Updated: Feb 1, 2021
ACFTC Trade deal
On January 1st of 2021, trading under the ACFTC agreement commenced for the first time. The African Union were responsible for brokering the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement in 2018. 44 out of 54 African countries have signed up to this agreement. As part of this agreement, 90% of tariffs will be knocked off goods and commodities traded between all 44 member states. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimated that the agreement will boost intra-African trade by 52 percent by 2022.
To create a single market, deepening the economic integration of the continent;
To establish a liberalised market through multiple rounds of negotiations;
To aid the movement of capital and people, facilitating investment;
To move towards the establishment of a future continental customs union;
To achieve sustainable and inclusive socioeconomic development, gender equality and structural transformations within member states;
To enhance competitiveness of member states within Africa and in the global market;
To encourage industrial development through diversification and regional value chain development, agricultural development and food security;
To resolve challenges of multiple and overlapping memberships;
While this is a great win for Africa, the AU need to do use this trade agreement as a platform to incentivise other joint African initiatives. Especially in areas of peace, legislation and poverty eradication.
AU Chairman seeks second term
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki has announced his intentions to run for a second term in office. Mr. Faki became AUC chairman in 2017. He seeks re-election for another four years in office (2021-2024) and will present results achieved during his first term, at the Assembly of next AU summit due in Addis Ababa from February 6 – 7.
One must point out that under Mr. Faki’s leadership the horn of East Africa has seen a rise in domestic and cross border dispute. Not to mention the rise in terrorist activities across Africa. While the position of AUC chairman doesn’t carry much authority, Mr. Faki should be applauded for brokering the ACFTC trade deal which moves African closer to a single market.
Concerns about the availability of Covid 19 vaccines in Africa
Various government officials in Africa are working towards procuring Covid 19 vaccine doses but have expressed concern that Africa may have to wait for months before receiving Covid-19 vaccines approved by the World Health Organization. Through various initiatives driven by the WHO, Africa have secured 900 million doses of the vaccine, enough to inoculate about 30% of the continent's 1.3 billion people this year. Unfortunately, hoarding by wealthy nations, funding shortfalls, regulations and cold chain requirements have slowed the process of rolling out the vaccines. The head of WHO Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus is quoted saying:
"The world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure and the price will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the poorest countries,"
To keep yourself updated on Covid 19 press releases in Africa visit https://www.changeinafrica.com/pressrelease.
President Joe Biden reverses Trump Muslim ban
During Trump's time as US presidents, one of first acts was to issue a series of executive orders, to ban Muslim countries. Unfortunately for Africa, 46% of the countries on Trump's list were from Africa. Well good news, the new president of US as reversed Trump's racist Muslim travel ban which affected Nigeria, Tanzania, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and Libya.
Eastern Africa Update
Ethiopia - Tigray civil war
Ethiopia is still reeling from the aftermath of the Ethiopia-Tigray war which started on November 2020, after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accused Tigray of attacking Ethiopian military bases.
The UN have reported that more than 56,000 Ethiopian refugees have arrived in Sudan, after being displaced due to the Ethiopian-Tigray war. About 800 refugees arriving since New Year.
There are numerous reports of Eritrean troops entering the Tigray region and killing innocent civilians. There are even reports of Eritrean refugees in Tigray region being forces back to Eritrea. The UN have raised concerns with the Ethiopian government about reports of human rights violations and wide spread killing in that region. Both the Ethiopian government and Eritrean government deny committing any human rights violations in the Tigray region. The evidence is building up and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is slowly turning from a Nobel laureate to a war criminal who breaks international laws.
Border dispute between Sudan and Ethiopia
In recent developments, the border dispute between Ethiopia and Sudan continues. There is a risk it might escalate into a full blown war if both parties don’t de-escalate. According to BBC, Clashes between Sudan and Ethiopia over the disputed al-Fashaga region have increased in recent weeks after Sudan in late December announced it had regained control of all its territories that were under the control of Ethiopian militias for over 25 years.
