes a railway line to link north western Mozambique and Malawi to the coast. There are plans for this line to be extended into Zambia. Similarly, the expansion of the Port of Mombasa was preceded by the development of a new railway between Mombasa and Nairobi. This railway is part of an ambitious East African Railway Network, which will link Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. The second phase is currently under construction and the line should reach Uganda’s border by 2021.

Rail and Road Regeneration

In recent years, there has been investment in railway infrastructure across Southern and Eastern Africa which not only links the interior to ports but also facilitates intra-African trade. Projects in the region include: Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway between Ethiopia and Djibouti; Tazara Railway between Zambia and Tanzania; Lobito-Luau Railway between Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); and Trans-Kalahari Railway between Namibia and Botswana. While such projects have progressed at different paces, governments in the region have at least acknowledged the importance of modernising railway infrastructure: an important step to increasing intra-African trade.

There has also been increased investment in road infrastructure. The LAPSSET Corridor project in Kenya seeks to strengthen transport links between Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan. Although this project’s progress has been sluggish, new highways have greatly reduced travel time between Nairobi and the Ethiopian border, suggesting strong potential for the rest of the project. Another example of reducing travel time through improved road infrastructure is the Kazungula Bridge, which is set to be completed by March 2019. The road and rail bridge will link Zambia and Botswana and create a one-stop border post between the two countries. It is estimated that this will reduce the time crossing the border from 30 hours to 6 hours. This will greatly improve transport along the North-South Corridor from the Port of Durban to the Copperbelt in the DRC and Zambia. Zimbabwe also joined the Kazungula Bridge project in March 2018. Although there are concerns that it could divert business away from Zimbabwe, the country’s road network will be linked to the project and it may encourage the government to upgrade its current road infrastructure to remain competitive.

Foundation for the Future

While many of the transport infrastructure projects in Southern and Eastern Africa have been slow-moving and have suffered from bureaucratic inefficiency, and in some instances corruption, improvements are evidently being made. This will not only open the interior to a growing number of international ports, but also increase intra-African trade. While established sectors such as mining will be the primary beneficiaries in the short-term, it should also contribute to the development of a range of sectors in the medium to long-term. Such development will be aided by the AfCFTA, which, although still to be ratified by each country’s government and lacking the support of important economies like Nigeria, will further reduce barriers to intra-African trade. The combination of the AfCFTA and improvements to transport infrastructure in Southern and Eastern Africa is providing a strong foundation for local economies.  This will doubtless present a range of investment opportunities in the coming years.

This article originally featured in Africa Integrity’s April 2018 Newsletter. To join our newsletter mailing list, please contact us.

A Look Ahead to March 2018

A Three Horse Race in Sierra Leone

On 7th March 2018, Sierra Leone will go to the polls to vote for the country’s next president. The incumbent – Ernest Bai Koroma – of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) is standing down after serving two terms, in line with the country’s constitution. Although he will no longer serve as president, sources from within the APC have informed Africa Integrity that Koroma wants to continue to influence the new administration, if the APC are victorious. This is illustrated by both his role in the selection of the APC’s presidential candidate and his desire to continue as chairman of the party. Although the party’s candidate was meant to be chosen through a democratic process, Koroma unilaterally selected the Minister of Foreign Affairs – Samura Kamara – as the APC’s candidate. Thus, it seems that, if Kamara wins, he will maintain the status quo and it is likely that Koroma will continue to govern from behind the scenes.

Kamara will face 15 candidates from other parties in the election, but only two are likely to pose real competition. These are Julius Maada Bio from the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), who also ran in 2012, and Kandeh Yumkella from the newly formed National Grand Coalition (NGC). Outside of military rule, Sierra Leonean politics has been dominated by the APC and SLPP. However, since Yumkella left the SLPP in September 2017 and formed the NGC, there are indications that this is starting to change. He has shown himself to be a very popular candidate in urban Sierra Leone, particularly in Freetown, where he has been drawing large crowds of supporters. The APC are evidently concerned about the threat posed by Yumkella and have petitioned the Supreme Court to bar him from taking part in the election because of his previous dual citizenship. This attempt has already been dismissed by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and it is likely that the Supreme Court will follow suit. Although it is unlikely that Yumkella will be able to win the election outright, due to the established bases of the APC and SLPP, by turning the election into a three-horse race, it is highly likely that it will go to a run-off. In such a scenario, Yumkella will be an in a very influential position.

