Libya’s Crisis: The Battle Between Two Libyan Bitter Rivals; Khalifa Haftar and Fayez al-Sarraj

Libya has been politically unstable since 2011 when a successful uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s longstanding regime left a power vacuum. A transitional government was elected in 2012; it quickly became dysfunctional. To replace it, the North African country held an election in 2014 but this led to the creation of rival governments, each backed by a powerful coalition of militias.

Libya has been on the brink of an all-out civil war that threatens to upend years of diplomatic efforts to reconcile two rival armed political factions. An advance led by Khalifa Haftar, the warlord from the east of the country, has diplomats scrambling and the UN appealing in vain for a truce. The French government, the European power closest to Haftar, insists it had no prior warning of his assault, which is now less than 20km from the capital, Tripoli.

Libya is split between two administrations, one based in Tobruk in the east and that largely supports General Khalifa Haftar, and the UN-backed Government of National Accord based in Tripoli to the west, with Fayez al-Sarraj as prime minister.

Since the 2011 toppling of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has also been tactically divided by a multitude of rival factions seeking to gain dominance in the North African nation too. Some of these people are: Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, 58, heads the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli. He has held the post since March 2016 with the support of cities in the west, but the GNA has not won the backing of Libya’s parliament based in the eastern city of Tobruk. Sarraj is supported in the Libyan capital by three militias, which are in charge of security in Tripoli and its surroundings.

Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) dominates the country’s east and also has a presence in the south. The 75-year-old’s hostility towards the GNA has been seen as a major cause of the current crisis. But Haftar has gained in stature for fighting jihadists. He ousted Islamist militias from the city of Derna, which had been the only part of eastern Libya out of his control. The military figure is accused of wanting to impose a dictatorship and of being backed by foreign powers, notably Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and France. Haftar’s LNA is made up of former officers from the Libyan army, militiamen, fighters from allied tribes, as well as non-jihadist Salafists.

Aguila Saleh Issa was elected parliament speaker after 2014 polls. Militias seized control of the capital later the same year, prompting the assembly to flee to the eastern city of Tobruk. In the west, the General National Council (GNC), appointed in 2012 elections, has refused to step down to allow the exiled lawmakers to take up their seats. Haftar says he takes his legitimacy from the Tobruk-based parliament. Saleh is a former judge and has the support of his tribe, Al-Obeidat, one of the most powerful in eastern Libya.

Khalid al-Mishri was elected in April as head of the High Council of State in Tripoli. The body was part of the UN-sponsored deal signed in Morocco in 2015, which also led to the creation of the GNA. The High Council is made up of ex-members of the GNC. Mishri is a member of the Justice and Construction Party, the country’s wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. While he is hostile to Haftar in the east, he has not expressed clear support for the GNA.

What happened in Libya?

The General National Congress was the Islamist-led elected body ruling Libya for two years following Gaddafi’s death. After its 18-month deadline to form a new constitution passed in January 2014, the body unilaterally resolved to extend its own mandate.

Haftar called on the GNC to disband. Haftar then led troops against Islamist militias in Benghazi and the GNC in Tripoli in an offensive named Operation Dignity.

Amid the chaos, an election was held to form the House of Representatives, which took power from the GNC that August. With rival militias ruling Libya’s streets, the election turnout was just 18 percent. Islamist militias then launched Operation Libya Dawn to fight Haftar’s troops with the lack of security in the capital, the Haftar-supported House of Representatives hired a Greek car ferry harboured in the eastern city of Tobruk as a temporary legislature.

In late August 2014, a group of GNC members reconvened in Tripoli and claimed legislative authority over the country, effectively replacing the House of Representatives as Libya’s parliament. The Tobruk-based House of Representatives remained the internationally recognised government, though its actual authority on the ground in Libya was limited.

Libya’s Supreme Court, based in Islamist-held Tripoli, ruled that November that the formation of the House of Representatives was unconstitutional, legally dissolving the Tobruk-based legislature and nullifying its decisions. The Tobruk-based parliament refused to accept the court’s ruling, saying it was made “at gunpoint”.

Libya became torn between the rival parliaments and the heavily armed militias that support each. Allegiances between the militias changed frequently, which only added to the instability, violence and danger faced by ordinary Libyan citizens.

Efforts by the UN to establish a “unity government” led to a third administration, this one led by Fayez Sarraj, claiming overall political legitimacy for the country and setting up shop in Tripoli in late March 2016. International legitimacy was bestowed upon it, though it too was unable to claim control over Libya’s vast territory.