The Ethiopian government on the other hand are blaming “third parties“ within Sudan for causing the recent border conflict and insist it is Sudan that has trespassed into their territory violating Ethiopia’s sovereignty.
Ethiopia’s Army Chief of Staff General Birhanu Jula is quoted saying;
"Ethiopia does not want to go to war with friendly Sudan but wants to solve the problem peacefully,"
Nile Dam conflict between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt
If you don't know about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), located across river Nile, then let me provide some context. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is a Hydroelectric power dam with the capacity to generate 6,000 megawatts, making it the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa. Upon completion it will provide power to some 65 million Ethiopians, who currently suffers from intermittent and insufficient supply of power. Construction started in April 2011 and concluded July 2020. It is estimated that the dam will take 5 to 15 years to be filled up from river Nile. Until this process is completed, the dam's output will be limited to the number of turbines switched on.
The problem with this hydroelectric power dam is that, Ethiopia is located upstream of it, while Sudan and Egypt are located downstream of the dam. Egypt and Sudan have both expressed worries that the $4bn dam will greatly reduce their access to water. Ethiopia on the other hand sees the hydroelectric project as crucial for its economic growth and a vital source of energy.
In latest development, talks between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan collapsed. To date, neither party has agreed on what quantity of water from river Nile and frequency of fill should be allowed when filling the dam. Egypt is reliant on river Nile for irrigation and drinking water. They have voiced their concern that this dam poses and existential threat to Egypt. Sudan on the other hand are concerned, water discharged from GERD dam “poses a direct threat” to the safety of Sudan’s Roseires Dam downstream on the Blue Nile.
Ethiopia wrote to the African Union, insisting that they will fill the reservoir for the second year in July with 13.5 million cubic metres of water, whether an agreement is reached or not.
Uganda 2021 Presidential Election
On the 14th of January, Uganda's presidential elections were held and incumbent President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni won a sixth term in office, after being in power since 1986. According to published election results, Museveni had 59% of the votes. while Bobi Wine won 35% of the votes. Bobi Wine declared the election as rigged and alse. While the US embassy in Uganda released a statement claiming the elections were tainted by harassment of opposition candidates and the suppression of media and rights advocates.
On the 13th of January 2021, Facebook closed the accounts of some Uganda government officials they believed were fake. In response, the communications regulator in Uganda ordered all telecoms firms to block access to social media and messaging apps.
By 5 pm on 13 January, the Uganda authorities ordered a complete shutdown of the internet in Uganda, which came into effect b 7 pm. A move which Amnesty rInternational condemned, stating it was clearly intended to silence the few accredited election observers, opposition politicians, human rights defenders, activists, journalists, and bloggers who were monitoring the elections.
As of the time of writing, Museveni's main opponent Bobi Wine was under house arrest. Museveni's action show he is worried that Bobi Wine will rile up the youths in Uganda and cause a rebellion. Not to mention, he is clearly intimidating and suppressing his opposition.
Locust Infestation in the Horn of Africa
Bloomberg reports Kenya has cleared most of the second wave of desert locust swarms that entered the country from neighboring Ethiopia and Somalia in mid-November 2020, affecting almost a third of the 47 counties in Kenya.
According to a statement on Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture website “The total number of swarms that settled in the country between November 2020 and January 2021 are 75, out of which 66 have been treated,”. They go further to state the exercise was largely successful.
It was only last year that a similar swarm of locust infested 39 of Kenya’s 47 counties and also swamped Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda and Yemen. It was considered the worst infestation they had seen in the last 70 years.
Libya power struggle
Libya has been in crisis mode due to the power struggle between the internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in the capital Tripoli, which is backed by Turkey, and the Libya National Army (LNA) in the East, led by General Khalifa Haftar and backed by Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
UN data estimates that the recent conflict has claimed more than 2,000 lives. According to CNN, the October peace deal, brokered by the United Nations, was meant to see all foreign forces leave the country by January 23 but Wagner the Russian backed military contractor has instead opted to dig a trench across Libya. This only means Russian doesn’t intend to honour the October peace deal.
