Africa Confidential - 13 October 2020

Oct 13, 2020

Dear Invest Africa Member,


This week the IMF and the World Bank hold their annual meetings as pressure mounts for more action on debt relief and concessional funding in response to the pandemic-induced economic recession. And after a week of national protests, the Nigerian government has suspended the operations of a national anti-robbery police unit, promising wider reforms of the security forces. In Nairobi, the rivalry between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto blew up at a cabinet meeting, suggesting the crisis within the ruling party is deepening.


AFRICA'S PANDEMIC HIT ECONOMIES: IMF wins praise on pandemic response from African leaders as G20 and private sector are called on to do more in week of international summits


After a devastating year in which average growth in Africa is set to shrink by 3.3% – the region's first recession for a quarter of a century – its economies are set to bounce back with average growth of 2.1% next year and 3.2% in 2022, according to the World Bank's latest economic projections.


These figures assume the current downward dip in coronavirus cases in Africa continues. If there is, for example, a second wave of infections of the kind that Europe is currently experiencing, the Bank says the continent's growth rate could halve next year.


Among the hardest hit economies would be oil producers Angola and Nigeria. 


The Bank and the IMF are holding their annual meetings this week by tele-conference from their headquarters in Washington DC: both institutions have called for a suspension of debt-servicing in Africa's hardest-hit countries.


The IMF projects that Africa will need some $1.2 trillion over the next three years as it tries to recover from this year's recession but on present data, it will face a financing gap of about $345bn.


Kristalina Georgieva, the IMF managing director, is calling on richer member states to step up pledges to boost the fund's concessional lending resources and to make available their Special Drawing Rights (the IMF's currency) to poorer states. The United States has made it clear that it would oppose any expanded issue of SDRs by the IMF, at least in the short term.


Donald Kaberuka, former President of the African Development Bank, told the Financial Times Africa Summit on 12 October that the IMF's response to the pandemic – disbursing some $26bn to African economies over the last seven months – showed it to be a 'centre of excellence'. But like many other African leaders Kaberuka was highly critical of the role of Group of 20 countries (G-20) which has adopted a minimalist approach on debt relief for the world's poorest countries.


Another target of growing pressure from the IMF and World Bank, as well as leaders from developing economies, are private-sector lenders, the banks, and the bondholders, who have so far rejected any attempt at a coordinated approach to debt relief measures.


NIGERIA'S POLICE: President Buhari suspends special anti-robbery unit after a week of protests across the country


Young demonstrators who launched a wave of protests against the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Nigeria's biggest cities won their first concession when the government banned the unit from 'stop and search' operations and setting up roadblocks.


Initially, the government said on 11 October that it would reform the unit, rather than disband it as the demonstrators were demanding. Then early on 12 October, the Federal Nigerian Police said it was dissolving the SARS unit 'in response to the yearnings of the Nigerian people'. Members of the unit are going to be redeployed and a new strategy to fight kidnapping and armed robbery would be developed, it said.


Protests against the SARS unit, accused of serial brutality and corruption, have been mounting after its officers killed a young man last week after previously wounding several others. International organisations such as Amnesty International have joined in the criticism of SARS.


POLITICAL DUEL IN KENYA: Questions about Deputy President William Ruto's future after he is lambasted in stormy cabinet session


The fragility of Deputy President William Ruto's position in President Uhuru Kenyatta's government was underscored at a stormy cabinet meeting last week in State House.


Kenyatta is believed to have allowed his ministers to tee off on his Deputy, accusing him of attacking fellow ministers, singling out Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i. Indeed, Matiang'i, who has been rapidly promoted by Kenyatta, has been touted by some as a presidential candidate in 2022.


Ruto has been fighting a bitter insurgent campaign against President Kenyatta and his allies for control of the governing Jubilee party. There are growing reports that Kenyatta is daring his Deputy to resign.

The stand-off is likely to continue; there is little political value for Ruto in quitting his post and it is hard to see how he could be removed without breaching the constitution.


Forcing Ruto out would be a risky ploy by Kenyatta's allies. It would deny him access to the Jubilee party machine but add weight to Ruto's 'hustler nation' campaign pitch, which already draws on his status as a self-made man taking on Kenya's political scions (AC Vol 61 No 19, Keeping up with the Kenyattas).


AFRICA/INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS: After being pushed out of the race to head the trade body, Kenya's Amina Mohamed is tipped as next chief of the Commonwealth


Its candidate narrowly missed out in the race to be the next director-general of the World Trade Organization, three years after losing out in the race to head the African Union's Commission – but Kenya is lining up Culture minister Amina Mohamed for another international job (AC Vol 57 No 22, Amina jumps to the front).


Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria's former finance minister, and Yoo Myung-hee, South Korea's trade chief, made it to the final stages of campaigning to replace Roberto Azevedo as WTO director-general (AC Vol 61 No 20, Amina misses out again). The winner is due to be announced by 7 November.


The post of Commonwealth secretary-general has been ear-marked for Mohamed, say political sources in Nairobi and London. Mohamed has the backing of Boris Johnson's UK government, which is keen to remove Baroness Patricia Scotland, a former minister in Tony Blair's and Gordon Brown's Labour governments, from the post. Scotland has been accused of financial irregularities on procurement (AC Vol 61 No 6, Scotland under siege).


Her tenure was extended in June following the postponement, for a year, of the Commonwealth leaders' summit in Rwanda due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But Scotland is said to have lost the support of many African states, including South Africa.


OPPOSITION UNDER PRESSURE IN TANZANIA: Repression and a car crash hit the main opponents of President John Magufuli in final days of the election campaign


Confusion surrounds the health of Zitto Kabwe, the leader of the Alliance for Change and Transparency-Wazelendo, who was injured in a car crash while on the campaign trail last week and is said to be recovering from surgery.


There is, as yet, no suggestion of foul play, but Kabwe's absence from campaigning two weeks before polling day on 28 October is another blow to opposition hopes. Last week, Chadema presidential candidate Tundu Lissu saw his campaign suspended by the electoral commission after being accused of making seditious statements. Opposition parties have complained repeatedly of political bias by the electoral commission and of their inability to campaign (AC Vol 61 No 19, A government walkover).




SOUTH AFRICA INTENSIFIES CORRUPTION PROBE: Ex-President Jacob Zuma summoned before the Zondo Commission next month as prosecutors prepare to move against his ally Ace Magashule, Secretary-General of the ANC


ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES HELPS OUT… WITH CONDITIONS: South African Airways has been offered planes and maintenance services from Ethiopia's national carrier but the deal excludes any financial support


MALI'S HOSTAGE RELEASE DEAL: Questions are being asked about ransoms and the role of the Vatican after Bamako's transitional government secured the release of opposition leader Soumalïa Cissé, French aid worker Sophie Pétronin and an Italian priest who had been held by jihadist groups linked to Al Qaida


CÔTE D'IVOIRE'S OPPOSITION PUSHES BACK: Mass rally of opposition parties in Abidjan calls for President Ouattara to abandon his bid for a third term in elections due at the end of this month


Don't forget to check for our latest stories.

Yours confidentially,

Patrick Smith,


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