For the following few years, the UN-supported Unity Government controlled much of Western Libya, while the Haftar-supported Tobruk Government controlled much of the country’s east. Now, in April 2019, the UN-backed government clings on pockets of territory surrounding several of the north-west’s major power centres including Zawarah, Zawiyah, Aziziyah, Tripoli, Bani Walid and Misrata – but Haftar’s LNA has advanced along the coast and has taken Sirte and most of the rest of the country. The southern fringes remain in the control of a variety of tribal groups and militias.

Both main sides in the civil war are propped up by an array of warlords, militias and criminal gangs. While most of the international community at large supports the Tripoli-based Unity Government, Haftar’s forces in the east have the backing of Russia, the UAE and Egypt – which have used their air forces to support Haftar’s fighters on the ground.

Who is Khalifa Haftar?

As thousands continue to flee the Libyan capital, Tripoli, the country’s most notorious warlord, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, is engaging in a battle of sorts. He has delivered on his threat to use military force against the internationally recognised government if he isn’t named the country’s supreme military commander.

He is the face of the eastern Libyan government. Recent military push by his forces to take control of Tripoli has thrust him onto the international stage once more. Libya’s military strong man, Khalifa Haftar was born in 1943 in the country’s eastern city of Ajdabiya.

He studied at al-Huda School in Ajdabiya in 1957 and then moved to Derna to obtain his secondary education between 1961 and 1964. Haftar joined Benghazi’s military academy in 1961. At the age of 26, he took part in the coup that brought Muammar Gaddafi to power in 1969. And in 1980, Gaddafi promoted Haftar to the rank of a colonel and sent him to fight in Chad where he was captured by Chadians in 1987.

With the start of anti-Gaddafi uprisings in 2011, the field marshal returned to Libya where he became a key commander of the makeshift rebel force in the east. The commander defected from the Libyan army upon his release. Backed by the CIA, he formed the military wing for the National Front for the Salvation of Libya to overthrow Gaddafi.

Khalifa Haftar later rose to power in February 2014 when he called on Libyans to topple the elected parliament and the General National Congress. He survived an assassination attempt on June 4, 2014 then faded into obscurity until the launch of Operation Dignity. Libya’s most potent warlord has been active in the country’s political scene for over forty years. He is currently playing a lead role in the second Libyan civil war.

Read Also: Understanding Libya’s Current Political Crisis and The Failure of Imposed Democracy

Khalifa Haftar’s emergence as a Libyan power player didn’t receive the warmest of welcomes from European leaders. A former general in Muammar Gaddafi’s army, Haftar fell out with the dictator in the 1980s and spent most of the intervening decades living in the United States. He returned only as the country was dissolving into civil war in 2011.

Who is Fayez al-Sarraj?

Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj is the Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya and prime minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA) of Libya that was formed as a result of the Libyan Political Agreement signed on 17 December 2015. He has been a member of the Parliament of Tripoli. Since assuming leadership of the GNA, Sarraj has struggled to exert his authority throughout Libya, and the country remains largely fractured between opposing political forces and generally unstable.

Born in Tripoli, Sarraj comes from a prominent and wealthy family of the city, which owned shops and vast amount of land. His father, Mostafa al-Sarraj was a minister during the Libyan Monarchy. Trained as an architect, during the Gaddafi era he worked in the Housing Ministry. In 2014, he served as the Minister of Housing and Utilities in the Maiteeq Cabinet of the GNC. Some critics “regard Sarraj as a politician imposed by foreign powers.” At the time of his appointment “Guma el-Gamaty, a member of Libya Dialogue, the UN-chaired body that created the new government, said Sarraj was expected to ask for help to combat Isis and train Libyan units.”

After Libya’s 2014 elections, Libyan government was split between the Islamist-dominated New General National Congress in Tripoli and the internationally recognized legislature of the House of Representatives in Tobruk. Sarraj has been Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord since its installment in December 2015 as part of a United Nations-led political agreement. Prior to his initial arrival in Tripoli in March 2016, Sarraj survived two separate assassination attempts.

Over the past two years, the GNA has struggled to gain a foothold as a legitimate institution of authority inside the country, and Libya has remained divided. The government’s initial proposed group of ministers was rejected by the House of Representatives (HoR), leading Sarraj to form a government that received a no confidence vote from the HoR. Infighting among rival militias has only intensified, and Libyan citizens have faced economic hardships, including inflation, corruption, and smuggling, that are “melting away the country’s cash reserves”.

