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Published 11th January 2013

Vol 54 No 1

Harsh truths and high growth

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 Eastern Europe, the Middle East and South America. Seven out of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world will be in Africa, according to the International Monetary Fund. Its sister organisation, the World Bank, argues that Africa could be on the brink of an economic take-off similar to China’s in the 1980s. It adds that governments have slashed budget deficits and brought down inflation to single figures, duly encouraged, of course by the IMF and World Bank.

Early start for Jonathan

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Despite corruption worries and a row with Obasanjo over the crisis in the north, President Jonathan prepares to stand in the 2015 elections

Election billboards in the business district of Abuja calling for President Goodluck Jonathan to stand for election again in 2015 opened the political season of the New Year. Jona...

Politics goes to court

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International organisations say it is a model of probity and efficiency, but the Electoral Commission must answer detailed claims of vote rigging

The year started with the presidential inauguration of John Dramani Mahama on 7 January and then consideration by the Supreme Court of a petition claiming his election had been fra...


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...

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.

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Electricity and elections

As multinational companies start bidding for gas assets, the governing CCM is desperate to halt the slide in its popularity

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 ra...

The party isn’t over yet

The real test of Zuma’s crushing victory over the ANC dissidents will be whether the party retains its political dominance in the 2014 elections

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 ...

A race to the bottom

The electoral calculus appears to favour Odinga but ethnic and regional loyalties could provoke violence and millions of voters remain undecided

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 tw...

Navigating the rapids

Egypt is set for another turbulent year as the political conflicts following the 2011 revolution play out and the economy struggles to recover

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...

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 diplomati...

Talk first, fight later

The Bamako government wants to use negotiations – and military muscle – to retake the northern provinces seized by jihadists

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 ...

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...

Ailing and failing

President Kabila’s legitimacy is under attack at home while the country faces ruthless rebel militias backed by Rwanda and Uganda

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...

Let them eat fish

Oil may start flowing again but it will take more than that to rescue a weak economy and internal feuds will continue

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 f...

Democratic hustle

Libya’s rulers will need cajoling and heavy popular pressure before they do what is needed to set up an authoritative central government

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 f...

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 promoti...

A test for the constitutions

This year’s much delayed elections could well yield surprises but companies are nervous about election tactics such as ‘indigenisation’ decreees

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...

Khartoum in a corner

Pressure will mount on the ruling party as its political and military opponents reorganise and the economy weakens

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 upt...

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...

The longer war

The government came in on a wave of optimism but will find it tough to maintain momentum. Al Shabaab is on the back foot but not defeated

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 ...