(These are key developments worth watching across Africa in the coming week.)
France withdraws ambassador, to pull out troops from Niger
French President Emmanuel Macron finally agreed to withdraw his country’s ambassador and troops from the West African state of Niger, more than two months after a junta toppled former president and France’s ally Mohammed Bazoum.
The new regime led by General Abourahame Tchiani had ended the predecessor’s alliance with France and instead developed new ties with Russia. France, with the support of the European Union and the U.S. had refused to recognize the junta while its ambassador, Sylvain Itte, refused to leave when expelled, enduring weeks of power and water cuts to the French compound.
Itte and the six remaining diplomats flew out of Niger capital, Niamey, this week on the heels of Macron’s announcement that France will close its military base there with an estimated 1,500 troops by year end.
The decision to withdraw indicates France’s reluctant acceptance that it had lost influence over a former colony. Niger is one of the world’s top producers of uranium, the key mineral in nuclear technology, and a major supplier of both France and other EU countries. French companies had dominated the sector in the country over the years and now face a reversal with the junta cutting supplies to France.
French withdrawal also means the likelihood of military intervention to restore Bazoum has receded further. There were initial hopes of an intervention by a force operating under the shield of the regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas). But that hope faded amid divisions in Ecowas, with several members backing the junta.
The new regime has also built up substantial deterrence in the form of Wagner troops presence, defence assistance agreements with neighbouring countries and mobilizing anti-French sentiment across the country.
Tinubu’s woes mounting in Nigeria
Nigerian President Bola Tinubu will be dealing with one of the fallouts of the tough economic decisions he took since assuming office four months ago when labour unions embark on a general strike from October 3.
The strike is to protest the rising cost of living triggered by Tinubu’s decision to scrap a long-standing fuel subsidy and float the national currency on taking office. Fuel prices have increased more than fivefold while the country’s currency has lost more than 40 percent of its value in the past three months. Annual inflation, which reached 25.8 percent in August, is at a record high.
The key factor that would’ve strengthened the government’s hand – oil exports – remains weak. The authorities appear, as yet, unable to tame government and industry insiders involved in illegal oil exports that have left Nigeria unable to meet its OPEC quota in the past three years. At a time of rising oil prices, such revenue would’ve helped the government shore up its finances and boost now depleted foreign reserves.
On the positive side, lawmakers this week approved Tinubu’s nominee, Olayemi Cardoso, as the substantive Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Cardoso promised to work to retrieve the independence of the regulator after the politicization that characterized his predecessor, Godwin Emefiele’s reign. Emefiele purportedly resigned from detention to make way for his successor’s lawful ascension.
At the same time, Tinubu continues to be dogged by the dispute over the controversial manner of his election, with one of his challengers filling a suit in faraway Chicago, Illinois, U.S. to prove that the certificate he filed for his academic qualification was forged.
A judge had ruled that Chicago State University should release Tinubu’s official transcript last week to Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party. But the decision was suspended to hear further arguments from rival parties after Tinubu pleaded through his attorneys that his privacy be maintained as he would suffer severe jeopardy if the documents were released. A ruling on Saturday, September 30, ordered that the documents be released to Abubakar’s legal team by Monday, October 2, in time to file an appeal to the Supreme Court to nullify Tinubu’s election.
China to back Uganda pipeline to Tanzania coast
Two Chinese lenders have agreed to put up most of the US$3 billion required to build a pipeline to take crude oil from Uganda to Tanzania’s Indian Ocean coast. The funding by China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation in conjunction with the Export-Import Bank of China is a lifeline for the project that drew scepticism from Western banks over concerns expressed by environmentalist groups about it.
Discussions were now at “the tail end,” Irene Bateebe, the top bureaucratic the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, told reporters in Kampala, the Ugandan capital. The pipeline will export crude from Uganda’s Lake Albert oil fields through neighbouring Tanzania.
The manner the Chinese state-backed lenders stepped in where Western banks feared to tread falls into a pattern of behavior they have replicated across Africa, lowering the bar in order to take up jobs Western companies wouldn’t do.
For some African governments, the Chinese are preferred because they rarely ask questions about the human rights records of host governments nor about the environmental impact of their projects unlike Western countries. Even for those who will rather stick with Western companies, the Chinese companies provide an opportunity to bargain as well as an option, if it comes to that.
Coup attempt in Burkina Faso?
The military government in the West African state of Burkina Faso led by Ibrahim Traore said it foiled an attempt to depose it from power and that arrests have been made. Traore himself seized power last year from another military ruler, and the announcement of an aborted coup may just provide him a pretext to purge perceived opponents, a sign that the instability triggered by coups may not end anytime soon.
EU seeking deal with DR Congo, Zambia for crucial minerals
The European Union is seeking partnership deals with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia to help local companies related to the production of crucial minerals in return for guaranteed supplies, Bloomberg News reported. A memorandum of understanding currently being negotiated is expected to be signed in Brussels later in October, according to the report. The deal is intended to secure supplies against rival demands by competitors from China.
- Zimbabwe’s annual inflation fell dramatically to 18.4 percent in September from 77.2 percent in the previous month after the statistics agency changed its calculations to reflect increased use of U.S. dollars in the economy. The country’s central bank left the benchmark interest rate unchanged at 150 percent.
- Ghana’s central bank left its key interest unchanged at 30 percent.
- Nigeria plans to increase its tax-to-GDP ratio to 18 percent in three years from the current 11 percent. The Federal Inland Revenue Service said it want to reform the tax system to get the wealthy to pay more.
- Angola to release foreign reserves data
- Nigerian labour unions to start general strike against high cost of living.
- Kenya central bank to announce interest-rate decision
- Nigeria to release Purchasing Managers Index data
- South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia to release Purchasing Managers’ Index report.
- Mozambique to release Purchasing Managers’ Index data.
- Mauritius, Seychelles to publish September inflation data
- South Africa, Mauritius to publish foreign reserves data
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