The United Nations representatives who initially formed the unity government have since expressed concern over its ability to make progress. In December 2016, the Security Council noted the “limited authority” of the GNA and stated that “the Libyan Political Agreement did not fulfill the expectations. The implementation has stalled.”

Months following this statement, an April 2017 U.N. Security Council meeting summary cautioned that “Libya could relapse into conflict” and said the government has struggled to “deliver basic services while endeavoring to fight terrorism, illegal migration and oil smuggling.”

In an attempt to make the government more effective, reports have surfaced throughout 2017 of a consensus to restructure the GNA and overall Libyan Political Agreement. In July 2018, Libya rejected European Union’s plan aimed at stopping migration from Libya. On 10 April 2019, United Nations chief António Guterres said, at the UN headquarters, that he still hopes to avoid “bloody battle for Tripoli”. Two days before that troops loyal to Faiez Serraj began moving toward the capital.

However, serious questions remain as to whether another interim government will solve the country’s political crisis because overcoming Libya’s crisis also goes beyond creating an effective national government.

Libya’s transitional leaders, some of whom will be presidential candidates, are entangled in – and benefit from – the country’s war economy. So do various armed factions that may view the vote as a threat to their interests and disrupt the process before it begins.

There are also a number of peace processes being simultaneously rolled out, which confuses the way forward. And there are new security risks and still no constitution, which undermines the legitimacy of institutions that many still view as interim and temporary.

From the perspective of European states, as well as Libya’s neighbors, the continuation of the crisis poses countless security challenges. Despite the motivation that many domestic and foreign actors in the Libyan civil war have to peacefully resolve the conflict, the crisis rages on.

This civil war can only be resolved if the different actors agree on a security architecture, a form of government, economic reforms, geographic locations for major national institutions, and more. Legitimizing such reforms and institutions via popular referendums would require the various actors in Libya to accept the outcomes regardless of the results.

APRECON

Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Follow on Instagram @_aprecon

Like our Page on FB  @aprecon

The Downfall of Age-long Autocrats: Algeria’s Bouteflika and Sudan’s Omar Al-Bashir, Who’s Next?

At this current dispensation, there are two things synonymous with Africa: the aging status of the continent and the agelong-serving presidents. Distinctively, Africa has a huge leadership age gap disconnect between the leaders and the led.

Africa has faced several challenges among which is the peaceful transition as the continent has become home to several long-serving and sit-tight presidents who refuse to relinquish power. For example, Paul Biya, Cameroon’s president came to power in 1982 and has since then put in maximum efforts to consolidate power.

Similarly, Equatorial Guinea’s president Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo who has been in power for about four decades while Omar al-Bashir of Sudan has been in power since his 1989 coup that ousted Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi.

Despite the fact that African leaders have different reasons for refusing to leave office? one which is common among all is the fear of what happens to them after they quit office. A good number of them have suffered unfortunate fates such as going on exile for fear of what may befall them should they remain in the country or face charges from the international Court.

While recent events in those two countries — Algeria and Sudan — have been unique, it’s observable that the rapid downfalls of Bouteflika and Bashir are indeed strong signals and warnings to authoritarian leaders in the region that they ignore popular anger, especially over economic grievances, at their peril.

According to the report, The Sudanese Army, last week said that al-Bashir had been removed from power and detained after 30 years in power following four months of protests. Last week, mass protests led Algeria’s ailing Bouteflika to step down after 20 years.

Protesters against al-Bashir’s iron-fisted rule denounced the military “coup,” and thousands rallied outside army headquarters, demanding a civilian-led transition. In both situations, longtime rulers were pushed aside by existing security structures on the back of mass protests, in a sign for authoritarian leaders that an army can be a foe as well as a friend.

The Algerian and Sudanese contexts are very different indeed but at the same time, there is a lesson here for autocrats and dictators, that the craving for justice, democracy and equal opportunities is universal.