CNN reports that the trench and fortifications appear to be designed to impede or stop land attacks on LNA controlled areas in the east, which run through the populated coastal areas of Libya, where most clashes have happened since the 2011 fall of the previous regime.
This is another example of how foreign governments like Russia, China and Saudi Arabia seek to control trade in African regions. In some cases it is done subtly through debt trap diplomacy but in other cases control is establish by supporting and empowering civil wars and conflicts, allowing them to swoop in and save the day only the be declared heroes.
Another trend to notice is how former president Trump‘s policy of not getting involved in foreign conflicts has given China and Russia a stronger foothold in Africa.
Impact of Covid 19 on economic growth in East Africa
In East Africa Kenya currently has the highest number of Covid 19 cases as of the 21/01/21. Kenya has reported 132,326 cases of Covid 19, Rwanda has reported 99,730 and Tanzania has reported 26,279 cases of Covid 19 as of 21/01/21. The bar chart below shows the cumulative cases of Covid 19 in East Africa as of 21/01/21. To keep yourself updated on Covid 19 press releases in Africa visit https://www.changeinafrica.com/pressrelease.
Kenya’s health minister told Reuters that Kenya has ordered 24 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca. These vaccines are expected to start arriving in the second week of February.
The economic growth of countries in East Africa has been severely impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic as shown in the bar chart below. Overall, the economic growth of East Africa‘s will perform better in 2021 when compared to 2020.
New malaria mosquito as emerged in East African countries
CNN reports that an Asian breed of malaria mosquitoes in East Africa which originally migrated from India are posing a significant concern to researchers and scientist. Researchers from Netherlands' Radboud University Medical Center and Ethiopia's Armauer Hansen Research Institute have warned that the larvae of Anopheles Stephensi, which is India's main mosquito vector of malaria, are now "abundantly present" in locations across East Africa such as Ethiopia, Sudan and Djibouti.
The key concern is that this breed of Asian mosquito is more susceptible to the malaria parasite than the mosquitoes that naturally inhabit those region, making them an efficient and effective spreader of the malaria parasite. According to World Health Organisation, the African region was home to 94% of all malaria cases and deaths in 2019. While malaria is both treatable and preventable, 409,000 people still died of it in 2019.
West Africa Update
Boko Haram strikes again in Niger
In December 2020, 337 boys were kidnapped from their school in Kastina State, Nigeria. They were later returned physically unharmed after negotiations . Boko Haram claimed to be the culprit but the Nigerian government vehemently denied this. On January 17th 2021, Boko Haram struck again, this time in Niger. Niger's Defense Ministry claim that at least four soldiers were killed and eight others were seriously wounded in the attack. Members of the terrorist organization apparently detonated an explosive device previously planted in the Diffa region as a military vehicle containing Niger soldier was passing. Over the last 11 years, Boko Haram have been responsible for the deaths of more than 30,000 people in Nigeria alone and displaced more than 3 million people in west of Africa.
Mali army and French forces killed 100 extremist
The Inquirer reports that during joint operations between Mali army and French forces, a 100 extremists were killed in January 2020. The joint operation was carried out from January 2nd to January 20. It also led to the capture of 20 motorcycles and the seizure of weapons and other materials. Inquirer’s report states the extremists were pushed out of areas in central and northern Mali such as Serma, Foulssaret, Doni and Boulikessi, where a recent extremist attack killed at least four soldiers.
Nigeria police launch "Rescue me" app
Nigerian security services have been criticised locally and internationally for the way they handled the EndSARS protest, which resulted in the loss of many Nigerian lives. The Nigerian government are yet to acknowledge their part in the atrocities committed during the protest.
In a recent development, the Nigerian police released a new security app called "Rescue me". The app is meant to improve the response time when the police is called to a crime scene.
