Items of Interest: June 12

The hostage rescue operation in Ghana, Zambian government hostile allegations toward Vedanta Resources, and a debt clearance strategy in Zimbabwe are actions from June 12 that may emerge to become significant factors impacting geomarket developments in Africa.

Ghana, Canada: Ghanaian security forces successfully rescued the two female Canadian students kidnapped on June 4.

Significance: The Canadians were rescued only kilometers away from the hostel in Kumasi where they were kidnapped. That the two female expatriates were recovered nearby and not smuggled out of the country during the eight days they were held captive strongly lessens the possibility their kidnapping, an anomalous incident in Ghana, was the work of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, whose recent kidnapping operations in Bénin and Burkina Faso reveal an expanded area of operations. 

Zambia: Mines Minister Richard Musukwa accused Vedanta Resources of deliberately damaging the smelter operation system at the Konkola Copper Mines’ Nchanga North site.

Significance: The allegations by the Zambian mines minister reveal that the legal case brought by the Zambian government to dissolve the Vedanta Resources-operated Konkola Copper Mines is not likely to be resolved amicably. The Vedanta Resources smelting operation was suspended on January 4 with the mining company citing the government’s introduction of a new import duty having made the smelting of imported copper concentrates unprofitable. The dispute between the Zambian government and Vedanta Resources has not disrupted other copper mining operations in the country, such as by First Quantum, who are instead trying to moderate the adverse effects of Zambia’s new tax regime.

Zimbabwe: Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube stated a debt arrears clearance strategy with the African Development Bank could allow new multilateral borrowing by early 2020.

Significance: Borrowing by the Zimbabwean government from Western-backed multilateral financial institutions has effectively been suspended because of U.S. and European sanctions in place against government officials, in addition to the arrears the Zimbabwe government owes to the multilateral lenders (which includes a debt of roughly $680 million to the African Development Bank). By stating a deadline of January or February of 2020 in accessing multilateral lending, the Zimbabwean finance minister is laying out an ambitious timetable in resolving the government’s arrears as well as governance concerns that inhibit the repeal of Western sanctions. The Zimbabwean government has introduced new legislation that is intended to repeal two especially controversial laws, but these new bills have not been signed into law. Additionally, Western diplomatic observers will need to see sustained reforms in good governance and pro-human rights behavior for sanctions to be successfully repealed.  

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