The following items from May 9 may emerge to become significant factors impacting geomarket developments in Africa:
Angola: President João Lourenço reshuffled the entire board of directors of the state-owned energy company Sonangol.
Significance: The immediate trigger for the change in leadership at Sonangol was the breakdown in supply of refined petroleum products coming into and distributed throughout the country. A crisis of confidence in the Angolan government was seen when effectively no gasoline was available for purchase on the everyday market. New Sonangol leadership introduced under these circumstances will certainly prioritize sourcing reliable tenders of gasoline. But the reshuffle of Sonangol leadership, which conforms to other instances of political appointee reshuffles, will mean that reforms at the state-owned energy company and projects to build new refineries at Lobito and in Cabinda – projects that were inaugurated by the previous José Eduardo dos Santos administration but halted by the Lourenço administration, citing financial and technical irregularities – will proceed and under close administrative oversight to ensure the refineries and reforms achieve their intended operational deliverables.
Mali: Eighteen Islamist militants held as prisoners were exchanged for two Malian civilians kidnapped in separate instances in 2018.
Significance: The prefect of Ténenkou, Makan Doumbia, and Malian journalist Issiaka Tamoubra were kidnapped in central Mali in May 2018 and December 2018 respectively. Though they were released from captivity in February, it has only now become known that their release was a result of a prisoner exchange. The Malian’s kidnapping was claimed by a unit of the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The fate of foreign nationals kidnapped in recent time in the Sahel sub-region, including two Frenchmen missing since May 1 from Pendjari National Park in the Republic of Benin, is likely subject to other prisoner exchange or hostage ransom negotiations. The anomalous kidnapping of the Canadian miner from the Progress Minerals mining site in Burkina Faso was likely a similarly intended Al Qaeda operation. Obtaining the release of a foreign national held in AQIM possession likely requires a ransom payment at the very least of several hundred thousands of dollars, or a prisoner exchange of a high value Al Qaeda operator held in Malian or neighboring government captivity.
South Africa: National elections returns released thus far show the ruling African National Congress with roughly 57% of the vote count. The Democratic Alliance holds a second place position with roughly 23%, whereas the Economic Freedom Fighters is in third place with 10% of the votes counted.
Significance: Final results should be released by May 11. The African National Congress will be returned to power with a majority of seats in the country’s parliament, though their portion will be down from the 62% the ruling party obtained in the 2014 general elections. The final electoral outcome will be unsurprising, and will mandate Ramaphosa administration efforts to sustain a mixed set of policy priorities intended to solve for competing demands including high unemployment, low economic growth, land ownership inequalities, corruption and operating inefficiencies at state-owned enterprises. That AngloGold Ashanti chose the date of May 9 to state it is reviewing options to divest itself of its South African mining assets in favor of higher returns outside of South Africa was likely a timing consideration to minimize the politically adverse nature of their divestment strategy.