Items of Interest: May 8

The following items from May 8 may emerge to become significant factors impacting geomarket developments in Africa:

Côte d’Ivoire: Former President Laurent Gbagbo met in Brussels with a special envoy of former President Henri Konan Bédié.

Significance: Gbagbo met with Maurice Guikahué, the executive secretary of the Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire, the party that governed over the country from 1960-1999 and which Bédié is the leader of. The meeting in Brussels, where Gbagbo has resided since his acquittal on January 15 by the International Criminal Court, likely precedes a principals-level meeting between the former presidents. Alongside extensive campaigning underway in northern regions of Côte d’Ivoire by former President of the National Assembly Guillaume Soro, the formation of an opposition alliance informed by ethnic and regional affinities is being consolidated so as to unseat the Alassane Ouattara-led Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) when the country holds a presidential election in October 2020.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Civil society representatives in the Kongo Central province called on the government to order Angolan armed forces occupying their territory to withdraw.

Significance: Reportedly more than three hundred Angolan soldiers have intervened in Kongo Central province and on three occasions over the last three weeks. The intent of the Angolan incursions into Congolese territory would be to disrupt or detain members of the armed forces command of the Front for the Liberation of the Cabinda Enclave (FLEC), who on February 28 declared their resumption of an armed struggle against the Angolan state and that oil and gas personnel in the Angolan exclave province should take cover. Rising civil society attention in the Congo over Angolan incursions would likely result in the Angolan forces withdrawing to Cabinda province, whose presence Cabinda activists believe is an illegal occupation that merits their recourse to an armed insurgency. 

Kenya: Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma is in Washington for strategic dialogue discussions with the U.S. government.

Significance: Juma has met with State as well as Defense department officials for talks on security, economic development, trade, and investment cooperation. The Kenyan government is a key ally for the U.S. for security cooperation in the East African region, especially when it comes to the Somalia theater where the Islamist militant group al Shabaab remains active. Juma’s visit may also witness the conclusion of negotiations for U.S. concessional lending for the proposed $3.5 billion, 473-kilometer Nairobi to Mombasa high speed highway construction project that will be implemented by Bechtel. Forthcoming U.S. funding for the Nairobi-Mombasa highway project to be constructed by Bechtel would compensate the Kenyan government for the loss of prestige and for a key strategic priority when China declined lending $3.5 billion to the Kenyan government to extend Kenya’s standard gauge railway project.

Mozambique: Anadarko chairman of the board Al Walker met with President Filipe Nyusi and reached agreement for a Final Investment Decision to be announced in Maputo on June 18.

Significance: The Final Investment Decision for the $15 billion, two-train, almost thirteen million tonnes per year liquified natural gas project follows the successful negotiations of sufficient sales and purchase agreements as well as due diligence into security concerns in northern Mozambique. On-schedule progress for the Rovuma basin LNG project means first gas can be expected by 2024, perhaps by 2023, and validate economic growth projections for the otherwise impoverished southern African country.

South Africa: Voting in general elections is underway. Results could be announced by May 11.

Significance: The ruling African National Congress is confident on retaining a majority win in the parliamentary elections. The country’s next parliament will convene on May 22 and its first order of business will be to elect from among its members the country’s president. African National Congress party President Cyril Ramaphosa will be reelected South African president, given the majority of seats the African National Congress is sure to command in the national assembly. The reelected Ramaphosa-led African National Congress will then return to work facing diverse and competing policy priorities to solve for high levels of unemployment, low levels of economic growth, populist impatience to achieve improved socioeconomic livelihoods, and at the same time assure domestic and foreign investor confidence.  

Zimbabwe: The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has paid current foreign currency arrears owed to gold mining companies operating in the country.

Significance: Bringing current the foreign currency arrears owed to gold mining companies in Zimbabwe, notably RioZim, will help to restore gold mining production that was halted because of the missed payments. Zimbabwe is certainly facing a severe foreign currency shortage and faces a constant dilemma of rationing U.S. dollars for diverse needs, to include setting aside hard currency for economically productive sectors as well as for consumer goods imports. While the Mnangagwa administration presides over legislative and regulatory reforms intended to see sanctions on its officials lifted and foreign financial assistance restored, the fruit of these and other foreign investment commitments is likely to be realized only in the medium term. In the nearer term is boosting domestic investor confidence so that RioZim and other strategic industrial stakeholders continue their business operations. 

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