Africa Confidential | AFRICA/UNITED NATIONS: UN’s new Africa economy chief to open international financial parley

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

by Business Council for Africa

By Patrick Smith
Editor of Africa Confidential 

This week we start in Addis Ababa for an international conference on development finance. And then to Côte d’Ivoirewhere the government is insisting the army mutiny is over. In South Africa, the African National Congress is divided over the reappointment of Brian Molefe, a presidential ally, to run the national power company. There are signs of scepticism about Western policy on Somalia as well as doubts about the ability of the new government there to deliver. Finally, Nigerian officials are to resume negotiations this week with representatives of Boko Haram to free more of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls.

AFRICA/UNITED NATIONS: UN’s new Africa economy chief to open international financial parley
Vera Songwe, the highly-regarded new executive secretary of the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa, will preside over the continent’s biggest financing conference, the Africa Regional Forum, in Addis Ababa, which starts tomorrow(17 May). Its aim is to finalise the continent’s strategy and list of priorities ahead of the UN’s High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development in September, which is to be attended by over 180 governments and funding agencies.

The starting point for the discussions in Addis Ababa will be growing inequality across Africa and the failure of its economies to generate more jobs after a decade of economic growth averaging 5%. Songwe has said one of her main concerns will be policies and projects that work for the more than 70% of Africans currently dependent on seasonal, rain-fed agriculture.

After the forum ends, many of the delegates will travel to Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India where the African Development Bank is holding its annual meeting this year on 22-25 May.

SOUTH AFRICA: Molefe returns to Eskom as Zuma tries to keep Russian nuclear deal on track
African National Congress dissidents and anti-corruption activists are railing against Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown’s reappointment of Brian Molefe as chief executive officer of Eskom. A group of senior figures in the party have called on Brown to reverse the decision immediately.

Molefe resigned as head of Eskom last November after a report by the office of the Public Protector, an official anti-corruption body, found mismanagement and fraud at the highest level in the company. It also pointed to the heavy influence of the Gupta family, business associates of President Jacob Zuma, on Molefe. In particular, it found that Molefe didn’t follow company’s rules when awarding a lucrative coal supply contract to the Guptas.

Last month, the High Court in the Western Cape ordered Eskom to abandon a planned US$70 billion deal with Russiato build nuclear power stations because parliament had not been consulted. The government said it won’t appeal against the ruling but it will reopen negotiations with Russian nuclear power companies. Overseeing those talks would be one of Molefe’s first tasks if he stays in the job.

COTE D’IVOIRE: Mutineers deny minister’s claim of a deal on pay arrears
There are doubts about government claims of a deal over soldiers’ pay after mutineers insisted early today (16 May) that they would continue with the protests which have shut down the commercial capital Abidjan and the northern town of Bouaké in the north since the end of last week.

The rebel soldiers, who fought for President Alassane Ouattara during his confrontation with ex-President Laurent Gbagbo, had been offered bonuses of CFA12 million (US$20,000) after protests in January. But most of them have received just CFA5 mn. because the state treasury has been hit by the precipitate fall in revenues from cocoa exports.

AFRICA/UNITED STATES: Washington’s new Africa policy chief to face critics over Somalia policy shift
One of the first tasks facing Peter Pham, who we understand has been appointed Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, will be to explain President Donald Trump’s more militarised policy, which has removed some safeguards designed to keep civilian casualties to a minimum.

Critics say the new rules enable US officers to kill Somalis ‘perceived’ as terrorists but without clear information that they specifically threaten Americans and this targeting would permit the killing of civilian bystanders if deemed ‘necessary and proportionate’.

Coming alongside the Trump administration’s plans to cut budgets in the US Agency for International Development, which has been financing urgent drought and famine relief, there are concerns the new policy will exacerbate Somalia’s crisis. Critics add that the combination of higher risks to civilians from military attacks and worsening social conditions is likely to strengthen Al Shabaab’s position.

SOMALIA/BRITAIN: Grave doubts despite promises over money and military at London conference
One of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s few foreign policy outings was her opening of the latest London conference on Somalia on 11 May but despite the upbeat talk, the plans to defeat the insurgency in two years and deal with the effects of drought lacked credibility.

Critical shortages of food and water amid attacks by the Al Shabaab militia have driven over one million Somalis from their homes and another 600,000 into neighbouring countries. Somalia’s new President Mohamed Abdullah Mohamed 'Farmajo' set out his goverment’s National Security Plan which is to boost the strength of the national army to 18,000 and guarantee regular pay. Al Shabaab would be defeated within two years, insisted Farmajo, and the government would restart national reconciliation efforts.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson promised a boost in support for Farmajo’s government but not the extra weaponry, including attack helicopters, requested by Somalia and its neighbours in the regional intervention force against Al Shabaab.

NIGERIA: Security services push ahead with Boko Haram talks to free more abducted schoolgirls
Fresh negotiations are due this week between Abuja’s security officials and representatives of the Islamist militia Boko Haram to secure the release of more of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls. By most counts the militia still holds at least 150 of the girls.

Shehu Sani, a senator who has been involved in the negotiations, says the government had preferred to trade some of the militia’s captured commanders for the release of the schoolgirls rather than pay ransoms. Some government officials believe the latest round of negotiations could broaden out to other matters. Security conditions in north-eastern Nigeria remain precarious.

Getting aid to the estimated 4.7 million Nigerians in the area who are desperately in need of food and water has been complicated by military threats and bureaucracy, according to United Nations officials. Aid organisations there say they will run out of money by the end of June unless donors honour the pledges they made at a special conference in Oslo in February.

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