He stated that the application would improve the response time of police officers to emergency situations in real time. The application requires internet services and is GPS based. It can be downloaded on Google Play Store and Nigeria Police National Command and Control Safety Centre’s official website, www.npfc4i.com.
Rise in pirate attacks off the coast of West Africa
In a recent Aljazeera report, the International Maritime Bureau called the Gulf of Guinea, off the coasts of Nigeria, Guinea, Togo, Benin and Cameroon as the most dangerous sea in the world because of piracy.
On the 24th of January, it was reported that, pirates attacked M/V Mozart, a Turkish cargo ship off the coast of West Africa, kidnapping 15 sailors and killing one. Anadolu news agency states that after the pirates kidnapped most of the crew members, they left the ship in the Gulf of Guinea with three sailors on board, and the vessel is currently heading to Gabon’s Port-Gentil. Sad one of the crew members of the vessel was killed in an altercation with the pirates.
Maersk, the world’s biggest shipping company as called for a more effective military response to these surging pirate attacks and record kidnappings off the coast of West Africa.
According to a report issued by the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre on Jan 13th, the number of attacks on vessels globally jumped 20% last year to 195, with 135 crew kidnapped. They state that the Gulf of Guinea alone, accounted for 95% of hostages taken in 22 separate instances, and all three of the hijackings that have occurred. That number as now gone up to four hijackings as a result of the recent M/V Mozart kidnappings.
Southern Africa Update
New Covid 19 strain discovered in South Africa
The new variant of Covid 19 is fast spreading in South Africa and has been a cause for concern locally and Internationally. One of the possible key characteristics of this new variant is that it spreads faster than the ordinary Covid 19 strain according to The Wall Street journal. Multiple sources and medical experts have expressed concern that the new variant might make vaccines less effective. According to The Scientist, the new Covid 19 strain is quickly becoming the dominant strain in South Africa. In Africa as a whole, South Africa as reported the highest number of Covid 19 cases and Covid 19 deaths as shown in the charts below.
Travel restrictions placed on South Africa
With a variant strain of Covid 19 spreading at an alarming rate in South Africa, the international community have expressed concerns that this it could find its way across their borders. In reaction to this, flights to and from South Africa have been banned by different countries. Most notably of these is the US and the UK. According to CNBC US President Biden reinstated flight restrictions to South Africa, UK and Brazil as all three countries have reported mutated strains of Covid 19.
Cyclone Eloise hits Mozambique
According to UN reports on the 26/01/21, Cyclone Eloise hit Mozambique leaving at least six people dead and 12 injured but these numbers are expected to rise as more information becomes available. The storm also damaged more than 8,800 houses and at least 26 health centres, and disrupted power and communication links.
The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also report that more than 176,000 people, including up to 90,000 children, have been affected, with several thousand displaced. Jens Laerke, an OCHA spokesperson told journalists at a media briefing in Geneva that the most urgent humanitarian needs identified so far include food, tents, drinking water, hygiene kits, COVID-19.
Dubai based port operator DP World signs 20-year concession agreement with Angola
Ship Technology reports that Dubai based port operator DP World signs 20-year concession agreement with Angola to run the Multi Terminal (MPT) at the Port of Luanda, Angola’s largest port.
The concession agreement stipulates that DP World would be required to invest nearly $190m over the course of the agreement.
The $190 million will be utilised to restore of the current infrastructure at the port, acquired new equipment, which will enhance its efficiency and bring the port operations in line with global standards.
Jonas Gwangwa, South African jazz musician and activist, dies aged 83
On the 25th of January, it was announced that Jonas Gwangwa, an Oscar-nominated South African jazz musician who campaigned against apartheid for decades, died at the aged of 83. He is known to have composed scores of films such as like Cry Freedom (1987) and, at the 60th Annual Academy Awards in 1988, he performed his nominated song Cry Freedom. He also performed at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute in 1988. In 1991, he returned to South Africa and in 1997 composed the theme for their Olympic bid.
