Basket 0 Items

View basket | Checkout

BOTSWANA: Sunrise at Xakanaxa, on the Okavango Delta. Pietro Cenini / Panos
BOTSWANA: Sunrise at Xakanaxa, on the Okavango Delta. Pietro Cenini / Panos

Image courtesy of Panos Pictures

As Western bankers and traders cheer higher growth rates, Africa’s economists sound alarms about the lack of investment in manufacturing and new jobs

Celebrating Africa’s impressive growth rates over the past decade has become a growth industry of its own. Africa’s economies have been outpacing East...


Early start for Jonathan


Politics goes to court



In this New Year edition, Africa Confidential’s correspondents assess what lies ahead in some of Africa’s biggest economies, such as Nigeria and South Africa, and in troubled states, such as Mali, Congo-Kinshasa and Sudan. We also look at two of the most important elections taking place this year, in Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Some of the less predictable developments in 2012 may shape events this year. The 22 March putsch led by Captain Amadou Sanogo paralysed politics in Mali and broke apart the army’s chain of command. Within three months, jihadist groups seized control of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal. After much dealmaking, a UN-backed plan to retake the north will pit a regionally backed intervention force against the rebels.

The deaths of Presidents Bingu wa Mutharika in Malawi, John Atta Mills in Ghana and Premier Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia tested their countries’ political resilience. In each, the succession mechanism worked – albeit after a few wobbles, bringing Joyce Banda, John Mahama and Hailemariam Desalegn to power. Mahama has been inaugurated as President but his victory last month is being challenged in the Supreme Court. Banda and Hailemariam face rougher times. Banda’s withdrawal of fuel subsidies and devaluation of the kwacha are unpopular in Malawi and are being exploited by her opponents. Likewise, rivals of Ethiopia’s Hailemariam are gauging his determination to press on with Meles’s ambitious economic plans and regional security deals.


Electricity and elections

Tanzania’s next elections may be nearly three years away but they are already affecting national politics. Within the governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi, tension will increase as the race to succeed President Jakaya Kikwete gathers momentum. The succession question will also shape the CCM’s relations with both the public and the opposition. The research project Afrobarometer recently found President Kikwete’s approval ratings falling from over 90% in 2008 to 70% in 2012 as general dissatisfaction grew with the government’s management of the economy.


Talk first, fight later

The grand plan for Mali’s army to wrest the northern provinces of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu from jihadist militias is due to swing into operation in the second half of the year. It has been held up by local and regional political disagreements, not least the opposition of Algeria, the biggest power in the region, whose land border with Mali runs for over 1,000 kilometres.


Django unchained

New Prime Minister Django Sissoko has started well, winning support for his government with his consensual style. A member of the nominated Transitional Assembly before his promotion, he was involved in efforts to launch a concertation nationale, a consultative conference bringing together a range of interest groups, civil society and political factions to draw up a political roadmap for Mali.


The party isn’t over yet

A host of policy, factional and personal battles lie ahead for Jacob Zuma in 2013, despite his resounding re-election as President of the African National Congress at the Mangaung Conference last month. Party managers are already corralling the troops for next year’s national elections, which will be a critical test of the ANC’s standing after the crisis in the mining industry, unprecedented protests about poor services and still worsening unemployment.


The economic fightback

Downgraded by the rating agencies and facing spiralling trade and budget deficits, South Africa needs its policy makers to make some tough decisions this year. Many will involve a messy confrontation with organised labour as deep cracks appear in President Jacob Zuma’s strategy of ‘Talk left, act right.’ The current account deficit may hit the tipping point of more than 6% in 2013 if foreign investment slows again and the trade deficit will widen further, since mineral exports have fallen due to the miners’ strikes. Yet by dint of geology, South Africa will continue to dominate the supply of many minerals.


A test for the constitutions

After a great deal of brinkmanship, President Robert Mugabe conceded in mid-December that elections could not be held before June 2013. During the first part of the year, therefore, the Movement for Democratic Change and the Southern African Development Community will downplay their objections to the polls. Instead, they will concentrate on finalising the constitution, followed by the referendum on it. Simultaneously, the other objectives of the electoral road map should be addressed: drawing constituency boundaries, updating the electoral register, registration and more. Yet given the lethargy of the last two years, there is still plenty of room for slippage.


