VIF News Digest: Africa (Vol 2 Issue III)

01 - 30 March, 2018

Contents

Cabinet Approves Opening of 18 New Indian Mission in Africa by 2021;

Forty-Four Countries Sign Historic African Union Free Trade Agreement;

The New Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway is Boosting Economic Integration;

Russia to Build First Nuclear Plant in Sudan in 2019;

Russia Seeks Military Cooperation, Diamond, Platinum Projects in Zimbabwe;

The United States Diplomat Tillerson Fired on His Visit to Africa;

President Kovind on a Five-Day Visit to Two Nation of Africa;

India to Negotiate Free Trade Agreement with African Continental Free Trade Agreement say Suresh Prabhu;

India Eyes Cooperation with Africa on International Solar Alliance;

The Al-Shabab Attacks African Union base in Somalia;

Food Crises Continue to Strike - Acute Hunger Intensifies in Somalia.

Cabinet Approves Opening of 18 New Indian Missions in Africa by 2021

The Union Cabinet has approved the opening of 18 new Indian missions in Africa with an aim to expand India's footprints in the resource-rich continent where China has been trying to increase its presence.The new Indian missions will be set up over four years, from 2018 to 2021 and opened in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Swaziland and Togo. Currently, India has 29 resident missions in Africa. According to the government the opening of new missions is also a step towards implementing the vision of enhanced co-operation and engagement with Africa. The government also mentions, that it will further enhance India's diplomatic outreach in the African continent and allow India to engage with Indian diaspora in African countries.

In a separate decision, the Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has given its approval for closure of the India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians (IDF-OI). The decision was taken to enhance synergies in channelising the Indian diaspora's contributions to India's flagship programmes such as the National Mission for Clean Ganga and the Swachh Bharat Mission. IDF-OI was set up with the approval of the Cabinet in 2008 as an autonomous not-for-profit trust to facilitate overseas Indian philanthropy into social and development projects in India. In order to enhance synergies, improve efficiencies and avoid duplication of work, it has been decided by the 9th Meeting of Board of Trustees of the IDF-OI that the Trust would be closed down by 31 March, 2018. [Back to Contents ]

44 Countries Sign historic African Union Free Trade Agreement

44 African countries have signed up to a historic trade agreement aimed at paving the way for a liberalized market for goods and services across the continent. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), an agreement cast in the mold of the European Union’s version was signed during the 10th Ordinary Session of African Union Heads of State summit held in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. The AfCFTA gives birth to the world’s largest free trade area since the World Trade Organization which was formed in 1995. A total of 19 Presidents were present while a number of Prime Ministers and government representatives also signed for their respective countries. The African Union (AU) president, Paul Kagame, mentioned that this agreement is about trade in goods and services. These are the kinds of complex products that drive high income economies. Under the theme: “Creating One African Market,” the initiative falls under the Agenda 2063 of the A.U. According to estimates, if all 55 members states of the AU ratify it, the agreement will bring together 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than 2 trillion US Dollars. [Back to Contents ]

The New Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway is Boosting Economic Integration
The Ambassador of Djibouti to Ethiopia Mohamed Idriss Farah mentioned that Ethiopia-Djibouti railway is paving the way for boosting the multifaceted economic integration between the two countries alongside enhancing the historical people to people ties. He also stated that the two sisterly countries have been working on strengthening their economic integration. The new railway is seen as an important achievement, not only for business but also connecting the people. Describing the existing economic integration of the two countries as “exemplary the rest of Africa”, Amb. Farah said that both countries need to further synergy all aspects of their cooperation including trade, and tourism. According to him, the railway can also contribute a lot to flourish the tourism sector, providing valuable platform for easy flow of tourists from both countries in affordable ticket prices. He also mentioned that the second electricity line from Ethiopia to Djibouti will be finalized soon and will have a paramount role taking the historical relationship of the two countries into the next level.

