Items of Interest: August 20

An Islamist militant attack in Burkina Faso, Angola’s foreign minister in Washington, and the Zambian president visiting India are actions from August 20 that may emerge to become significant factors impacting geomarket developments in Africa.

Angola: Foreign Minister Manuel Augusto traveled to Washington and met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Significance: Senior diplomatic visits from Africa to the U.S. are rare. The Angolan foreign minister received diplomatic support for the political and economic reforms initiated by the João Lourenço administration which, within the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) are controversial because they confront the interests of the prior regime. Augusto also sought diplomatic support for a range of economic interests, to include normalizing corresponding bank functions that were suspended in 2016 because of concerns for money with ties to international terrorism being laundered through Angolan banks. Augusto also wants to ensure official support for oil and gas concessions that will be auctioned beginning in Houston in September. Lastly, the Trump administration supports Angola as an example of reformist leadership that Washington would like to see replicated among the country’s neighbors notably in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Zimbabwe. 

Burkina Faso: Twenty-four soldiers were killed, seven were wounded, and five are missing from an August 19 early dawn Islamist militant attack at Koutougou in the country’s northern Soum province.

Significance: The casualty count from and the repeated location of this attack stand it apart. Islamist militants in league with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb conduct a persistent tempo of operations throughout Burkina Faso, and while their target selection is principally (but not completely limited to) the nation’s security forces, casualty figures ordinarily number in the low single digits. Two attacks in the Koutougou area in two months also bear significance. The previous attack of June 9 at a nearby informal gold panning site combine to reveal a likely agenda to control artisanal gold mining as a means of income generation (alongside other forms of revenue such as foreign hostage taking and the trafficking of contraband).   

Zambia: President Edgar Lungu began a three-day visit to India. 

Significance: Among the agenda for Lungu’s visit to India is a meeting with Vedanta Resources’s chairman Anil Argawal who is seeking a favorable resolution to the Zambian government’s bid to dissolve the Konkola Copper Mines partnership, of which Vedanta Resources is the operator. Lungu has consistently defended his government’s legislative and regulatory actions, which Vedanta Resources and other foreign copper miners believe are adverse and cost prohibitive, as an assertion of the country’s economic interests taking prime of place. With an undeclared interest in running for reelection in 2021, Lungu will likely sustain a pro-Zambia nationalist posture during his meeting with Vedanta Resources, leaving compromise an action the foreign mining company will have to adhere to. 

Other items of note:

Democratic Republic of the Congo President Félix Tshisekedi received the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Mariano Nhongo Chissingue was elected the chairman of the Mozambique National Resistance military junta and disputes Ossufo Momade as the legitimate leader of the opposition party.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari convened a presidential retreat for incoming members of his cabinet and senior government service. Ministers-designate will be sworn into office on August 21, roughly six months since the country’s presidential election was held. 

South African Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe stated that nuclear power generation is still under consideration as part of the country’s Integrated Resource Plan the government may approve in the coming weeks. 

Zimbabwe Republic Police patrolled in Gweru against Movement for Democratic Change demonstrations. The Zimbabwe Reserve Bank sold $60 million in treasury bills to domestic financial institutions. 

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