Back in 2011, during the popular Arab Spring uprising, anything seemed possible. Tunisia’s strongman fell, and Egypt’s soon followed. Protests erupted in Bahrain, as well as in Libya, Syria, and Yemen (and, in the latter three, war soon followed). Four countries saw new governments, but in the end, meaningful change survived in Tunisia alone. In Sudan and Algeria in 2011, some took to the streets to demand change, but in both cases, demonstrations were limited

This time around, protesters have learned lessons of the past, from their own experiences and those of others in neighboring and nearby countries. Though it is still early and much could yet change, their efforts have delivered results: Bouteflika has resigned, and Bashir has been unseated by Sudan’s military.

The generals forced Bouteflika to resign last week, and within days protests began heating up again in Sudan, leading to Mr Bashir’s apparent downfall. In both Algeria and Sudan, the military stage-managed the leaders’ departure, in a likely attempt to preserve their power, as was the case in Egypt in 2011.

But protesters are wiser now, much more mistrustful of the generals. Both in Algeria and Sudan there are calls by opposition and civil society groups for protesters not to vacate the public spaces under the control of the people, and to keep pushing for change.

Sustained protests demanding the resignation of Sudan’s hardline president Omar al-Bashir probably remind him of the recent Algerian demonstrations that forced president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down. Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide in Darfur, has governed Sudan since 1989. The months-long protests were triggered by economic hardship but demonstrators now want Bashir to resign. It’s 30 years since his predecessor was overthrown.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika steps down after 20 years in charge of Algeria

After two decades in power, the Algerian leader stepped down on April 2nd. Slumped in a wheelchair, dressed in a baggy djellaba robe instead of his usual three-piece suit, he looked like a doddering old man roused from bed in the middle of the night.

According to reports, He struggled even to hand his letter of resignation to the head of the constitutional committee (a stroke in 2013 left him an invalid). Mr Bouteflika styled himself a partisan and a politician who fought for Algeria’s independence and led the country out of civil war. There was no glimpse of Bouteflika in his final public appearance as president, only a frail shell.

After series of heated protests, Algerians flooded into the streets to celebrate a moment that was unthinkable two months earlier. Mr Bouteflika was tipped to win a fifth term as president, the only viable candidate in a stage-managed election. But in near-daily protests since February 16th, hundreds of thousands of Algerians demanded his resignation.

Years of corruption and mismanagement had left the oil- and gas-rich country with a big deficit and an unemployment rate of around 12%. Mr Bouteflika’s subjects were unwilling to endure five more years under a president barely able to speak.

Sudan’s longtime ruler, Omar Al-Bashir arrested and forced out of office

The three-decade rule of Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir has ended.

In a televised address, defense minister Ahmed Awad Ibn Awf said the 75-year-old leader has been arrested and put in a “safe place.”

The army general also announced the dissolution of the government, the suspension of the 2005 constitution, along with a three-month state of emergency. He also said Sudan’s airspace will be closed for 24 hours.

“The armed forces will take power with representation of the people to pave the way for Sudanese people to live in dignity,” Ibn Awf said.

Al-Bashir’s removal follows hours of uncertainty in which the army promised they would make an “important announcement.” Reports also surfaced that current and former officials were arrested

The statement ended Al-Bashir’s decadeslong rein over Sudan, a vast nation in northeast Africa that has been beset by armed conflict and multiple economic shocks.

Since coming to power in 1989, the strongman, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges in connection with atrocities in the western Darfur region, has ruled Sudan longer than any other leader since the country gained independence in 1956.

Al-Bashir’s rule will be remembered for overseeing the deal that split Africa’s biggest nation and saw the birth of South Sudan in 2011. His downfall also marks Sudan’s completion of a hat-trick of unseating authoritarian regimes.

Who’s Next? 

Omar Al-Bashir is the second longtime African leader who has resigned in recent days: 82-year-old Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down in early April with parliament appointing Abdelkader Bensalah as interim leader of the North African state, disappointing those who wanted more radical change. Elections will be held July 4 .

It should be recalled that earlier this year, there was an attempt to remove Ali Bongo Ondimba, Gabon’s 59-year-old president who has been convalescing since November after suffering a stroke. The attempt to unseat him was short-lived: by midday, most of the coup-plotters had been rounded up and the government was back in control.

In Morocco, on Feb. 20, the officially banned Justice and Dignity movement, with participation from teachers and other trade unionists, commemorated the anniversary of the Arab Spring by marching on the royal palace, home to autocrat King Mohammed VI. The once suppressed population is now said to hold an average of 48 protests daily, according to Morocco’s human rights ministry.