A race to the bottom

Kenya’s 50th Independence celebrations at the end of the year will be shaped by the general elections in March, the first since the violently disputed 2007 polls. This will be a two-horse race, pitting Prime Minister Raila Oginga Odinga’s new Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD) against a fast-rising Jubilee Alliance, led by International Criminal Court indictees Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and William Kipchirchir arap Ruto. Yet an estimated five million electors are believed to be undecided, most in politically marginal regions, and the appearance of several minority electoral coalitions will set up one of the most intriguing polls since Independence in 1963.


Ailing and failing

This could well be the year in which Kinshasa’s hard-won but only half-complete institutions start to break up. Since 2006, the state has proclaimed that the President, along with national and provincial governors and parliaments, would emerge from internationally acceptable elections. It is not happening. The President and the National Assembly were indeed elected in November 2011, albeit under challenge, but there the flawed process halted. Neither the provincial nor senatorial polls due in 2012 took place and there is scant prospect of them this year.


Khartoum in a corner

Two pressing challenges – the failing economy and a more effective opposition – will confront the National Congress Party regime this year. There is no prospect of an economic upturn unless the NCP strikes and implements a deal with the Juba government on restarting oil production. Each side believes the other to be economically and politically weaker and is waiting for it to collapse (see South Sudan Feature, Let them eat fish).


Omer el Beshir’s New Year’s Party

Only one other head of state stood on the podium beside President Omer Hassan Ahmed el Beshir on 1 January. That was President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia. It was meant to have been a momentous day in the Blue Nile capital, Ed Damazine: to mark Sudan’s 57th Anniversary of Independence, the extension of Er Roseires Dam and the Holy Koran Festival. It disappointed those expecting a major announcement, such as pardons for November’s coup plotters.


Let them eat fish

South Sudanese will have to wait longer for their peace dividend. The main prospects for 2013 are more fraught negotiations with Khartoum on security and oil and most people will face another year of austerity. Outsiders might underestimate Southern determination. ‘We managed to survive without an economy for over 20 years in the war and we can do it again’, a senior minister in Juba told Africa Confidential. ‘If the people have no food, they can always learn to fish.’


Falling foreign support

Juba’s failure to react to its shrinking reservoir of international goodwill was illustrated firstly, by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army shooting down a helicopter of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan on 21 December, and secondly, by its response.


Navigating the rapids

Elections for the lower house of parliament, the Maglis el Nuwab, are scheduled during the next two months but could be delayed if disputes over the constitution persist. The polls will be a decisive test of the relative strength of the Islamist and non-Islamist currents in Egypt after the bitter confrontations between the two at the end of 2012.


Democratic hustle

Mounting problems of security, economics and social development will hustle democratic Libya’s feeble central government and half-formed state institutions into action on several fronts in 2013. However, this will not happen until popular frustration with the status quo forces the current crop of inexperienced ministers and other politicians to act. As last year, the region around Benghazi, Cyrenaica, is most likely to produce an upset that will test both the resolve and ability of the General National Congress and the interim government to keep the democratic transition on track.


The longer war

Optimism was high last September when President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud took office and appointed a cabinet led by Abdi Farah Shirdon ‘Said’ (AC Vol 53 No 22). The early promise has faded, however, and the expectations of both Somalis and international donors for major improvements in 2013 are likely to be frustrated. There has been some degree of normalisation, and a marked increase in the efficiency and accountability of government institutions but tension within the narrowly-based cabinet is expected to increase.



In this New Year edition, Africa Confidential’s correspondents assess what lies ahead in some of Africa’s biggest economies, such as Nigeria and South Africa, and in troubled states, such as Mali, Congo-Kinshasa and Sudan. We also look at two of th...


Northern parts

Somaliland’s success story will come under growing regional pressure in 2013, partly because of developments in neighbouring Somalia. The key issue for Somaliland remains diplomatic recognition as a nation state. That seems as far away as ever despite the territory’s success both in generally maintaining peace and security within its self-declared territorial borders and in raising revenue. Yet it has been largely shunned by the international aid organisations and the major powers involved in Somalia.

Issue archive

Search our 16-year online archive

Archive Alternatively, contact us to find out about access to more than 50 years of the world's best fortnightly newsletter on African politics.

Looking for a specific issue of Africa Confidential?


Patrick Smith Not yet ready to subscribe to Africa Confidential's complete information service? Then why not register for our free email alerts.

 Every two weeks you get a concise snapshot of the latest issue - courtesy of our editor, Patrick Smith - so you're made aware of which issues we cover each fortnight.

Sign up right away and you also get a free copy of 'The Editor's Choice' – 66 pages of some of the very best previous Africa Confidential articles.

'The Editor's Choice' is in PDF format. So you can download it in an instant – just as soon as you have registered with us.

Payment cards