Items of Interest: May 6

The following items from May 6 may emerge to become significant factors impacting geomarket developments in Africa:

Burkina Faso: Gunmen on May 6 raided the medical clinic of Nafo in the country’s Bam province, stealing the pharmaceuticals and ambulance, as well as kidnapping a member of the staff. Additionally, it is believed that two French civilians kidnapped May 1 while on safari in Pendjari National Park in the Republic of Benin have been taken into Burkina Faso.  

Significance: Insurgent operations in the Sahel sub-region are sustained as a result of the May 6 and May 1 incidents. While the attack on the medical clinic is a novel target, stealing the medical supplies conforms to the behavior of prior suspected Islamist militant attacks whereby cash, weapons, and vehicles capable of supporting guerrilla warfare are stolen from civilian and defense and security force positions in Burkina Faso. The kidnapping of the French civilians conforms to the January 16 kidnapping of the Canadian gold miner and is surely a bid to hold the expatriates as hostages for ransom (and possibly a prisoner exchange). Ransom negotiations can be a drawn-out affair lasting months and involve payment demands exceeding several hundred thousands of dollars for ordinary civilians, and more if the expatriates hold sensitive positions at home. 

Mozambique: President Filipe Nyusi will visit Belarus.

Significance: An invitation for the Mozambican president to visit Belarus was reiterated during a visit to Mozambique by Belorussian Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Food Igor Brylo. The planned Nyusi visit to Belarus makes for two instances now of geostrategic ties between southern African governments and the former Soviet Union state; the first being when Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa visited the country in January, prior to the World Economic Forum in Davos which the Zimbabwean leader subsequently cancelled his participation in. The public-facing agenda for Nyusi’s visit, like for Mnangagwa, will include discussing agricultural and industrial cooperation.

South Africa: The chairperson for the African National Congress sub-committee on economic transformation stated the government should prescribe the investment of privately held or managed financial assets into national development priority projects.

Significance: The ruling party’s Enoch Godongwana spoke specifically of prescribing the investment of private bank-held assets into new coal mines in the country, to solve for a shortage of electricity being generated by the state-owned Eskom utility company. Though Godongwana’s statement is certainly timed and intended to win the ruling party votes when the country holds general elections on May 8, the policy being prescribed by the ruling party’s economic transformation chief reveals the mixed policy priorities the African National Congress will be mandated with following its likely reelection. Compelling privately-owned banks, or privately-managed institutions (in the case of the government’s Public Investment Corporation), to set aside assets to comply with government priority investment projects undermines confidence the Cyril Ramaphosa-led African National Congress will reform state-owned enterprises to create an enabling business environment in the country.

Zimbabwe: Parliament resumes sitting on May 7 and members will debate the Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill that is intended to replace the Public Order and Security Act.

Significance: The repeal of the Public Order and Safety Act is one of two controversial pieces of legislation seen as impeding the normalization of constructive ties with Western governments as well as the removal of sanctions on named Zimbabwean officials. The other controversial legislation, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), may soon also be repealed should the the Protection of Personal Information Bill, Media and Information Commission Bill, and the Freedom of Information Bill be gazetted and debated shortly. The Zimbabwean government will still need to exhibit good governance and pro-human rights reforms, not merely effect legislative amendments, in order for the U.S. and European governments to believe a lifting sanctions on Zimbabwean officials who, in the case of U.S. restrictions, including President Mnangagwa, is merited. 

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