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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 12th August 2019

The week ahead in Africa: AFRICA'S POWER SUMMIT: Ramaphosa invites Buhari to Pretoria in October for trade and security talks and the inauguration of a bilateral commission

Patrick Smith

This week a Nigeria-South Africasummit is in prospect, a new power-sharing government in Sudan, and more mining rows. Also ahead, big protests loom in Zimbabwe, opposition complaints about the election come to court in Malawi, and yet more presidential contenders sign up in Tunisia.

AFRICA'S POWER SUMMIT: Ramaphosa invites Buhari to Pretoria in October for trade and security talks and the inauguration of a bilateral commission

After 25 years of lacklustre relations with Nigeria, South Africa is turning on the charm with the offer of a grand state visit to launch a raft of cooperation agreements and trade deals. Security is high up the agenda, as is reform of the African Union and the role of outside powers in regional conflicts.

President Muhammadu Buhari has accepted the invitation and the summit is set for October, according to Abuja. In September, Buhari will fly to New York for the UN General Assembly, which Nigeria is to chair this year. The two country's presidential teams are likely to meet there to finalise logistics and the agenda for the summit, we hear.

Although Cyril Ramaphosa and Buhari are not close, insiders say there is mutual respect and belief that the two countries should be doing more together. It was Ramaphosa flying into Abuja in July 2018 to meet Buhari that elicited a commitment from Nigeria on the African Continental Free Trade Area. Nigeria signed the AfCFTA this July.

Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa. South Africa is the second biggest but is the most industrialised on the continent. Yet trade between the two countries – at about US$4 billion – is running well under potential.

Nigeria wants South Africa to buy more of its crude oil, and eventually petroleum products after the Dangote Group's 650,000 barrel-a-day refinery starts operations next year. Nigeria's film and music industry is also raising its profile in South Africa.

There are also rumbling disputes about the Nigerian operations of South African multinationals like MTN and Standard Bank over their tax obligations and foreign exchange remittances.
Other South African companies, especially in the service sector, have a patchy record in Nigeria. We hear that South Africa's ailing arms industry will also be pitching its wares to Nigeria's military this year.

MILITARY BUSINESS IN SUDAN: Ahead of the launch of power-sharing government this week, the army has been spreading its tentacles in the region

Sudan Transition Timetable

The new transitional government is due to start work on Sunday (18 August) according to the schedule agreed by the military and the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) on 4 August (see Sudan Transition Timetable). Under the terms of that deal, the military wants to keep a tight rein on all defence and security matters, reserving those portfolios in the new council of ministers, as well as nominating the new minister of interior.

Both sides are far apart on the military's overseas operations as well as its grip on the national economy and state budget. As well as sending at least 14,000 Sudanese soldiers and militia fighters to the war in Yemen, the ruling generals have approved the dispatch of at least 1,000 Sudanese to fight alongside Khalifa Haftar's Eastern Libyan Command which is trying to overthrow the UN-recognised government in Tripoli.

Sudan's role in the Libya war was part of an agreement signed between the commander of the Rapid Support Forces, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as 'Hemeti' and Ari Ben Menashe (AC Vol 60 No 16, Lobbyist of last resort).

Now, UN investigators report that Hemeti's RSF has been supplying weaponry and armoured vehicles to fighters linked to the Sélékacoalition in neighbouring Central African Republic. Nourredine Adam, a militia leader in CAR, is said to have met Hemeti several times in Khartoum this year.

The UN experts warn that the build-up of arms from Sudan and Chadcould scuttle the ceasefire agreement signed in Bangui in February.

COSTS OF RESOURCE NATIONALISM: Zambia's mining industry suffers big hits but Tanzania scores a tactical win

Governments calculating how much revenue they can get from the mining industry are watching policies and law suits in Dar es Salaam and Lusaka.