While there have been some instances of political violence during the campaign, these have tended to be isolated and there is not a significant threat of unrest. Importantly, the NEC is considered an independent organisation and the country’s recent elections have all been deemed credible. However, this is the first election since the departure of the UN Mission in 2014 and, given the APC’s attempt to prevent Yumkella from standing, if it goes to a run-off, political tensions will be very high, which could cause isolated instances of unrest and violence.

Time’s up for Zimbabweans on Mnangagwa’s Name and Shame List

In late November 2017, Zimbabwe’s new president – Emmerson Mnangagwa – declared an amnesty for individuals and companies involved in the misappropriation of public funds and the illegal externalisation of this money. He stated that “The government of Zimbabwe is gazetting a three-month moratorium within which those involved in the malpractice can bring back the funds and assets, with no questions being asked or charges preferred against them”. However, he said that “upon expiry of the three-month window, the government will proceed to effect arrest of all those who would not have complied with this directive and will ensure that they are prosecuted in terms of the country’s laws”. At a Zanu-PF Central Committee meeting in December 2017, Mnangagwa added that “I have a list of who took money out. So, in March when the period expires, those who would not have heeded my moratorium I will name and shame them”. Consequently, it appears that time is up for those on Mnangagwa’s “list”. Although such an anti-corruption initiative will have a positive effect, given Mnangagwa’s chequered past, it seems unlikely that this will be a comprehensive initiative. Rather, there is a strong possibility that Mnangagwa will use this opportunity to damage the reputations of potential adversaries, particularly within Zanu-PF, ahead of this year’s election.

Sissi Set for Another Victory in Egypt

On 26th March 2018, Egypt will hold its second presidential election since the 2013 coup, which removed the country’s first democratically elected president – Mohamed Morsi. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who secured over 95 percent of the vote in 2014, is the favourite to win the election and will face only one contender – Moussa Mostafa Moussa – the leader of the El-Ghad Party. Although a number of candidates intended to run against Sissi, Moussa was the only one to officially submit his candidacy. Many of the other candidates were forced to drop out of the race due to threats from the government, and some were even arrested. Consequently, the remaining opposition candidates declared a boycott of the election. Despite proclaiming that he “will not be a background actor”, most oppositionists do not consider Moussa a genuine candidate because of his support of Sissi. Rather, he is seen as merely standing in order to provide an air of legitimacy to the election.

The government has been heavily criticised for its treatment of opposition candidates by human rights groups. It has been accused of exploiting its counterterrorism laws to stifle opposition activities and conduct arbitrary arrests. Such arrests are continuing to take place as Egypt’s Prosecutor General has called for investigations into the parties boycotting the election. Interestingly, those prevented from running in the election included senior military figures, such as retired Lieutenant General Sami Hafez Anan, who was arrested after announcing his intention to stand, and Colonel Ahmed Konsowa, who was sentenced to six years of imprisonment for expressing political opinions as a serving officer. This restriction of Egypt’s democratic space, alongside the persecution of senior military figures, has the potential to cause problems for Sissi in the medium term, as groups are increasingly likely to reject the democratic process as a means of expressing political opinion.

While there is no doubt that Sissi will win this month’s election, the tactics adopted by the government and security services, although effective in impeding the opposition in the short-term, could create serious problems going forward. As the government struggles to reduce the growing terrorism threat emanating from the Sinai region, pressure on Sissi will increase during his second term, which could lead to unrest and political instability.

Gulf Politics Intensifies Regional Tensions

As different countries seek to exert influence in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, political divisions of the Middle Eastern Gulf are being played out along the coastline of North East Africa exacerbating regional tensions.

Djibouti No Longer Alone

Since the end of the Cold War, Djibouti has presented itself as an island of stability in a volatile region and has become a favoured destination for overseas military bases. The USA, France, Italy and even Japan have set up bases in the country. Additionally, Germany and Spain have troops stationed at France’s base. In 2017, these countries were joined by Saudi Arabia and China. While China has maintained that its base is primarily for supporting its peacekeeping and humanitarian missions, Saudi Arabia’s base is closely linked to its competition with Iran and its involvement in the current conflict in Yemen. Although Saudi Arabia and Djibouti have long been close allies, the establishment of a military base in the country has drawn the Horn of Africa closer to the conflict in Yemen and the wider power struggle in the Middle Eastern Gulf.

