VIF News Digest: Africa, Gulf & Middle East (Vol 2 Issue II)

15 Jan – 15 Feb, 2018

Jacob Zuma Quits as President of South Africa

Jacob Zuma resigned as President of South Africa on orders by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to bring an end to his rule, by instructing him to step down, else it would back an opposition motion in parliament to force him out. Zuma in his speech mentioned that he would accept the orders but disagreed with the way the ANC had forced him to step down after the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as party president in December, 2017. Following were his words, "I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect. Even though I disagree with the decision of the leadership of my organisation, I have always been a disciplined member of the ANC.”

His resignation came just hours after police raided the luxury home of the Gupta family, Indian-born billionaire allies of the president who have been at the centre of corruption allegations against Zuma for years. Zuma and the Guptas have always denied the wrongdoing. His resignation ends the career of the former anti-apartheid resistance fighter and his departure as president leaves South Africa with a disillusioned electorate and a weakened economy.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn Submits Resignation after Anti- Government Protests

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam announced and submitted his resignation letter after the worst anti-government protests took place in Addis Ababa. He said that this surprise decision of his would help planned reforms succeed and create a “lasting peace.” Ethiopia has been rocked by months of protests demanding wider freedoms that have left hundreds dead and tens of thousands detained. The government in recent weeks released more than 6,500 detained opposition figures, journalists and others after the prime minister in an unexpected announcement in January said he wanted to “widen the democratic space for all.” The protests had disrupted life and business in one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. A favorite to replace the prime minister is the head of Ethiopia’s Oromia region, Lemma Megerssa. Many see Lemma, the president of the largest federal state, as politically assertive and having the acceptance of many in the younger generation. But a legal scholar at Mekelle University, Meressa Tsehaye, said the deputy prime minister is widely expected to succeed Hailemariam. Another option is that the four core parties of the ruling coalition will elect a new party leader who then will lead the country.

African Development Bank Signs $700 million Development Loan Agreement with Japan

The President, African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina has confirmed that the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has signed a 700 million dollar loan agreement with African Development Fund (ADF). This is the first JICA loan provided to the ADF that would contribute to economic growth as well as poverty alleviation in Africa’s least developed countries. This loan is a part of Japan’s contribution to the ADF’s Fourteenth Replenishment (ADF-14). The loan would provide the ADF with resources to support recipient countries during the ADF-14 period, from Jan. 1, 2017 to December 31, 2019.

China Will help the African Union build its Office in Beijing

The Chinese government is willing to support the African Union (AU) to establish a representational office in Beijing, to ensure effective and timely follow-up of the China-Africa partnership. Following a two-day official visit to the country by the AU chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat in January, the pronouncement release by the AU also mentioned that such initiative will also support the work of the African Group of Ambassadors in Beijing in order to ensure alignment with African Union positions. Furthermore, China agreed to continue supporting institutional capacity at the African Union. This is in addition to their ongoing support for African Union infrastructure, including the New Conference Centre and the renovation of other buildings in the African Union compound.

African Union Summit held in Addis Ababa Unveils the African Economic Outlook 2018

The major findings of the African Economic Outlook, 2018 was that weak economy and poor infrastructure is a serious impediment to inclusive growth and development across Africa. The African Economic Outlook puts average real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in Africa at 3.6 per cent in 2017 which is a good recovery from the 2.2 per cent recorded in 2016. The 2017 figure is projected to grow by 4.1 per cent a year in 2018 and 2019. Growth was driven by improved global economic conditions, better macro- economic management, recovery in commodity prices (mainly oil and metals), sustained domestic demand (partly met by import substitution), and improvements in agriculture production.

However, the report noted that Africa is still experiencing jobless growth due largely to limited structural change. Consequently, sustained high growth has not had substantial impact on job creation. Africa's infrastructure is still behind those of other regions in quantity, affordability, and quality due to lack of investment. At the same level of GDP per capita, South Asia, East Asia and Latin America have higher access to electricity and water than most African countries. Thus the Commissioner for Economic Affairs at the African Union Commission, Victor Harrison, endorsed the report, urging African countries to adopt the recommendations for inclusive growth.

President Paul Kagame is Elected as the New Chairperson of the African Union

The Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) met in Ethiopia to elect the new chairperson of the AU. President of the Republic of Rwanda Paul Kagame has taken over from Alpha Conde, President of the Republic of Guinea. President Kagame mentioned that Africa’s defining challenge is to create a pathway to prosperity for our people, especially the young people. He focused on creating a single continental market by integrating infrastructure, and infusing the economies with technology. President Kagame further said the programmes, policies, and priorities of the African Union contain the right tools for the job. He added that, there is tremendous value in the African Union’s flagship initiatives, such as Agenda 2063.

India Seychelles Signs a Pact on the Assumption Island

India and Seychelles signed an agreement of twenty years which would enable India to develop, manage, operate and maintain facilities on the Assumption Island. The agreement was signed between the Former Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and the Seychelles Secretary of State, Barry Faure. The main emphasis is to provide a structure for assistance to enhance the military ability and potential in administering the maritime surveillance of Seychelles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) which is approximately 1.3 million square kilometers. Mr. Jaishankar mentioned that India and Seychelles, being maritime neighbours have stake in each other’s security. Henceforth, both cooperates jointly in anti-piracy operations, enhanced surveillance and monitoring to prevent intrusions by potential economic offenders. He also mentioned that there are people engaged in illegal fishing, poaching, drug and human trafficking.

Thus, the pact is seen as big step in extending the reach of India’s Navy, which is expected to rotate its naval assets and aircraft through the islands. On the other hand, the Chief of Staff of the Seychelles people’s Defense Forces mentioned that “The facility on Assumption will also have modern equipment to enable coast guard to have its vessels and air force plane on the island”. The project is wholly financed by the Indian government but Seychelles has full ownership over the island with power to suspend the functioning and utilization of the facilities during epidemic or if India is at war, because this is not a military base.

Italy Approves Military Mission in Niger, More Troops to North Africa

Italy’s parliament approved an increased military presence in Libya and the deployment of up to 470 troops in Niger to combat migration and the trafficking of people toward Europe, many of whom wash up on Italian shores. The focus on Africa comes as Italy is seeking to stop migrants from reaching its shores. The mostly African immigrants first cross the Sahel states to reach Libya, where they set off in boats for Italy. More than 600,000 have come in the past four years. The Niger mission was announced on Dec. 28 as Italy joined France and the United States, which already have troops there. Some 400 soldiers are expected to work in Libya, up from about 370, and, as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Italy will send 60 troops to Tunisia to improve border control and fight terrorism.