Showing posts with label Africa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Africa. Show all posts

5 February 2019

Venezuela’s Oil Industry Decline by the Numbers

The United States is the biggest importer of Venezuelan crude oil, and its sanctions will likely hit the industry hard. 

This week, the United States imposed sanctions on Venezuelan oil firm PDVSA in an attempt to force President Nicolas Maduro to relinquish power to opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido. Maduro responded by calling the sanctions criminal and vowed not to allow ships with crude oil destined for the U.S. to leave Venezuela without being prepaid.

The move is the latest setback for Venezuela’s oil industry. Years of underinvestment and government mismanagement, including siphoning off profits to pay for social programs, have taken a heavy toll. Production has fallen from roughly 3 million barrels per day in the late 1990s to 1.3 million barrels per day in 2018. Changes made under the Maduro government and that of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, have led to a decline in foreign investment and a spike in debt. The country’s oil sector is estimated to owe creditors some $100 billion. Whatever the cost of the latest U.S. sanctions, the industry’s downward spiral has no end in sight. 

Foresight Africa: Top priorities for the continent in 2019


In this year’s Foresight Africa, AGI scholars and invited experts illuminate the priorities of the continent in 2019, delving into six overarching themes with recommendations for tackling the challenges that lie ahead. This unprecedented dynamism of the continent is creating opportunities for trade and investment and is drawing interest from an increasingly diverse group of external partners. Democracy is consolidating, although the prevalence of tensions and, in some countries, violence during elections point to areas for improvement. The demographic tidal wave looms closer, and job creation has not yet been able to catch up. Despite continued progress on governance, more efforts are needed to eradicate corruption and to elevate the voice of women and young people in the decisionmaking.

Africa is brimming with promise and, in some places, peril. With its array of contributions, this year’s edition reflects both the diversity of the continent and the common threads that bind it together. With that aim, we hope to promote and inform a dialogue that will generate sound practical strategies for achieving shared prosperity across the continent.

4 February 2019

The Mask Slips to Reveal the Grim Reality of Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe

James Hamill

The military coup that ended the ruinous 37-year rule of Robert Mugabe was greeted with genuine enthusiasmboth in Zimbabwe and abroad. Any skepticism of Emmerson Mnangagwa was drowned out by the new president’s calming rhetoric about unity and reconciliation and his commitment to a “new beginning.” It seemed churlish, amid such optimism, to deny the long-suffering people of Zimbabwe their moment of hope.

Yet that spirit has been dashed recently as Mnangagwa’s reforms have been exposed as cosmetic, at best. Instead of a new Zimbabwe, it is the same old state within the narrow parameters imposed by the ruling party, ZANU-PF, with no prospect of any change that might encroach upon its power. ...

3 February 2019

Let China Fail in Africa

by Wilson VornDick

America should continue to maintain its key African relationships and interests while China digs a debt hole.

An old African proverb warns that even the best cooking pot will not produce food. American policymakers should consider this saying as they weigh China’s growing clout and the implementation of President Donald Trump’s new Africa Strategy . But China’s economic reach in Africa is teetering on overreach. Just like the prized pot, China may not produce all that is promised. Over the last two decades, China has gained influence as it pumped billions of dollars in projects and investments across Africa focused predominantly on resource extraction and infrastructure. However, this influence comes at a cost. China may be stretching its economic largesse beyond its own capacity, jeopardizing its financial stability both at home and abroad. In July, the Financial Times noted that 234 out of 1,674 Chinese-invested.

Escape From Venezuela


In an escalation of the crisis developing in Venezuela, opposition leader Juan Guaido has now declared himself the country's interim president.

The United States, alongside Canada, Brazil, Colombia and others, were quick to indicate their support for Guaido, leading the beleaguered President Nicolfls Maduro to cut diplomatic ties with Washington - ordering all diplomats to leave the country within 72 hours. The declaration from Guaido comes after two nights of protests in the country which have led to the deaths of at least 14 people.