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa led tributes, saying:
A giant of our revolutionary cultural movement and our democratic creative industries has been called to rest; the trombone that boomed with boldness and bravery, and equally warmed our hearts with mellow melody has lost its life force. Jonas Gwangwa ascends to our great orchestra of musical ancestors whose creative genius and dedication to the freedom of all South Africans inspired millions in our country and mobilised the international community against the apartheid system.
Northern Africa Update
Morocco start shipping of vaccines to various regions
According to The North Africa Post, Moroccan authorities procured 2 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid -19 vaccine and have started supplying several regions with the vaccine ahead of its immunization campaign.
Morocco is also expected this month to receive its first shipment of the Chinese Covid-19 vaccine developed by Sinopharm company. They have ordered 66 million vaccine doses for the immunization of 33 million people, which include both Moroccans and foreign residents.
Algeria approaching bankruptcy
Algeria‘s Prime minister Abdelaziz Djerad has raised concerns that the country is slowly approaching bankruptcy. Rising costs incurred due the Covid-19 pandemic and a drop of in value of oil and gas export by 40% has both led to a massive budget deficit as shown in the chart below.
The government is currently using from its foreign reserves to address this deficit. Algeria’s foreign reserves were valued at $29 billion at the end of 2020, which is less than their non oil exporting neighbour Morocco.
Prime minister Abdelaziz Djerad has ordered a spend cut across the country to offset the loss in income caused by the drop in oil and gas prices. He is quoted saying “The situation calls for urgent measures to ensue sustainability of public funding,”.
Another key concern for Algeria is their growing national debt which is approximately $87 billion in 2020 and is forecast to grow to $132.52 billion by 2024 as shown in the chart below.
Libyan Navy intercept 80 EU bound migrants
On 22/01/21 the UN International Organization for Migration reported that Libyan coast guards intercepted more than 80 EU bound migrants in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya.
Libya has not been the same since the late president Gadhafi was removed from power and killed by a mob. While he was a tyrant and responsible for various acts of human rights violations, Libya was more hospitable, had less civil unrest and had a more stable economy.
International Organization for Migration stated that
in 2021 some 300 people, including women and children, were returned to the Libya and ended up in detention," . They go further stating "We reiterate that no one should be returned to Libya.".
Egypt remove air space restriction on Qatar
Egypt was part of a gulf coalition in 2017 that placed a ban on Qatar preventing them from using their air space. The coalition was led by Saudi Arabia and included other countries like United Arab Emirate, Doha, Niger and Gabon. The air space restrictions were part of a number of sanctions placed on Qatar after Saudi Arabia accused them state sponsored of terrorism. On January 5th the gulf coalition came to a peaceful resolution with Qatar and agreed to open their air space. The peace deal was brokered by the US and Kuwait.
Arabianbusiness.com reported that EgyptAir will resume flights to Qatar after the three-year rift between Doha and Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain ended on the 5th of January 2021.
EgyptAir Holding Company’s chairman, Roshdy Zakaria, said Tuesday via text message that they plan a daily flight to Qatar and may add a second if there’s demand. A date for resumption hasn’t been agreed.
Central Africa Republic
Central Africa Republic Civil War escalates
Almost a month ago President Faustin Touadéra was re-elected into office for a second term. Some of his opposition have accused him of election fraud and sided with rebel factions to try and overthrow the government. As a result, Touadéra enlisted help from Russia paramilitary and Rwanda UN peace keeping troops. Both of these groups were present during the election and have remained in Central Africa Republic to keep the peace.
On the 26th of January, the Financial Times reported that Russian paramilitary and Rwandan troops killed 44 rebels and thwarted their attempt to overrun the capital Bangui in an effort to overthrow President Touadéra.
These rebels have even gone as far as cutting off food supplies to the country from Cameroon according to The Guardian. This has resulted in food shortage and rise in prices of food supply.