Meaning the momentum against the half-century family dynasty in Togo has tactically reduced. “Opposition parties broke into factions, seeing 2020 elections ahead,” said activist Farida Nabourema. “There is a strong demobilization at the moment. Opposition needs to unite around a civil resistance agenda rather than an electoral one.”

Eritrea President, Isaias Afwerki is still enjoying the comfortability of his 26th year in power. Every Eritrean serves the state for an indeterminate period upon turning 18, with most being designated to military service.

Beyond the gaze of the international media, popular unrest has swept across many countries in Africa since 2018. The current political overview across African countries shows that there are still many more popular uprising which are expected to spring up positively in the struggle against dictatorship and autocratic regimes.

APRECON

Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Follow on Instagram @_aprecon

Like our Page on FB  @aprecon

Mali Ethnic Attack: Communal Rivalries and the Dongo-Fulani Massacre

Ethnic tensions in Mali are getting more tensed than ever. Violent clashes between groups have been the cause of dozens of deaths in recent months. These disputes, mainly between members of the Fulani and Dogon ethnic groups, are complex, with both internal and external origins. Moreover, peacekeeping efforts have been largely unsuccessful, as mission leadership has struggled to grapple with the political complexity of Mali’s conflict. Rather, external interference has at times only exacerbated the conflict.

In 2012, insurgent groups with links to terrorist bodies – most notably al-Qaeda – captured territory in northern Mali. This prompted France to deploy troops to the country the following year. France hoped to reduce the presence of terrorist groups across Mali. Following a campaign that was believed to be successful by French authorities, international presence in the region was reduced. Despite a period of relative peace in the following months, underlying tensions remained. This became evident as violence resumed within a year.

This year, On 23 March, 160 people were massacred in the village of Ogossagou, in the Mopti region of central Mali. An armed militia of men belonging to the Dogon ethnic group came to inflict their terrible toll, razing huts and leaving behind the charred remains of Fulani women and children.

Latest Attacks

Gunmen attacked the villages of Ogossagou and Welingara in central Mali, killing 160 people. The attack was one of the deadliest in recent years. The villages are home to the Fulani ethnic group, who are seminomadic herders, while the attack was allegedly carried out by fighters from the Dogon ethnic group, escalating an ongoing conflict between the Dogon and Fulani.

According to the U.N, more than 200 people have been killed in inter-ethnic violence in Mali in 2019. The conflict between the Dogon and Fulani has become increasingly violent since 2012 following a militant Islamic uprising in the northern part of the country.

Responding to the attacks, Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita disbanded an anti-jihadi vigilante group and fired two generals in the military. On Wednesday, the United Nations announced that it would send a team of experts to investigate the attack. The International Criminal Court will also send a team to Mali to investigate and assess whether the crimes fall within its jurisdiction.

Mali’s Mopti region has seen a drastic rise of violence since 2015. Last year at least 202 civilians were killed in 42 incidents. In March this year more than 150 were killed in attacks against two villages in this central Malian region.

The attack on the Mopti region was launched by alleged Dogon hunters. The Dogon are one of the largest ethnic groups in the region.

Most of those killed in Mopti were from the Fulani ethnic group. Also among the targets were staff involved in demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration of local “self-defence groups” stationed in one of the villages.

Donzo hunters are part of the Bambara, Mali’s largest ethnic group. The semi-nomadic Fulani people are dispersed throughout the Sahel region and West Africa.

Mali’s recent history, which starts with a long-simmering secessionist movement in the north led by the nomadic Tuareg ethnic group, is rife with grievances ready to be exploited by terrorist groups. In 2012 a military coup sparked by the government’s failure to quash a Tuareg liberation movement led to a leadership vacuum in the capital. Some of the rebel groups joined forces with Islamist terror groups in the region, managing to take over half the country.

The French government came to its former colony’s aid in early 2013 and eventually confined the rebel groups to a few redoubts deep in the Saharan desert, but criminal gangs, separatist groups and terrorist networks still flourish. The conflict in Mali today is part of ongoing tensions that go back decades despite the country’s democratic reputation.

Mali was considered a model democracy prior to the March 2012 coup d’état. Since independence, various Tuareg groups pushed for autonomy and the creation of an independent state of Azawad. The Tuareg are not the only ethnic group living in northern Mali, in fact, they are a minority, which complicates the creation of Azawad.

Last month’s attack is believed to be the latest in a series of clashes between the communities of Donzo and Fulani – also known as Peul – that have left dozens dead in recent months. In January, Donzo hunters were blamed for the killing of 37 people in a Fulani village.