Moreover, it seems that Djibouti is no longer alone in providing leases for military bases in the region. In 2017, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) established a joint military base at the port of Assab in Eritrea, which has been used by the Saudi-led coalition in the conflict in Yemen. Subsequently, Eritrea has become an ally of Saudi Arabia and the UAE in their diplomatic dispute with Qatar. It appears that this base is part of the UAE’s wider strategy of commercial and military expansion in the Horn of Africa. The country already has a military facility in Somalia and it is set to complete a military base in the self-declared state of Somaliland in June 2018. This base is situated near the port of Berbera, where a UAE-based company – DP World Ltd – secured a 30-year concession to manage and develop the facility in September 2016. Similarly, another UAE-based company – P&O Ports Limited – secured a 30-year concession to develop and manage the port of Basaso in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in north eastern Somalia in April 2017. Given what happened in Somaliland, there are suspicions that another UAE military facility could be established in Puntland.

Nevertheless, investment in these ports should be beneficial to the local economy and could open up new trade corridors for landlocked countries such as Ethiopia, which are overly dependent on access to the Port of Djibouti. This has been anticipated by the government of Somaliland, which plans to construct a road from Berbera to the Ethiopian border and are reportedly in negotiations with the Ethiopian government over further investment in the port. Given Ethiopia’s position as the fastest growing economy in the region, this increased access to trade routes is likely to have a beneficial effect on local economies.

While Saudi Arabia and the UAE have established a foothold in the Horn of Africa, it appears that their rivals have gained ground further north. On 26th December 2017, it was announced that Turkey secured exclusive rights to the port island of Suakin from Sudan for the next 99 years. Turkey reportedly plans to restore the historically significant island, which, since the construction of the Port of Sudan in 1922, has been largely abandoned. Although Turkey have stated that the rehabilitation of Suakin is commercial in nature, the decision has raised concerns in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, who suspect that Suakin may serve a military purpose. This is unsurprising, given that Turkey has maintained relations with Iran and is a close ally of the embattled Qatar. Furthermore, only days after this announcement, Turkish, Qatari and Sudanese army chiefs met in Khartoum. While the details of this meeting are unknown, it increased the level of distrust in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where it has been alleged that Qatar funded the Suakin deal.

The Horn Engulfed

Consequently, there is a danger that the Horn of Africa will be increasingly drawn into the ongoing conflicts in the Middle Eastern Gulf, both diplomatically and militarily. Since the beginning of their dispute with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been applying pressure on countries in the region to either cut ties or downgrade diplomatic relations with Qatar. Thus far, Egypt, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somaliland have sided with the Saudi-UAE coalition, while Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan have remained somewhat neutral. However, each of these countries continue to face diplomatic pressure from both sides of the dispute.

This was especially evident during the presidential election in Somalia in February 2017, which was hampered by corruption allegations that were closely tied to the Middle Eastern Gulf dispute. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey were all accused of funding presidential candidates in Somalia to secure influence in the country. The winning candidate and now president – Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmajo’ Mohamed – reportedly received funding from Qatar. When this is combined with reports that Turkey has overtaken Somalia’s traditional aid donors and constructed its largest overseas military base in the country, it appears that Qatar and its allies now have the upper hand in Somalia.

Aside from the diplomatic dispute with Qatar, there is also a possibility that countries in the Horn of Africa could be drawn into the conflict in Yemen. On 24th December 2017, Houthi rebels released a video online in which a commander threatened Somaliland against continuing its lease agreement with the UAE. They reportedly stated that “if Somaliland does not heed the warning then we will fire ballistic missiles to Somaliland”. Although Houthi rebels have not yet attacked either Djibouti or Eritrea, despite their assistance to the Saudi-led coalition, given the proximity of the Horn of Africa to the conflict, this is a threat that could be acted upon, if the rebels altered their tactics.

Regional Battle Lines Drawn 

Nevertheless, the greatest concern for North East Africa is the effect this will have on regional tensions. In Somalia, the UAE’s decision to negotiate directly with the governments of Somaliland and Puntland could prove to be highly contentious. Despite its self-declared independence, neither Somaliland nor Puntland are recognised as independent countries and, consequently, there are questions regarding the legality of the UAE’s negotiations, which have already been raised by the government of Somalia. Given Somalia’s current security situation, it is unlikely that such questions will be addressed in the short-term; however, the continued vying for influence by Qatar, Turkey and the UAE in Somalia and Somaliland is only likely to deepen divisions and cause further problems for state building initiatives in the region.