Russia to build first Nuclear Plant in Sudan in 2019
Sudan and Russia have signed an agreement in Moscow to embark on the building of a nuclear plant for peaceful purposes in Sudan in the middle of 2019. Sudan’s Minister of Water Resources and Electricity Muataz Musa said the agreement would allow for the construction of infrastructure of the peaceful nuclear power and training of Sudanese cadres in this field. He pointed out that his visit to Moscow was an opportunity to learn about Russia’s nuclear capabilities, saying he visited the nuclear plant at Leningrad. Last December, the Russian State Corporation for Atomic Energy (Rosatom) said it signed an agreement to build the first nuclear power plant to produce electricity in Sudan. In November 2017, Musa said the construction of the nuclear plant will take a year and a half after the signing of the contract, pointing the project is part of a government plan to generate more than 5000 megawatts by 2020. Also, earlier this month Musa said Russia has agreed to supply Sudan with a small- capacity floating nuclear plant to produce electricity. Since several years, Sudan announced it had plans to build a four-reactor nuclear power plant to fill the gap in power generation by 2030. [Back to Contents ]

Russia seeks Military Cooperation, Diamond, Platinum Projects in Zimbabwe
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, on a visit to Zimbabwe mentioned that his country was pursuing military cooperation with Zimbabwe and looking at opportunities in the diamond sector as well as fully implementing a $3 billion joint platinum project near Harare. Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the Russian Foreign Minister signed an agreement to establish a special economic zone for Russian firms to manufacture goods for export. They also talked about the prospects for military and technical cooperation. Lavrov’s visit is expected to revive the mining venture, which is one of the single biggest investments that the southern African nation has seen since independence in 1980. He also laid emphasis on the implementation of joint project of exploring the Darwendale platinum deposit which is the world’s largest and is currently operated by a joint venture between Zimbabwe and Russia. Zimbabwe has the second largest known deposits of platinum after South Africa and the Darwendale project is considered to be the largest single deposit. Mnangagwa is desperate to attract foreign investors to kickstart the economy and has promised reforms to safeguard investments [Back to Contents ]

United States Diplomat Tillerson Fired on his Visit to Africa
The United States top diplomat Rex Tillerson, on his first visit to Africa, was fired by U.S. President Donald Trump, leaving Africa puzzled of the US diplomacy. As African countries are still not over Trump's alleged "shithole" remarks against them, Tillerson's visit to five African nations including Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Chad and Nigeria was looked upon as a step to mend U.S.-Africa ties. Tillerson had wanted to use the visit to deepen the US' partnerships in Africa in areas including counter-terrorism, peace and security as well as trade and investment; however, this has become even more uncertain with his sacking. A Kenya-based newspaper, ‘The Standard’ described Tillerson's firing as a "dramatic" end to his 14-month tenure in a report that also pointed out the unusualness of Tillerson's visit to Africa because he had suspended his itinerary due to "illness" while in Kenya and cut short his trip in Africa because of other more urgent work. John Campbell, an Africa scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, told a US media outlet that Trump's sacking of the top US diplomat could be interpreted as "another example of the administration disrespecting Africa." [Back to Contents ]

President Kovind on a Five-Day Visit to two nations of Africa
President Kovind visited Mauritius and Madagascar keeping a steady focus on the Indian Ocean region. He announced a new $100 million line of credit for defence procurement by Mauritius, in addition to a multipurpose offshore patrol vessel (MPOPV) to build its capacities. According to a statement by the Rashtrapati Bhavan, this would be financed by a grant of $5 million and the new line of credit. Coming after the new strategic vision document on the Indian Ocean between India and France, the President’s visit to Mauritius and Madagascar acquires a whole new dimension. President reached Madagascar in his last leg of visit to Africa. The island country is the fourth largest in Africa, in terms of size and is around 300 times bigger than Mauritius. Both Mauritius and Madagascar were erstwhile French colonies. Madagascar has an incredible biodiversity, boasting of four percent of the world's biodiversity. It is also rich in natural resources and has large untapped potential resources of sapphire, copper, iron and nickel. Recently, the island country has discovered oil and is being generated in 19 oil wells. Madagascar belongs to the group of least developed countries and is aid-dependent, according to the United Nations. [Back to Contents ]