The violence is incited by accusations of grazing cattle on Donzo land and disputes over access to land and water, but the area is also troubled by the influence of armed groups, who the Fulani are accused of being tied to.

Armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) have exploited ethnic rivalries in Mali and its neighbours Burkina Faso and Niger to boost recruitment and render vast swaths of territory in the Sahel region virtually ungovernable.

Conflicts and violence between Fulani, who rear and herd much of West Africa’s livestock, and other communities organised around farming have become common not only in Mali. Competition over grazing corridors and water have been exacerbated by the effects of climate change, land degradation and population growth. It is now stretching traditional conflict resolution mechanisms to breaking point.

Governments and security forces, who frequently eye Fulani communities with suspicion due to their high mobility, have been unable and often unwilling to compensate this breakdown of inter-communal relations through increased investment and presence.

Read Also: Mali’s Boubacar Keita and the Nation’s Insecurity Dilemma

Islamist groups are seeking to benefit from these widening cracks in the social fabric by presenting themselves as the guardians of overwhelmingly Muslim Fulani communities. Even though only a fraction of all Fulani are actively supporting such groups, this propaganda has succeeded in associating whole communities with these violent actors, further escalating the circle of violence.

UN’s Reactions

Meanwhile, the UN prevention of genocide office confirmed “a serious upsurge in inter-communal violence as well as negative impact of counter-terrorism operations conducted by community-based armed groups on the civilian populations in the region”. The office further noted that “there is growing ethnicization of the conflict in central Mali, in which entire communities are being stigmatized as terrorists or as affiliates of armed groups”.

The community-based armed groups and other armed actors have been carrying out targeted attacks against civilians in the context of the fight against terrorism, committing “serious violations and abuses of human rights including killings, destruction of property, arbitrary detention and de facto embargos on villages, restricting movement of civilian populations,” the UN genocide prevention office stated.

The statement deplored that these developments and dynamics are “not sufficiently recognized neither by national authorities nor by the international community, who are focusing mostly on the peace process in the North and on the threat posed by jihadist movements”.

“Over the recent months, violence has reached unprecedented level amid retaliatory attacks and serious violations of human rights in central Mali impacting on all communities,” Special Advisor Dieng said. “Unless these concerns are immediately addressed, there is a high risk of further escalation of the situation in which atrocity crimes could be committed,” he warned.

To prevent further escalation of violence, Mr. Dieng urged the Malian Government – with the support of the international community, and the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, MINUSMA – to immediately address the current grave upsurge of violence in central Mali and to provide, with no further delay, protection as well as assistance to vulnerable population.

“I call on the Malian government to urgently investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the recent attacks as well as those responsible for serious violations and abuses of human rights.” he said, adding that the authorities and all Malians should “prevent and refrain from stigmatizing entire communities”.

The UN office on the prevention of genocide said it stands ready to provide support to local reconciliation and inter-communal dialogue processes, with the aim of promoting inclusivity, strengthening resilience and social cohesion.

Human rights expert Alioune Tine also called for “a thorough, prompt and impartial investigation and the perpetrators must be brought to justice. The protection of lives and the well-being of civilians is at stake.”

“It is crucial that these inter-communal tensions, and this cycle of violence, are addressed urgently if the risk of crimes against humanity is to be averted,” he insisted.

The extent to which tensions have increased in the past decade is a result of the enduring rivalries between the shepherds and the farmers, combined with the political and economic instability of the Malian state. This precariousness was further highlighted by the 2012 rebellion that invited a lasting and strong jihadi presence to the nation.

Its resources stretched by civil war and ethnic conflict, the state has left many of the affected communities to fend for themselves. The government’s inability to provide relief is why groups like the Dogon have turned to subsistence hunting and inter-ethnic violence.These vulnerabilities have also allowed groups like al-Qaeda to flourish within Mali’s borders.

The disputes between the Fulani and Dogon ethnic groups

Nomadic Fulani shepherds and farmers and hunters from other groups have challenged one another over access to resources including land, water, and livestock for many years. Most recently, armed Fulani warriors have been able to successfully prevent Dogon farmers from reaching their fields. However, with few lands of their own, the Dogon have been unable to sustain themselves through agriculture and many are at risk of starvation.