Alongside Somalia, the vying for influence by Qatar and the Saudi-UAE coalition has put pressure on the relations between Eritrea and Djibouti. Although both Eritrea and Djibouti sided with the Saudi-UAE coalition, like most of the countries in the region, they have a disputed border. Qatar had been playing a key role in mediation between the two countries since 2010 and had peacekeepers stationed in the disputed regions – Dumeira Mountain and Dumeira Island. However, in response to Eritrea’s and Djibouti’s support for the Saudi-UAE coalition, Qatar withdrew its peacekeepers in June 2017, reigniting border tensions.

Beyond the Horn of Africa, the politics of the Middle Eastern Gulf has helped renew hostility between Egypt and Sudan. Turkey’s control of Suakin and the meeting between Sudanese, Qatari and Turkish military chiefs has raised serious misgivings in Egypt. While, as of the time of writing, the Egyptian government has stayed quiet about the matter, the pro-government press has condemned Sudan. It appears that, given the deterioration in relations between the two countries over the past year, Sudan’s Suakin policy is considered an offensive action focused on the disputed Hala’ib Triangle. Accordingly, it is likely that border tensions will increase, especially if Sudan develops closer military relations with Turkey.

This retrogression in the relations between Egypt and Sudan has wide-reaching implications for North East Africa. Currently, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia are trying to break a deadlock in negotiations regarding the Grand Renaissance Ethiopian Dam (GERD). Talks broke down in November 2017 and, at the time of writing, there is little indication that they will restart soon. This was illustrated by reports on 2nd January 2018, that Egypt wanted Sudan excluded from the talks, which were quickly denied by the Egyptian government. This is troubling as already 62 percent of GERD has been constructed and it is set to be completed by the end of this year. It appears that Sudan is now likely to side with Ethiopia in negotiations, which would isolate Egypt. This will widen divisions between Egypt and Sudan, as well as Egypt and Ethiopia.

Although such divisions existed prior to the influence of politics in the Middle Eastern Gulf, this factor has definitely heightened tensions in the region. Due to Egypt’s support for the Saudi-UAE coalition, and possibly Turkey’s Suakin concession, on 4th January 2018, Egyptian troops arrived at the UAE military base in Eritrea and have since been stationed there. Seeing this as a direct provocation, Sudan closed its border with Eritrea on 6th January. It appears that battle lines are being drawn between Egypt and Sudan, and, given the GERD negotiations and its history of conflict with Eritrea, its highly likely that the recent troop movements will further aggravate tensions between Ethiopia and Egypt.

Broader Implications

The investment in North East Africa by Turkey and countries of the Middle Eastern Gulf is undoubtedly going to have a positive effect on local economies and create further investment opportunities. In order to secure the Suakin concession, Turkey has reportedly agreed to invest $650 million in Sudan, which will include funding for the construction of a new airport and investment in a range of sectors, including electricity production – a burgeoning sector in the region. While DP World Ltd and P&O Ports Limited are respectively investing $442 million and $136 million in Somaliland and Puntland. Given the economically underdeveloped nature of the region, such investment will be highly beneficial and will create further opportunities, which is reflected by the increase in the price of land in Berbera. Furthermore, the development of new ports in the Horn of Africa will be advantageous for Ethiopia, which will be able to reduce its dependence on Djibouti and develop new trade routes. Given that, according to the World Bank, Ethiopia was the World’s fastest growing economy in 2017, the development of such trade routes should create further investment opportunities in the region. Additionally, even the construction of military bases along the coast should increase investment in local infrastructure, which is currently inadequate, and therefore create a better investment environment.

That being said, the influence of the politics of the Middle Eastern Gulf is currently, and will continue to, have a negative impact on regional divisions. The exacerbation of underlying tensions in an already volatile region has the potential to cause unrest and conflict, which will exhibit itself in varying degrees depending on the countries involved. Despite significant interference in Somalia and its disputed neighbouring regions, considering the current security situation in the country, it is unlikely that this will have a pronounced impact in the short-term. Nevertheless, it will hamper long-term state building initiatives. With regards to Eritrea and Djibouti, Qatar’s withdrawal has definitely increased the prospect of border clashes; however, given the strategic importance of the two countries to the Saudi-UAE coalition, there is a distinct possibility that the UAE will try to assume Qatar’s mediation role.

