Items of Interest: May 22

The following items from May 22 may emerge to become significant factors impacting geomarket developments in Africa:

Democratic Republic of the Congo: President Félix Tshisekedi issued several appointments including the chiefs of the Armed Forces and the presidency’s Military as well as Civil House offices.

Significance: The Congo president retained Célestin Mbala as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and Jean-Claude Yav as head of the presidency’s Military House. Both were Joseph Kabila-era appointments. Of the five military appointments, all were promoted to the rank of General, including François Kabamba, who until his appointment as Military Advisor to the President held the one-star rank. The appointments within the leadership of the country’s security and defense apparatus precedes the appointments of civilian ministers of national defense and the Interior that are to be made in the coming days to weeks. The senior military appointments are surely moves by the Congo president to ensure that no matter the selection of consensus civilian ministers in coordination with the Common Front for Congo alliance (which professes loyalty to former President Joseph Kabila), Tshisekedi enjoys the allegiance of command appointees who will be those effecting the civilian-led orders.  

Sierra Leone: Opposition political parties will boycott the government’s May 23-24 peace and reconciliation conference. 

Significance: The boycott led by the All People’s Congress (APC) of the government’s national peace and reconciliation conference means that efforts by President Julius Maado Bio to ensure a stable policy regime and outlook are undermined. Though Bio, of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and who was elected into presidential office in March 2018, has gained performance-related accountability and transparency from his cabinet, the Sierra Leonean president has not acquired the confidence of the SLPP that commands a majority hold in the country’s parliament. The ethnic-related divisions that underwrite tensions between the country’s two principal political parties handicaps Bio administration efforts not only in reviewing and amending mining and minerals sector legislation but in attracting long-term foreign investment, given the risk that his reforms will be reversed with a potential electoral loss in 2023. 

South Africa: Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan stated that mining companies in the country must reverse their job retrenchment actions. 

Significance: Containing the already very high levels of unemployment in South Africa is surely informing Gordhan’s position against job layoffs in the mining sector. But interfering in the internal operations of private sector mining companies reveals the diverse composition of policy priorities the ruling African National Congress holds following its recent reelection. The Cyril Ramaphosa administration faces pressure to, on the one hand, increase economic confidence and promote domestic and foreign investment efforts (which Gordhan’s comments undermine) intended to raise growth levels. On the other, the Ramaphosa administration must comply with other ruling party imperatives to find alternative mechanisms to preserve job levels which have by convention included the African National Congress-led government inflating the public sector. 

Zambia: Vedanta Resources is seeking an immediate and urgent meeting with President Edgar Lungu to address the Konkola Copper Mines partnership dissolution. 

Significance: The Zambian president has stated he is open to moderating the effects of the government’s fiscal regime though is unwilling to reverse the thrust of the new royalty and taxation requirements. Until a resolution between the Lungu administration and Vedanta Resources is agreed to, Konkola Copper Mines will be held by the government-controlled Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines-Investment Holdings and a new foreign investor operator will be sought to replace Vedanta Resources. The Zambian government has not experienced domestic political fallout (nor is it realistic to expect it too) from the controversial dissolution of the Vedanta Resources-operated Konkola Copper Mines, nor has the adverse development resulted in other copper miners, notably Barrick Gold and First Quantum, impeding production efforts. 

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