Venezuela's problems are extensive and varied, with political, social and economic crises making life in the country very difficult. As our infographic shows, this has led to a huge increase in migration out of the country. In 2015, there were almost 700,000 Venezuelans living in other countries. Fast forward to July 2018 and this figure has risen to 2.3 million - representing 7 percent of the country's population. These are only the official figures, too. The actual number that have fled the country is thought to be much higher.


2 February 2019

How South America Ceded the Field in Venezuela

By Oliver Stuenkel

Last week, the young Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president, claiming that the country’s current president, Nicolás Maduro, had forfeited his right to rule by rigging elections in May 2018. Soon after, the United States, Brazil, and most other South American governments (with the exception of Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and Uruguay) recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president.

The decision by the majority of South American governments to back Guaidó was hailed by many as a crucial step forward in confronting Maduro’s authoritarianism. Yet in fact, South America no longer plays any significant role in the Venezuelan crisis. Maduro and his youthful challenger both know that although the armed forces will be the decisive domestic player, the only external actors that really matter are the United States and China and, to a lesser extent, Cuba and Russia.

Understanding Nigeria's Other Security Crises


How has Nigeria responded to a resurgent Biafran separatist movement, and how is it dealing with its other security challenges? 

Fifty years after the Biafran war, a new separatist movement has taken shape in the Nigerian province. In response, the Nigerian government has used a repressive approach to snuff out the movement, arresting activists en masse. The movement’s self-declared leader, Nnmadi Kanu, was at home when Nigerian soldiers stormed his compound. More than 20 people were either killed during the attack or disappeared after it. Kanu himself has not been seen or heard from since. And despite extensive evidence to the contrary, the army maintains that the incident never occurred. 

Though tensions go back at least as far as the devastating Biafran/Nigerian Civil War, which lasted from 1967 to 1970 and resulted in more than 1 million deaths, they have escalated sharply since Kanu ramped up calls for this southeastern corner of the country to form a breakaway nation dominated by members of the Igbo ethnic group.

31 January 2019

As more Africans reach for web, more leaders reach for ‘off’ switch


Collecting the money should have been easy. Alice Ndlovu had done it a million times before. But when she got to the front of the queue at the bank in her hometown of Rusape in eastern Zimbabwe last Friday, the teller shook her head.

Sorry, she said. No service today.

Ms. Ndlovu, a teacher who asked that a pseudonym be used for fear of government reprisal, desperately needed that cash, which her son sent her from Britain to cover the cost of her diabetes medications. So she reluctantly handed over a few crumpled bills and boarded a bus for the nearest town with a bank, more than an hour away.

There, she walked from bank to bank, but every time the answer was the same. Sorry. You can’t pick up your money today.

30 January 2019

DRC Elections and the Fate of the UN MONUSCO Mission

By Wilder Alejandro Sanchez

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) held long-awaited general elections on 30 December to replace President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the country for almost two decades. The results were controversial: opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi was declared the winner, but another candidate, Martin Fayulu, has cried foul, stating that he is the rightful winner and that Tshisekedi’s victory is a result of a pact between him and Kabila. At the time of this writing the Constitutional Court has reportedly confirmed Tshisekedi’s victory.

While this new political crisis hits the African nation, one question that should be asked: What will be the future of the UN mission to the DRC, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO)?

29 January 2019

What Is Happening in Venezuela? How It Got Here and Why It Matters

By Megan Specia

Just two weeks after President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela was sworn in for a second term, an opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, declared himself the interim president, directly challenging the country’s leadership.

Tens of thousands of protesters rallied across the country on Wednesday in support of Mr. Guaidó, and the United States, Canada and many Latin American countries quickly recognized him as the legitimate head of state.

Mr. Maduro, in return, severed remaining diplomatic ties with the United States and ordered its embassy personnel out of the country within 72 hours, a deadline the Americans said they would ignore.

“I am the only president of Venezuela,” Mr. Maduro told the country, speaking from the balcony of the presidential palace on Wednesday. “We do not want to return to the 20th century of gringo interventions and coups d’état.”

21 January 2019

America's New Africa Strategy

by Dan Steinbock

U.S., China and African Economic Development

Recently, the White House released its new U.S. Africa strategy, which seeks militarization and portrays China as a threat. Both are misguided. Africa can greatly benefit from Chinese and U.S. economic development.