The most significant concern for the region is the escalation in tensions between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. Emboldened by the apparent backing of Turkey and Qatar, Sudan may try to seize control of the Hala’ib Triangle, which will not be easily relinquished by Egypt. If this were to happen, given that Egypt currently has troops stationed in Eritrea, clashes on this border and in the Hala’ib Triangle should be expected. Moreover, this escalation in tensions will put additional strain on the already fraught GERD negotiations. Taking into consideration that Egypt relies on the Nile River for 95 percent of its water supply and it has been estimated that GERD could reduce the flow of water to Egypt by 25 percent, a failure to reach an agreement could be disastrous and it is unlikely that Egypt would accept this outcome. However, in light of the deterioration of Sudan’s and Egypt’s relationship and the stationing of Egyptian troops in Eritrea, an agreement seems increasingly unlikely. If Ethiopia and Sudan fail to reach an agreement with Egypt, conflict between the countries is not beyond the realm of possibility.

President Buhari: The Honeymoon is over

Silhouettes of People Holding Flag of Nigeria“I belong to nobody, yet I belong to everybody”. These words were uttered by President Muhammadu Buhari during his inauguration speech on 29th May 2015 and resonated amongst Nigerians who had voted for him two months earlier. Both Buhari and his party – the All Progressives Congress (APC) – tapped into widespread discontent over how the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had governed the country for the past 16 years, promising to rid Nigeria of three major evils: unemployment; insecurity; and corruption. The optimism and expectation surrounding Buhari’s victory was almost unprecedented in recent Nigerian history, as many people genuinely believed in the President’s ability to change the country for the better.

Unfortunately for Buhari, Nigeria’s economic conditions were not favourable to such an ambitious plan. Even before his inauguration, the fall in the price of oil had badly affected over-reliant government finances and the government was forced to borrow heavily in order to cover costs. Additionally, unlike elsewhere, the previous administration had failed to create substantial savings during the boom years for the country to fall back on. And since Buhari assumed power a year ago, these conditions have gone from bad to worse.

On 24th May 2016, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria – Godwin Emefiele – warned of an “impending recession” after it was reported that GDP had contracted by 0.36 percent in the first quarter of 2016. This followed reports in April, which revealed that Nigeria was overtaken by Angola as Africa’s largest oil producer, with oil production falling to 1.69 million barrels per day (bpd). It is projected that this will continue to fall, which is extremely worrying for the government as this year’s budget is based on production at 2.2 million bpd.  Although the country’s oil sector was obviously a driving force behind this slowdown, it was not restricted to this area of the economy; the non-oil sector also contracted by 0.18 percent in the first quarter. Moreover, even sectors of the economy which grew in the first quarter, such as agriculture, had slower growth levels than in 2015. In addition to this, it was reported that foreign investments were down by 74 percent in comparison to 2015, and that the inflation rate was at 13.7 percent at the end of April, which is well above the Central Bank’s tolerance point of 9.6 percent. Inflation is also likely to worsen following a recent outbreak of tomato blight in Northern Nigeria, which has reportedly destroyed as much as 80 percent of crops in Kaduna State and caused the price of tomatoes – a staple food in Nigeria – to increase by 400 percent.

Against this economic backdrop, it is unsurprising that Buhari has failed to reduce unemployment as  he pledged to do so in 2015. Recent data from the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that the population of unemployed Nigerians increased by 518,000 to over 1.45 million (12.1 percent) in the first quarter of this year, while underemployment also increased to 19.1 percent, compared to 18.7 percent in the first quarter of 2015. Furthermore, even for those in employment, in both the private and state sectors, unpaid salaries are becoming an increasing problem. Thus, it appears that job opportunities and living conditions have deteriorated for the majority of Nigeria’s population since Buhari took power.

Although it would be unfair to solely attribute Nigeria’s worsening economic conditions to the current government, the Buhari administration has faced fierce criticism over some of its economic policies, most notably regarding exchange rates. The government’s decision not to devalue the Naira, which trades at around 340 to a dollar on the parallel market compared to an official rate of 198 to a dollar, has been criticised for exacerbating fuel shortages, reducing foreign investment and damaging Nigeria’s fledgling manufacturing sector. Moreover, it has seemingly failed to contain inflation. Although the government are beginning to adapt to the situation and are open to a greater level of “flexibility”, it seems likely that the refusal to devalue the Naira has done damage to Nigeria’s economy and restricted Buhari’s ability to reduce unemployment.

