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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 22nd July 2019

The week ahead in Africa: Kenya, South Africa, African football, Tanzania, Africa/China, Israel/Uganda

Patrick Smith

We start with the dramatic charging of top finance ministry officials in Nairobi, and then head towards South Africa's politicised legal dramas pitting two presidents and their proxies against each other. A new mining deal in Tanzania could boost resource nationalism and African states give more backing to China's Huawei, in spite of the US sanctions. A leaked document shows an Israeli tech firm offering sophisticated spying technology to the Ugandan government.

KENYA: Prosecutor charges top finance officials as scandal over dam contracts threatens allies of Deputy President Ruto

The government is in crisis after Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji ordered the arrest of Finance Minister Henry Rotich as part of a probe into rogue payments on multi-million dollar dam contracts.

Rotich is one of 25, including Treasury Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge, Haji has linked to the dam scandal. Its impact goes to the heart of the government because opponents of Deputy President William Ruto insist he too should answer questions about the public funding losses involved. Ruto has denied all wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, President Uhuru Kenyatta, who tries to stay apart from the worsening fight over the succession between Ruto and his rivals, is likely to use the prosecutor's latest announcement as proof that his war on corruption is sparing nobody – not even top officials.

Rotich's arrest is likely to force Kenyatta to appoint a replacement, at least while the case plays out. And that could take months, if not years.

SOUTH AFRICA: Ramaphosa and Zuma locked in battle as their proxies head for the courts and the streets

The country's politicised courtroom dramas are to continue this week after the Constitutional Court delivered a speedy rebuff on Monday (22 July) to Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's finding that President Cyril Ramaphosa had broken constitutional rules and the presidential ethics code in his parliamentary statements about donations to his campaign for the leadership of the African National Congress in 2016.

The judgement is the latest move in the battle between Ramaphosa and the Public Protector, who was appointed by ex-President Jacob Zuma and has been accused by critics of playing politics and siding with the current president's opponents in the ANC's power struggle. She denies the allegations, claiming they're trying to undermine her investigations.

In a special press conference on 21 July, President Ramaphosa said that Mkhwebane's findings were 'fundamentally and irretrievably flawed' and that she had exceeded her mandate.

Ramaphosa's allies accuse Mkhwebane of favouring her former boss. Her broadside against Ramaphosa comes as Zuma faces a second week of tough questioning at the Zondo Commission in Johannesburg about his own links to grand corruption and claims that he favoured his business associates, the Guptas, in state contracts.

AFRICAN FOOTBALL: Politics and corruption fight take centre-stage after continental tournament makes money but fails to inspire

For many football fans, Algeria's uninspiring 1-0 victory over Senegal in the final of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) on Friday (19 July) symbolised the crisis in the game on the continent. Two decades ago, African teams challenged some of the best European and Latin American sides, but they have lost out badly in recent international competitions.

African football's governing body, the Confederation of African Football (CAF), has been stripped of its responsibilities, leaving it a Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) protectorate.

CAF president Ahmad Ahmad was removed from his post in April after CAF general secretary Amr Fahmy sent a letter to FIFA's Ethics Committee detailing bribes, financial mismanagement and multiple counts of sexual harassment. The Ethics Committee is investigating. Ahmad was arrested in Paris earlier this month before being released without charge.

FIFA's Senegalese general secretary, Fatma Samoura, has been in charge of the continent's football governance as 'FIFA general delegate for Africa', since May.

Yet Africa's football industry is booming on and off the field. Kenyan betting firm Sportpesa has become as ubiquitous in Europe, particularly the UK, as it is at home, while revenues and prize money from AFCON continue to increase rapidly. The game's governance is still stuck in the third division.

TANZANIA: international mining house boosts Magufuli's resource nationalist credentials
Barrick Gold's $428 million takeover of Acacia Mining will be spun by President John Magufuli as a victory for his resource nationalist strategy. It comes two years after the government slapped Acacia with a $200 billion bill claim for back taxes.

Then, the government stopped Acacia exporting gold and copper concentrate. As part of the takeover deal, the government is to receive a $300m fine and will benefit from a profit-sharing plan with Barrick.

Mark Bristow, Barrick's chief executive and a reputed tough negotiator, has not been deterred by the Tanzania story. Over the weekend, he said that the company plans 'extensive exploration work' in Côte d'Ivoire.

That was the latest destination in his tour of African countries, following stops in Mali and Congo-Kinshasa. Bristow's message focused on the need for government support.

Magufuli's resource nationalism also has it supporters in Zambia, where President Edgar Lungu's government is using similar tactics against mining giant Vedanta's holdings at the Konkola Copper Mine.

AFRICA/CHINA: Huawei ahead in geopolitics, technology and economics in the next generation of mobile comms

African governments are making it clear which side they favour in the wake of the US's imposition of sanctions on China's tech giant Huawei. The company has chosen Morocco to be the first African country to launch its 5G network, while Kenya's IT minister Joseph Mucheru has insisted that his government's plans for Huawei to roll out its 5G network remain intact, regardless of Trump opening up a new frontier of the US-China trade dispute.

With regional headquarters in Casablanca and Johannesburg, Huawei has stepped up its courting of African governments in recent months. The Nigerian and South African governments are also backing the firm.

ISRAEL/UGANDA: Confidential papers show plans to spy on Museveni's political rivals ahead of next election

Claims that President Yoweri Museveni's government has hired an Israeli firm to spy on social media communications follows an announcement by activist musician Bobi Wine that he will run for the presidency in 2021.

Internal documents revealed by the Financial Timeson 19 July show that Israel's NSO has been lobbying the Museveni government to buy its Pegasus spyware, which the firm claims can scrape user data not only from smartphones, but also from cloud servers powered by Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft.

NSO says it only sells Pegasus to 'responsible governments' to fight crime and prevent terrorist attacks.


NIGERIA: As insecurity worries rise amid lacklustre economic growth, the Central Bank meets tomorrow (23 July) to debate interest rates and monetary policy

EGYPT: Fears mount over another terror attack after British Airways and Lufthansa suspended flights to Cairo

TUNISIA: 'Battle of the Sheikhs' as leader of the Ennahda, Rachid Ghannouchi, 78, plots campaign to replace secular President Beji Caïd Essebsi, 92

LIBYA: Haftar's war on Tripoli to continue but the Serraj government's revenues could bounce back as production in the giant south-west Sharara oil field restarts