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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 22nd January 2018

AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT: Trade, war, elections, and financing make for an agenda full to bursting point

Patrick Smith

We start in Addis Ababa this week with the opening of a critical summit of the African Union. Then to Monrovia for the carnival-like inauguration of President George Weah. After that we go to the European courtrooms for the latest episode in Nigeria's pursuit of ill-gotten oil wealth.

AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT: Trade, war, elections, and financing make for an agenda full to bursting point
Meeting in Addis Ababa for a week starting today (22-29 January), Africa's presidents, foreign ministers and top diplomats face a formidable agenda at the AU summit. Armed conflicts, election disputes, financing mechanisms for the AU itself and a continental trade treaty need resolving.

AU Commission chairman and veteran Chadian diplomat Moussa Faki Mahamat has been working to boost cooperation with the United Nations and the European Union. His itinerary of the past year – South Sudan, Somalia, Congo-Kinshasa, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania – is a guide to the AU's most pressing political and security problems.

There are also deepening, chronic crises, some tracked by the international media and others overlooked. Libya's political crisis and the horrific conditions faced by African migrants is now receiving attention after global media coverage but the challenges to President Paul Biya in Cameroon by Anglophone oppositionists and their Francophone allies has been largely ignored.
Beyond national crises, there are several regional disputes brewing: most directly between Ethiopia and Egypt over the potential of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam to reduce the flow of the Nile; and the reverberations in Africa of the diplomatic ructions between Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran, and the Saudi-led alliance fighting a war in Yemen.

At the summit, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame takes over from Guinea's Alpha Condé as Chairman of the AU. He will be urging his fellow leaders to accept a formula to finance the organisation by levying a 0.2% tax on imports into all member states.

LIBERIA: George Weah's inauguration draws soccer stars and raises high hopes for economic revival
The first African to be voted best footballer in the world, George Weah, was also the first ex-professional footballer on the continent to be inaugurated as president of his country today (22 January). Among the invited celebrities was Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o.

Weah's presidency faces the tough realities of creating jobs, building many more roads and power stations, and attracting more investors to launch productive enterprises. Almost two-thirds of Liberia's 4.5 million people are under 25 and Weah's vote came overwhelmingly from the younger generation, many of whom are tired of what they see as politics dominated by a sterile elite.

NIGERIA: Abuja is suing JP Morgan bank for $875 million in oil corruption row
The dispute over the sale of a prospecting licence OPL 245, one of the richest in the region, to Royal Dutch Shell and Italy's ENI, has now drawn in the New York-based investment bank. Nigeria has hired top barristers in London to retrieve some $875 million which it says was illegally transferred to a former oil minister, Dan Etete, by JP Morgan.

The Bank has until March to file its defence. Like Shell and ENI, which face legal action in the Italian courts, JP Morgan denies any wrongdoing.


ZIMBABWE: President Mnangagwa brings forward elections to May after reshuffling the military and intelligence services

AFRICA: Mobile money companies top the list of investor start-ups in Africa according to Disrupt Africa report

EGYPT: Opposition candidates claim their campaigns are being blocked in run-up to Presidential elections in March

RWANDA/TANZANIA: Presidents Kagame and Magufuli agree to lay foundation stone on 407-kilometre railway from Isaka to Kigali

TUNISIA: Security forces claim to have killed a top Al Qaida official after warnings about returning jihadist fighters