This has caused some men of the group to return to traditional hunting customs, becoming what are known as Donzo hunters. However, in addition to providing food for Dogon communities, the Donzo have been directly responsible for violent attacks against the Fulani. For example, on January 1st,  37 Fulani citizens were killed by a Donzo militia.

Since 2016, more than 12 000 people have been displaced, 287 civilians killed and 67 kidnapped, and 685 schools closed in Central Mali, especially the Mopti region. The upsurge of inter-community conflicts between the Fulani herders and the Dogon and Bambara farmers, intra-community conflicts among the Fulani, and attacks by violent extremist groups have all contributed to the rising instability.

The dynamics of the conflict in this region are multidimensional, rooted in successive droughts and state-promoted development policies. Structural factors linked to the disruption of agriculture, livestock farming and fishing following drought in the 1970s and 1980s destabilised production systems, the bedrock of socio-economic relations between the different communities.

Most conflicts are concentrated in the central delta of the Niger River, in districts such as Djenné, Mopti, Tenenkou and Youwarou, and the Dogon Plateau where agro-pastoral resources are central to the economy. The pressure on arable land, due to the combination of climatic factors and the emphasis on state-supported agriculture backed by Mali’s international partners, has affected Fulani pastoralists, making access to land a source of tension.

Conflicts between Delta herders and Dogon Plateau farmers revolve around, among other things, the occupation of cattle trails by farmers and disagreements over agricultural and transhumance calendars – that is, the seasonal movement of livestock for grazing. In 2012, hunters claiming to belong to the Dogon community killed over 20 Fula people, burnt 350 hamlets and carried away livestock following a conflict over an animal corridor between Koro and the Burkina Faso border.

Most of these conflicts had previously been settled through community-based mechanisms, including traditional authorities. These mechanisms are now strained following tensions between communities and traditional authorities such as Dioros (pasture managers), whom they accuse of paying state authorities to win disputes. The conflicts are also becoming more complex, exploited by both militias and violent extremist groups. Another issue is that in some villages, chiefs are not traditional chiefs – they have been placed there by the administration.

Peace in Mali requires a shift from the current narrow approach of state dialogues with willing armed groups to a broader and more inclusive national dialogue. This would lay the foundation for agreement on common principles for a new social contract between the state and society.

APRECON

Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Follow on Instagram @_aprecon

Like our Page on FB  @aprecon

Cyclone Idai: The Trail of Death, Destruction and Devastation in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi

 

On 15 March 2019, an intense tropical cyclone did hit a land at Beira, Mozambique. The cyclone also brought severe winds and rain to Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Across the region, the storm has been so severe that it has been extremely difficult to get help to the people who need it.

The Tropical cyclone Idai has made headlines across southern Africa throughout the month of March. Lingering in the Mozambique Channel at tropical cyclone intensity for six days. The death-toll in both Zimbabwe and Mozambique is steadily rising – but the full extent of the damage is not yet knowable, as floodwaters are still high and conditions on the ground difficult.  Roads, villages, and suburbs have completely washed away.

As Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe try to pick themselves up following devastation from Tropical Cyclone Idai, the role of climate change is becoming more and more relevant. The greatest impact of the storm was experienced on landfall causing flooding, excessive wind-speed and storm surge damage in the central region of Mozambique.

Adjacent countries of Malawi and Zimbabwe experienced severe rainfall, flooding and damage from the high wind speed. Madagascar also experienced bouts of high rainfall during the storm’s pathway to Beira. The flooding has left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and displaced across the region while the death toll has continued to rise.

Many people do not know what Climate change really amounts to, either due to unreliable sources or deliberate misinformation, which has led to a series of myths about climate change. Oxfam International, for example, observes that though climate disasters ranging from deadly heat waves to hurricanes in various parts of the globe are normal, the resulting devastation is alarming.

“Climate hazards are natural events in weather cycles. We’ve always had hurricanes and droughts, flooding and high winds. However, we are currently witnessing a scale of destruction and devastation that is new and terrifying,” it says.

Cyclones that hit Zimbabwe have increased in the near past, a sign that climate change is fast taking its hold on the country. There was Cyclone Eline in 2000, Cyclone Japhet in 2003, Cyclone Dineo in 2017 and now Cyclone Idai, all with devastating effects.

In between, the country has experienced El Nino conditions that have resulted in several droughts. As a developing country with less resources to facilitate easy adaptation to climate change, Zimbabwe has to go the extra mile, especially when such disasters occur. A poor country with a long coastline, Mozambique is especially vulnerable to storms sweeping in from the Indian Ocean. More than 700 lives were lost during a devastating flood there nearly 20 years ago.

