A cabinet reshuffle in Gabon and Russian diplomatic efforts in Mali and Niger are actions from June 11 that may emerge to become significant factors impacting geomarket developments in Africa.
Gabon: President Ali Bongo Ondimba reshuffled and reduced the size of his cabinet from 37 to 29 members.
Significance: The government of Prime Minister Julien Nkoghe Bekalé has faced recent criticism, to include from the Gabonese president, to account for recent scandals, particularly the case of the missing illegally logged kevazingo hardwood that is a protected tree species (the scandal resulted in the firing of Vice President Pierre-Claver Maganga Moussavou and Forests and Environment Minister Guy-Bertrand Mapangou). The Gabonese economy continues to underperform, however, which the citizenry did not fail to observe when the country commemorated on June 8 the ten-year anniversary of the death of then-President Omar Bongo, who served as Gabonese leader for forty-two years, from 1967 until 2009. The cabinet reshuffle will likely kickstart a greater drive by the Gabonese government to raise economic growth levels, and will likely underscore efforts already underway to introduce a new Hydrocarbons Code intended to introduce current global best practices to the sector and attract new levels of foreign investment for the country’s oil and gas industry.
Mali, Niger, and Russia: Malian Foreign Minister Tiébilé Dramé met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou received Russian ambassador Alexey Doulian.
Significance: Russia has steadily broadened its engagement with Africa where it is no longer a narrow provider of technical and military assistance to a limited number of geopolitically allied governments. The Russian government has recently hosted and will host a series of significant international economic fora with substantial African participation, beginning with the International Economic Forum of St. Petersburg that ran June 4-7, followed by the annual meetings of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) scheduled for June 20-22, and lastly with the inaugural Russia-Africa Summit that will be held in Sochi on October 24. Russian diplomatic delegations have traveled the length and width of Africa over recent weeks and months to ensure maximum participation from heads of state and government at the inaugural summit in Sochi. Russian geostrategic objectives in Africa may have changed little since the Cold War, but the methods to acquire geostrategic partnerships in and with Africa have notably expanded.