On December 13, 2018, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton gave a speech in the conservative Heritage Foundation about the Trump administration’s new “Africa strategy," based on Trump’s ‘America First’ foreign policy doctrine.

In the United States, the media focus was on Bolton’s attack against U.S. adversaries and American aid. Specifically, Boston accused Russia and China of “predatory practices" in Africa.

January 17, 2019 AfricaDemocratization The Retreat of African Democracy The Autocratic Threat Is Growing

By Nic Cheeseman and Jeffrey Smith

In the decade following the Cold War, Africa saw many democratic success stories. In 1991, Benin and Zambia became the first former dictatorships to hold multiparty elections after the fall of the Soviet Union. In both countries, the opposition beat the incumbents. In 1994, South Africa replaced apartheid with majority rule, and soon after that, Nelson Mandela was elected president. Later that decade, Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi also held elections and saw power change hands. All told, by the middle of the first decade of this century, every major peaceful state in Africa except Eritrea and Swaziland, the continent’s last absolute monarchy, was, at least in principle, committed to holding competitive elections.

But in recent years, Africa’s political trajectory has begun moving in the opposite direction. In Tanzania, President John Magufuli has clamped down on the opposition and censored the media. His Zambian counterpart, President Edgar Lungu, recently arrested the main opposition leader on trumped-up charges of treason and is seeking to extend his stay in power to a third term. This reflects a broader trend. According to Freedom House, a think tank, just 11 percent of the continent is politically “free,” and the average level of democracy, understood as respect for political rights and civil liberties, fell in each of the last 14 years. The Ibrahim Index of African Governance shows that democratic progress lags far behind citizens’ expectations. The vast majority of Africans want to live in a democracy, but the proportion who believe they actually do falls almost every year.

16 January 2019

Why Banks in Morocco Are Spreading the Wealth Around Africa-


Moroccan banks' expansion across Africa will allow Moroccan businesses to invest and integrate better into the continent, gaining lucrative market access. Morocco's economic integration with African countries — including current negotiations for a free trade agreement — will, in turn, attract foreign manufacturers to increase investments in Morocco. Morocco will need to address its high level of domestic unemployment to ensure stability.

A new source of foreign direct investment is emerging in many sub-Saharan African nations: the kingdom of Morocco, situated right on the continent itself. Owing in part to quick and decisive reforms in 2011, Morocco largely avoided the Arab Spring turbulence that shook other parts of the Arab world in North Africa and the Middle East. And in recent years, solid growth in the manufacturing, tourism and energy sectors, as well as a rapidly expanding financial sector, has fueled the development of a very strong Moroccan economy. As long-dominant European banks gradually disappear from Africa, Morocco is using its newfound financial muscle to project power across the continent in the hopes of becoming a wealthier and more internationally influential country, but it still needs to address problems at home if it wants to remain one of the most stable states in Africa.

12 January 2019

No Matter Who Wins the Congo's Election, a Rough Road Awaits


A little more than two years after President Joseph Kabila's final term in office officially ended, the Democratic Republic of the Congo finally held its presidential election just before 2018 was over. But the country's voters must continue to wait to find out who won. Whether Kabila's hand-picked successor or the opposition candidate is named victor, the vote was only the prelude to the unfolding of a tumultuous and likely violent story in the mineral-rich Central African nation. As Stratfor noted in its 2019 Annual Forecast, while Kabila's clan and its allies maneuver to retain power and protect their financial and political gains (not to mention their physical security), the likelihood of bloodshed — and the corresponding effects on the country's business community and the mining industry — is high. To add fuel to the flames, the country's rich mineral resources — including its deposits of cobalt — play a key role in the production of new energy technologies such as lithium-ion batteries, which are central to long-term Chinese economic strategies. Consequently, as the country's electoral fate unfolds, the actions of China and other foreign powers may have a crucial impact.

What Happened

2 January 2019

Is One of Africa’s Oldest Conflicts Finally Nearing Its End?

