Africa in the News: Updates on natural resources and politics in Niger, Djibouti, Benin and Chad

by MMC
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Updates on natural resources and conservation in Angola and South Africa

On Wednesday, April 7, Italian energy company ENI announced plans to invest 7 billion dollars in Angola over a four-year time horizon. The investment in Angola will focus on improving oil and gas exploration, production and refining, as well as building a solar power plant, which the company hopes to become operational by 2022. Africa’s solar energy potential is huge, in recent months the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has found that solar energy and other renewable energy sources are underutilized in the continent’s energy mix. However, IMF projects Renewable energy, particularly solar power, will provide a vast majority of Africa’s energy by 2100 due to its abundance, cost parity with fossil fuels and advances in energy storage.

Separately, supporters of a controversial development project in South Africa’s Limpopo region, in which the Waterberg UNESCO Biosphere Reserve sits, are at odds with proponents of sustainability and public health, as plans for the Musina-Makhado Energy and Metallurgical Special Economic Zone (EMSEZ), a nearly 20,000-acre industrial facility with 20 factories steel mills and various other metalworking plants, are making great strides. The project is expected to emit 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, more than double the country’s current annual emissions, in addition to other industrial pollutants. However, the multibillion-dollar industrial megaproject is also expected to create 54,000 jobs in South Africa, where the ongoing economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the country’s already difficult situation. high unemployment.

Transition in Niger; elections in Djibouti, Benin and Chad

On Friday April 2, Niger celebrated its first democratic transfer of power with the inauguration of the newly elected president Mohamed Bazoum; notably, Niger has experienced four successful coups since its independence of France in 1960. However, the transition of this West African country did not take place perfectly smooth: Just a few days before the inauguration, a a military unit attempted to take the presidential palace in an attempted coup but was pushed back by security forces. It is important to note that the Mo Ibrahim Foundation awarded former President Mahamadou Issoufou, the country’s first democratically elected president, the Ibrahim Prize for African Leadership earlier this year for his leadership and for resigning after two terms, in accordance with the constitution.

Friday April 9, Djibouti held its presidential election, with President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh is looking for a fifth term. Given calls by opposition parties to boycott the elections, experts predict that Guelleh will easily win. Although the country is small, its location on the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait makes it an important security partner for many world powers. Actually, the United States, China, Japan, Italy and France, among others, have military bases in the country.

Also this week, protests against the intention of President Patrice Talon to run in the presidential election in Benin next week, resulting in at least one death. Talon, who was elected in 2016, notably went back on his promise to step down after five years to avoid what he calls “complacency”. Critics warn that Benin’s democracy – which was strengthened when former President Thomas Boni Yayi resigned in 2016 after two terms –stands on fragile ground. In 2018, his government also passed reforms that disqualified all opposition parties to run in 2019. Benin will go to the polls on Sunday April 11.

Chad will also hold a presidential election this Sunday. Tensions continue to simmer as the elections approach: on Friday, according to Reuters, “Chad’s Interior Ministry (said) to have arrested several people after uncover a plot to assassinate prominent political figures and bombed polling stations and the electoral commission headquarters ahead of Sunday’s presidential election. …Politicians were among those arrested for planning the assassination of opposition and civil society leaders in an attempt to frame the government, the ministry said in a statement Thursday evening. Also Thursday, Human Rights Watch warned that pre-election repression against opponents the five mandates of President Idriss Déby led to arrests and violence against demonstrators. Déby, in power since 1990, faces six candidates after the country’s Supreme Court ruled seven others were ineligible. He is expected to win given patchwork of opposition boycotts.

COVID-19 vaccination efforts continue, but funding challenges and food insecurity loom

According to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at the time of writing, there have been 4,317,900 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in all African countries. While the first dose administered in Africa took place on March 1, the vaccine rollout has been slow: only about 0.9 percent of the African population has been vaccinatedthe slowest rate on any continent.

Experts had predicted that vaccine rollout in Africa would face considerable challenges, including access, cost and delivery, which experts predict. The World Health Organization confirmed this this week. Furthermore, questions surrounding the effectiveness of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine against the South African variant have also created complications in this deployment. To facilitate access to affordable vaccines, according to the BBC, most of Africa has joined the COVAX program—a program co-led by CEPI, Gavi, UNICEF and the World Health Organization to “accelerate the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.” In addition, some countries purchase vaccines separately or obtain vaccines from donors. China, Russia and India. (For more details on the challenges facing deployment, see the Foresight Africa 2021 viewpoint, “Navigating the complexities of a COVID vaccine in Africa” by Uwagbale Edward-Ekpu).

Beyond the immediate health threats of the virus, the crisis continues to create problems for the region in terms of financing, corruption and food security. For example, the approval by the IMF, on April 2, of new financing agreements of 2.34 billion dollars to help Kenya deal with COVID-19 and its debt vulnerabilities has been met concerns of Kenyan citizens regarding liability. Earlier this week, al-Jazeera also reported that confusion and profit, among other issues, have hampered the country’s vaccine rollout plans. Additionally, late last week, the country banned private importation of vaccines, citing fears over counterfeits.

COVID-19 has also exacerbated food security in Africa: in fact, in a situation report from late last year, ReliefWeb notes that “COVID-19 has confined populations, limiting their movement, thereby limiting their ability to find alternative or additional sources of income and food..” Now, according to Reuters, 27.3 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) suffer from acute hunger due to localized conflicts and the impact of COVID-19. Indeed, the areas experiencing the worst levels of food insecurity are in the Eastern and Central provinces, all equally affected by the conflict. Similar trends are occurring in the Sahel region Also.

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