On assuming the Presidency last year, the overriding security concern facing Nigeria was the activities of Boko Haram in the northeast of the country. The group had taken over large areas of the region and were conducting a violent campaign against civilians and the Nigerian armed forces. Although Buhari has failed to meet his target of destroying the group within a year, Nigeria’s armed forces have made significant inroads in the northeast. Boko Haram no longer controls the territory it once did and its attempt to create a caliphate has seemingly failed. Under Buhari, international co-operation in dealing with Boko Haram has increased and the group’s waning strength is undoubtedly a signal of success for the President. However, Boko Haram is far from being defeated. The group has resorted to its previous strategy of using suicide bombers to attack soft targets, rather than engaging in conventional warfare. This was shown on the anniversary of Buhari’s inauguration, when 5 people were killed in a bombing on the outskirts of Biu in Borno State. Furthermore, although much was made of the rescue of one of the Chibok schoolgirls last month, a further 275 still remain missing, along with hundreds more who were kidnapped by the group in 2014-2015. Thus, although significant gains are being made, the Buhari administration still has a long way to go before it can claim victory over Boko Haram.

Moreover, it appears that while conditions have improved in the northeast, insecurity has increased in other sections of the country. In the south, which was relatively peaceful under the previous administration, unrest has increased during Buhari’s first year in office. Pro-Biafra groups have become more active and on 30th May, ten people were reportedly killed during a protest commemorating the 49th anniversary of the declaration of an Independent Republic of Biafra. Furthermore, a new militant group has emerged in the Niger Delta. This umbrella group –the Niger Delta Avengers – is primarily made up of youths who did not benefit from the previous government’s amnesty programme and is seen as responsible for Nigeria’s decline in oil production through attacks on pipelines and other facilities. In a recent statement, the group warned oil companies operating in the region that “it’s going to be bloody this time around”. Thus, it appears that insecurity, and its effect on Nigeria’s most important export, is set to increase over the coming years. This rising threat in the Niger Delta will be examined in depth in an upcoming article.

Separately, the security situation in central states also appears to be deteriorating. Conflict between predominantly Christian farmers and Muslim Fulani Herdsmen has been a longstanding problem in central Nigeria. However, it seems that this conflict has intensified over the past year. In February 2016, 300 people were killed by Fulani Herdsman in Benue State and in April 2016, more than 40 were killed in Enugu State. These increasing attacks mean that Fulani Herdsman have killed more people in 2016 than Boko Haram. Nonetheless, it seems that this problem has not garnered as much attention from the Buhari administration as might be expected. Although Buhari pronounced in April that the police and armed forces should “take all necessary action to stop the carnage”, his decision not to include this matter in his Democracy Day speech on 29th May 2016 has led to him being heavily criticised. In response, it seems that central state governors are taking matters into their own hands. As the Governor of Ekiti State – Ayo Fayose – stated, “we must take all action to stop it […] This Ekiti war must be fought with the totality of our spirit [and] strength”. Such rhetoric illustrates a growing anger and suggests that reprisals against Fulani Herdsmen are increasingly likely.

These developing pockets of insecurity in the south and centre of the country could potentially re-ignite underlying ethnic and religious tensions. This is particularly the case, if Buhari – a northern Muslim – is viewed as paying more attention to southern Christian militants than the northern Muslim Herdsmen. Thus, although Buhari is seemingly dealing with Boko Haram in the northeast, other security situations have developed, which have the potential to be even greater problems.

During his campaign for the presidency, Buhari’s tough stance on corruption was viewed as a major factor in drawing support from outside his usual strongholds in the north of the country, and it seems that this has been carried in to his first year as president. Under the Buhari administration, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been re-invigorated and, despite the country’s economic conditions, the government has invested more in anti-corruption organisations than its predecessor. Buhari has opened talks with countries in Europe and the Middle East over the repatriation of stolen assets and set up the National Prosecution Co-ordination Committee (NPCC), in order to deal with high profile corruption cases. Moreover, unlike previously, Nigeria’s anti-corruption bodies have pursued high profile targets, such as the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP – Olisa Metuh – and the former National Security Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan – Sambo Dasuki. Although such figures have not yet been convicted of any offences, it indicates the intent of the administration. Moreover, even though this is beyond the ability of one president, the culture of ethics and anti-corruption around the presidency is likely to have a trickle-down effect and begin to address the ingrained corruption which exists across Nigeria. In order for this to happen, the EFCC must also look beyond high profile targets to try to change the culture of corruption.