In Tanzania, President John Magufuli's resource nationalist policies, buttressed by some extravagant claims, have secured better fiscal terms for the government, at least in the short term. After his battle with gold miner Acacia over tax payments, both sides held their position.

Then, the parent firm Barrick Gold bought out Acacia and agreed a new tax and royalty settlement with the government. How long that lasts might depend on the gold price. In Côte d'Ivoire, run by a more pro-market President, Barrick wants to sell its Tongon gold mine.

In Zambia, President Edgar Lunguis trying out Magufuli's playbook with mixed results. Embroiled in a dispute on revenues with Vedanta for months, Lungu's government has started proceedings to liquidate the company's Konkola Copper Mines subsidiary. Lungu is imposing tax hikes on other mining firms.

But some mining companies say that they may just walk away, after a succession of mine shutdowns in Africa in recent months.

The mines ministry in Lusaka is urging Glencore subsidiary Mopani Copper Mines to reconsider the closure of two shafts at its Nkana site in the Copperbelt. Permanent Secretary Paul Chandasays that Mopani could hand over the running of the shafts to local contractors and avoid 1,400 job losses. Last month Glencore suspended work at its cobalt mine in Congo-Kinshasa, which has the biggest reserves of the metal in the world.

CHALLENGING MALAWI'S PRESIDENTIAL VOTE: After leading a militant campaign questioning Mutharika's election victory, opposition parties take their case to court

Almost three months after disputed polls which saw Peter Mutharika narrowly re-elected as President, United Transformation Movement leader Saulos Chilima and MalawiCongress Party President Lazarus Chakwera get their day in court.

Few think that they can overturn the result, although the case could help electoral reforms. Mutharika wants to avoid appearing before the court but has failed to have the case thrown out.

Although they mobilised their supporters impressively on the streets, the challenge by Chakwera and Chilima has been disjointed. The two defeated candidates filed separate petitions alleging irregularities in the results management process, bribery and the use of Tipp-ex correcting fluid to adjust vote tallies.

ZIMBABWE'S DISAPPEARING ECONOMY: Can opposition protests win national support as shortages, inflation and currency crisis worsen?

Compared to its counterparts in Algeriaand Sudan, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change has struggled to mobilise mass support as economic woes deepen a year after President Emmerson Mnangagwa's election.

The MDC has been planning a mass protest march on Friday (16 August) against mismanagement and corruption. Zimbabweans have been hit by chronic shortages of bread and fuel as foreign exchange reserves dry up, and power cuts of 18 hours at a time.

The government says its security forces are braced for action. At two protests in the past year it has used live rounds, killing several civilians. Home Affairs Minister Cain Mathemaclaims foreign agent provocateurs are working with the MDC to destabilise the country.

CROWDED RACE TO RUN TUNISIA: Almost 100 candidates to stand in presidential elections in September

Ranging from nationalist, populist to Islamist, 98 candidates filed their papers to stand in presidential elections on 15 September. Although many may withdraw before polling day.

Businessman and media mogul Nabil Karouitops the opinion polls, despite an indictment for money-laundering. The field also includes Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, and defence minister Abdelkarim Zbidi. Zbidi is the insiders' favourite, as part of the late President Béji Caïd Essebsi's inner circle.

Liberal former Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa andMoncef Marzouki, who served as interim president for three years after 2011, are standing, as is Mounir Baatour, the first openly gay presidential candidate in a Muslim country.

The Islamist Ennahda party is putting up its first presidential candidate since 2011, parliament's deputy speaker, Abdelfattah Mourou.


ETHIOPIA'S ELECTION SURPRISE: Abiy Ahmedgovernment insists there will be national elections next year despite multiple doubts on organisation and security

REOPENING UGANDA'S FACTORIES: Musevenigovernment plans $800 million state-led plan to revive agricultural processing and industries

CAMEROON HITS OPPOSITION: President Biyagaols 41 opposition activists and signs multi-million dollar contract with Washington lobbyists Clout Public Affairs