India to Negotiate Free Trade Agreement with African Continental Free Trade Agreement say Suresh Prabhu
In the 13th CII-Exim Bank Conclave on "India-Africa Project Partnership", the Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation of India Mr. Sursh Prabhu mentioned that the current bilateral trade between India and Africa of $53 billion was "far below potential and efforts needed to be made to step up the volume of trade" as well as to diversify the trade basket. India would negotiate a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which "will be unique in nature and will be beneficial to Africa's needs”, he said. He also highlighted that the Indian Government was "revamping export insurance and the Project Export Promotion Council" to provide a boost to exports to Africa. In addition, the government was seeking to set up a new India-Africa Development Fund which would seek to synergise the 'Lines of Credit' as well as other export promotion and development programmes to bring about a more holistic development of the continent. Lastly, he also added that India intends to strengthen air connectivity links with Africa. [Back to Contents ]

India eyes Cooperation with Africa on International Solar Alliance
India cooperated with the African nations on the International Solar Alliance (ISA) initiative and looked forward to deepen economic cooperation during the annual meetings of African Development Bank (AfDB) which was for the first time hosted by India . The Finance Ministry mentioned that, "India would seek to leverage this occasion to further deepen her economic cooperation with the African countries. India is also looking forward to cooperation with Africa on the ISA initiative”. The core theme of the event was "Transforming Agriculture for wealth creation in Africa", which has tremendous scope for cooperation between India and Africa. AfDB has adopted a strategy called 'High 5s', which focuses on five major developmental priorities comprising agriculture, energy, industrialisation, regional connectivity and improved quality of life through access to social and economic opportunities. During the course of the event, the Board of Governors of the bank also met to dwell upon the major developmental challenges facing the African countries and the ways to achieve an inclusive and sustainable growth. [Back to Contents ]

Al-Shabab Attacks African Union base in Somalia
The heavily armed Al-Shabab fighters attacked an AU base southwest of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. The gunmen blowed up at least two cars at the military camp in the town of Bulo Marer, before engaging soldiers from African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The fighting lasted for several hours, according to residents and military officials. Mohamud Jimale, a Somali military officer in the town, told local media that the Al Qaeda-linked group suffered heavy losses in the attack and retreated after a long gun battle. Meanwhile, Abdiaziz Abu Mus'ab, the group's military spokesman, told Al Jazeera they lost 14 fighters. "The Mujahideen fighters entered the crusaders' base and killed at least 59 of them. Our fighters also attacked five other bases," Mus'ab said. Residents near the town of Golweyn also reported a vehicle explosion targeting African Union troops. Al Shabab, which is fighting to overthrow Somalia's government, routinely targets AU forces stationed in the country. The group was pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011 by Somali troops backed by AMISOM soldiers. [Back to Contents ]

Food Crises Continue to Strike - Acute Hunger Intensifies in Somalia
The Global Report on Food Crises found that some 124 million people in 51 countries were affected by acute food insecurity during 2017, 11 million more people than the year before. The report defines acute food insecurity as hunger so severe that it poses an immediate threat to lives or livelihoods. The increase is due to conflict and insecurity in Myanmar, northeast Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Yemen. Prolonged drought conditions also resulted in consecutive poor harvests in countries already facing high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition in eastern and southern Africa. The report said the food crisis is determined by complex causes such as conflict, extreme climatic shocks and high prices of staple food often acting at the same time. Conflict continued to be the primary driver of acute food insecurity in 18 countries, 15 of them in Africa or the Middle East. It is the primary reason for most of the world's cases of acute food insecurity, accounting for 60 percent of the global total, or 74 million people. Climate disasters mainly drought were triggers of food crises in 23 countries, two-thirds of them in Africa, and were responsible for pushing some 39 million people into acute food insecurity.The report said conflict would likely remain a significant driver of food crises in 2018, affecting Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, northeastern Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Libya. [Back to Contents ]