By Nicolas Niarchos

For the past forty years, tens of thousands of Moroccan soldiers have manned a wall of sand that curls for one and a half thousand miles through the howling Sahara. The vast plain around it is empty and flat, interrupted only by occasional horseshoe dunes that traverse it. But the Berm, as the wall is known, is no natural phenomenon. It was built by the Kingdom of Morocco, in the nineteen-eighties, and it’s the longest defensive fortification in use today—and the second-longest ever, after China’s Great Wall. The crude barrier, surrounded by land mines, electric fences, and barbed wire, partitions a wind-blasted chunk of desert the size of Colorado known as the Western Sahara. Formerly a Spanish colony, the territory was annexed by its northern neighbor, Morocco, in 1975. An indigenous Sahrawi rebel group, called the Polisario Front, waged a guerrilla war for independence. In 1991, after sixteen years of conflict, the two sides agreed to a ceasefire. The wall keeping the foes apart stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the mountains of Morocco, roughly the distance from New York City to Dallas.

29 December 2018

The new US Africa strategy is not about Africa. It’s about China

Cornelia Tremann


President Donald Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton outlined the US administration’s new Africa strategy in a speech last week at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, DC. The main tenets of the strategy, including the prioritisation of trade and investment, combatting of terrorism, and better-targeting of US foreign aid in Africa, are on the whole sensible. The US has already increased the promotion of private sector engagements in Africa as a key lever for development and should continue to support US investment in Africa.

Unfortunately, the positive aspects of the strategy were a little lost in the speech because the new US Africa strategy is not really about Africa. It’s about China.

26 December 2018

Africa’s Blue Economy Or A Global Ocean Grab By The Rich? – Analysis

By Lisa Vives

Six counties in Kenya’s coastal region have been tagged for technical training in the blue economy – what some have called “the new frontier of the African Renaissance”. The goal is to enable young people to find jobs in the maritime industry.

Kevit Desai, a Kenyan vocational training principal, says institutions of higher learning must begin to focus on developing skills, nurturing innovations and enterprise creation for this “overlooked opportunity”. He suggested a post-Blue Economy Conference workshop to create awareness and enhance community participation in this vision for the future.


20 December 2018

The Trouble With Trump's New Africa Strategy

By Zhang Chao

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton recently unveiled the Trump administration’s new Africa strategy in a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation. In addition to announcing a new approach of engaging with African development, the most headline-grabbing part of Bolton’s remarks is his accusation against China for “predatory practices” on the continent. Bolton mentioned China 17 times through the speech, during which he enumerated Chinese “sins” in Africa and declared that the overriding target of the U.S. strategy is to counter Chinese influence across the continent.

Combative as Bolton’s words are, the speech contains nothing novel. Before Bolton, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence had pointed the finger against Chinese aid and investment in front of a group of business and political leaders at the APEC CEO summit just a few weeks ago. On that occasion Pence used language similar to Bolton’s to denounce Chinese funding, calling it opaque, poor quality, and a source of debt.

6 December 2018

Washington Wakes Up to East Africa's Importance


Peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia will be a boon for regional stability, providing foreign powers with ample opportunity to increase their economic influence.

Fears of growing Chinese and Russian influence may be driving recent moves by the United States, which suddenly reversed its opposition to the removal of U.N. sanctions against Eritrea.

As part of a shift in focus to counter Beijing and Moscow, Washington will remove some of its Africa-based personnel, yet it will continue to focus on Djibouti and Somalia, especially because of Islamist militancy in the latter.

Editor's Note: This assessment is part of a series of analyses supporting Stratfor's upcoming 2019 Annual Forecast. These assessments are designed to provide more context and in-depth analysis on key developments in the coming year.

3 December 2018

Somalia's Thorny Problems on the Horn of Africa


Renewed relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea will boost stability in the Horn of Africa and create opportunities for greater political and economic integration in the region.

Somalia's deep internal problems will severely limit the country's ability to take charge of security within its borders.
Somalia's enduring challenges mean that the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) will remain a key force in the country for years to come in some form.

Editor's Note: This assessment is part of a series of analyses supporting Stratfor's upcoming 2019 Annual Forecast. These assessments are designed to provide more context and in-depth analysis on key developments in the coming year.