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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 30th May 2017

TANZANIA: The next test for Magufuli's resource nationalism

Patrick Smith

We start this week with another high-stakes battle between a multinational mining company and an African government, this time in Tanzania. The Ethiopian government is celebrating Tedros Adhanom winning the leadership of the World Health Organisation; and Nigeria's Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has delivered a low-key State of the Nation address while President Muhammadu Buhari remains in London for medical treatment. President Jacob Zuma has survived one challenge to his leadership from within the African National Congress but faces another in parliament next month. Côte d'Ivoire is to float a US$1 billion Eurobond to compensate for cocoa losses and pay off mutinous soldiers. Kenya's election is looking tighter.

TANZANIA: The next test for Magufuli's resource nationalismCanada's Acacia Mining, majority-owned by Barrick Gold, is to respond in detail this week to claims by President John Magufuli on 24 May that the company had been declaring less than a tenth of the value of its gold exports. Living up to his 'Bulldozer' sobriquet, Magufuli sacked Energy and Mines Minister Sospeter Muhongo, his departmental permanent secretary Justin Ntalikwa, and the head of the Tanzania Minerals Audit Agency Dominic Rwekaza all on the same day.

Although Acacia disputes Magufuli's claims, which are based on findings from two investigative committees set up by the presidency, the share price plummeted in London. 'We do not understand the findings of the [investigation] committee and believe that they contain significant discrepancies compared to all previous data analysed,' said a company statement released on 26 May.

Senior management at Acacia, we hear, are seeking to discuss the matter with the government this week but have said they will have to consider 'all options' – which could include leaving Tanzania. Last year, gold exports earned the country around US$1.5 billion and mining accounts for 3-4% of gross domestic product.

ETHIOPIA: Tedros triumphs at WHO but tough questions lurkThe election of Ethiopia's one-time health minister, also a former foreign minister, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as the first African director-general of the World Health Organisation was an important diplomatic victory for Addis Ababa after months of tough campaigning.

However, Tedros faced protests from Ethiopian oppositionists outside WHO headquarters in Geneva. An advisor linked to his British rival for the job, Dr David Nabarro, accused Tedros of covering up cholera epidemics in Ethiopia in 2006, 2009 and 2011 when he was health minister. Known for his robust rhetoric, Tedros dismissed the British claims as 'a typical colonial mindset …and discrediting a candidate from a developing country.'

But the bigger question facing Tedros is whether he can lead a substantial reform of the WHO, which came under fire over its handling of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
NIGERIA: Mid-term economic warnings and political doubtsWith President Muhammadu Buhari receiving treatment in London, it fell to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to deliver the government's mid-term report to Nigerians on 29 May, exactly two years since it took office.

Osinbajo emphasised that the country's underperforming economy, slowly recovering from falling into recession last year for the first time in two decades, was the 'biggest challenge' as he sketched out the government's strategy.

After a succession of warnings about a coup plotters and arms caches from the Army Chief of Staff General Tukur Buratai and the former governor of Lagos State Bola Tinubu, Osinbajo kept his comments on Nigeria's febrile political scene to a minimum. Political insiders noted that Osinbajo pared down his trip to the G7 meeting in Italy last week to avoid being out of the country for more than a day.

SOUTH AFRICA: After surviving no confidence debate in ANC's top committee, Zuma is likely to win parliamentary test next monthIt was the strongest attack yet on President Jacob Zuma by senior members of the African National Congress. The National Executive Committee's 70 members debated last Sunday and Monday (28-29 May) whether he should be forced out but his opponents lacked the numbers to force a vote against him and he survived with ease.

However, it's evident that Zuma's support within the party is gradually leaching away. The publication in several newspapers today (30 May) of emails purporting to show that Zuma and his family were planning to set up a 'second home' in Dubai further poisoned the atmosphere against him. The NEC backed the call for a judicial inquiry into the close links between Zuma and businesses owned by the Gupta family which was called for by the Public Protector's report on 'state capture'.
That will create further problems for him ahead of the ANC leadership elections in December. Early next month Zuma faces another no-confidence motion in parliament. Dissident ANC MPs have been told they face tough sanctions if they vote against him.

ANGOLA: President Dos Santos's medical checks in Spain trigger more speculationVeteran Foreign Minister Georges Chikoti has dampened reports that the 74-year-old President José Eduardo dos Santos was critically ill in Spain after it was claimed he had suffered a stroke a month ago. Dos Santos's daughter Isabel posted on her Facebook page a denial that her father had passed away.

Although Defence Minister João Lourenço is due to take over the leadership of the governing MPLA after national presidential and parliamentary elections on 23 August, a sudden exit by Dos Santos could destabilise the transition. The MPLA is set to win the elections comfortably but there has been mounting criticism of the influence of the president's family over state institutions.

CÔTE D'IVOIRE: US$1 billion bond to fix budget hole and pay off mutineersAfter a 40% drop in international cocoa prices and several mutinies this year from disgruntled soldiers demanding bonus payments, President Alassane Ouattara's government has announced it will float a US$1 billion Eurobond next month. Despite security worries after protests and clashes involving government soldiers, the government enjoys a better credit rating than most of its quieter neighbours such as Ghana. Finance Minister Adama Kone said the country is also negotiating more credits from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

KENYA: Latest polls put Kenyatta and Odinga neck and neck as tensions riseAssumptions that President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Jubilee coalition would score an easy victory in presidential and parliamentary elections due in August are questioned in the latest analysis by the Ipsos marketing group and other consultancies.

Most analysts say the gap between Kenyatta and his presidential rival Raila Odinga has narrowed appreciably this year mainly because of tougher economic conditions. Odinga's chances will be critically dependent, they say, on his ability to inspire a high turnout in his strongholds in Nyanza, Western Kenya and the Coast.