Nevertheless, Buhari has faced criticism over the fact that the vast majority of those targeted for prosecution are members of the opposition PDP and have close ties to the previous administration. Although this is unsurprising given how corruption increased under the previous government, many from the opposition have criticised the Buhari administration for its bias, and allege that senior members of the APC are being provided protection from prosecution. As such politically motivated prosecutions are not unheard of in Nigeria, it is important that Buhari attempts to reduce the apparent bias in order to maintain legitimacy. However, the prosecution of senior APC figures could put pressure on the alliance between the political elite in the north and the southwest of the country, which the APC rests upon. Thus, it is possible that the legitimacy of Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign may come into conflict with the management of the APC.

After one year in power, Buhari is one quarter of the way through his presidency, as given his age, it is highly unlikely that he will run again. Despite worsening economic conditions, it appears that the majority of Nigerians still support him and are understanding of the problems he has had to face. This was indicated by the distinct lack of public outcry over the removal of the fuel subsidy on 12th May 2016, in comparison to a similar removal under the previous administration in 2012, which sparked the Occupy Nigeria protest movement and forced the government into a policy reversal. It seems that many Nigerians were receptive to Buhari’s Democracy Day speech, in which he pointed out that “in short, we inherited a state near collapse” and said “I thank you and appeal to you to continue supporting the government’s efforts to fix Nigeria”. However, given Nigeria’s deteriorating economic conditions, worsening security situations in central and southern states – which could amplify ethnic and religious divides – and the apparent bias of the administration’s anti-corruption campaign, it is questionable how long the majority of Nigerians will remain receptive to Buhari’s message. With the pressure mounting after one year as president, the honeymoon looks like it is over for Buhari.

Prepare 4 Africa

Nairobi Cityscape

Culture Shock!

Habari yako? – your news? Habari za familia? – news of your family?  Habari za leo? – news of your day.  Za kazi? – of work?  Za safari – of your journey? And it goes on.  When will the questions end?

You are in Kenya, negotiating an oil concession.  You don’t have time for these extended niceties.  And, anyway, you don’t know how to respond.  In a hurry, you move on to business, ignoring the bafflement on the ministry official’s face.

As you leave, your host walks you to the car park.  He takes your hand in his and won’t let go.  This is unexpected.  You withdraw your hand, as tactfully as possible.  Your host again looks offended.

Your driver talks incessantly about “tribes”.  Why the obsession? Who cares about a person’s background?  What relevance is it to an oil company in Kenya?  This sounds like prejudice to your ears.

A policeman pulls you over and leans into the passenger side window.  “Habari?”, he smiles.  Here we go again – but he quickly gets to the point.  He’d like a “soda”, or some “chai”.  Why is he telling you?  Your driver is nervous,– he hands the policeman something and whispers “I will add it to the fare”.  Has something wrong just happened?

In your hotel room, you relax – until the phone rings.  The man who sold you air-time on the street this morning has just come by to “greet you”.  Habari!  How does he know where you are staying? What does he want? How do you respond?

You haven’t made time to see the baby elephants or the giraffe centre on the outskirts of town.  Or to visit the new Caramel Restaurant that everyone was talking about.  Despite this, you were pleased to leave Nairobi.  The problem is that the man from the ministry now refuses to take your calls.  Maybe you should have held his hand?

Find out with our Prepare 4 Africa (P4A) training courses.  Designed for first-time business visitors to Africa, P4A is a hands-on, practical one-day course that will help ensure your business trip to Africa is pleasurable and profitable.  You will learn about, amongst other things: the protocol of business meetings; the importance of greetings; recognition and mitigation of corruption; personal security; the best places to stay, visit and eat in your chosen destination; how to get about safely and quickly; and the language of negotiation.  Courses can cater for one to ten people and are delivered by experienced lecturers in African cultures.  Please contact us on enquiries@prepare4africa.com or visit our website www.prepare4africa.com for further details.