A huge international response saw the Royal Air Force send six helicopters to rescue survivors. Back then, the priority was to save lives. Another significant issue concerns the strength of cyclones, which pulls in the role of global warming.

Dr Fitchett explains that high sea-surface temperatures sit at the centre of high-impact storms while warmer seas mean there is more energy available for cyclones, which only form when the water reaches 26 degrees Celsius but raised temperatures are not the only catalysts; storms also need help from the Earth’s rotation to cause them to whirl.

The Deadliest Southern Hemisphere Tropical Cyclones on Record

Idai is among the deadliest Southern Hemisphere deadliest tropical cyclones on record. Using data from EM-DAT, the international disaster database, plus other official and unofficial sources, the 436+ deaths officially attributed to Idai so far would make it the fifth deadliest Southern Hemisphere tropical cyclone on record. As is usual for catastrophic storms, there is considerable uncertainty in these numbers.

The deadliest tropical cyclone on record for Mozambique is Eline of 2000, which hit southern Mozambique as a Category 4 storm with 130 mph winds on February 22, 2000. Eline dumped torrential rains on a region that was already suffering severe flooding from over a month of heavy rains, and the combined floods killed over 700 people in Mozambique, according to Meteo-France.

Eline also killed 12 people in Zimbabwe and 64 in Madagascar, bringing the storm’s total death toll to approximately 800. There is some uncertainty on how many of the deaths in Mozambique can be attributed to the flooding that came before Eline, though.

The January 13, 1903 cyclone that killed 517 people in Tahiti and surrounding islands is well-documented in a detailed history of tropical cyclones in the Pacific, the 2012 book Furious Winds and Parched Islands: Tropical Cyclones (1558–1970) and Drought (1722 – 1987) in the Pacific, by AnaMaria d’Aubert and Patrick D. Nunn.

The Climate Change Factor

The global temperature increase brings disastrous consequences, endangering the survival of the Earth’s flora and fauna, including human beings.

The worst climate change impacts include the melting of the ice mass at the poles, which in turn causes rising sea level, producing flooding and threatening coastal environments through which small island states risk disappearing entirely.

Climate change also increases the appearance of more violent weather phenomena, drought, fires, the death of animal and plant species, flooding from rivers and lakes, the creation of climate refugees and destruction of the food chain and economic resources, especially in developing countries.

With this level of devastation, it is important to ask why this climate shock has occurred. The reality is cyclone Idai is an example of extreme weather brought on by climate change. According to the UN IPCC 1.5C degree report, human activities have been responsible for approximately 1C degree increase in temperature globally since before the industrial revolution.

Hence, if we continue to increase greenhouse gas emissions at the same levels, we are likely to reach a 1.5C degree increase within the next 20 years or sooner. Research has shown that extreme climate and weather conditions were observed around the 0.5C degree increase mark.

The report states that “trends in intensity and frequency of some climate and weather extremes have been detected…” (IPCC 2018), and this increase in frequency and intensity will only continue to worsen as temperatures continue to rise. Moreover, scientific research has confirmed a link between cyclone Idai and heating oceans linked to climate change.

Experts said it was too early to draw specific conclusions from Cyclone Idai, but the rapidly changing climate meant the destructive power of such storms was only going to increase in the future.

Dr Friederike Otto, of Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, said: “There are three factors with storms like this: rainfall, storm surge and wind. Rainfall levels are on the increase because of climate change, and storm surges are more severe because of sea level rises.”

Otto said it was important to help communities in the worst-hit areas become more resilient to storms. “The standard of housing, the size of the population and effectiveness of the early warning systems … these are the sorts of things we need to think about as we move into a world where these events become more severe.”

Climate change is extremely serious in the African context, with high levels of inequality, poverty, limited resources, environmental destruction led by transnational corporations and indebtedness to rich countries. Africa did not cause the climate crisis and most Africans have very low per capita emissions compared to Americans or South Africans, for instance. Yet Africa is going to experience some of the worst extremes of climate change and increasing temperatures.

South Africa is the 14th highest carbon emitter in the world. Our coal addiction is a big part of the problem. Energy imports from Mozambique were also disrupted due to the carnage of cyclone Idai and this contributed to Eskom’s recent rolling blackouts.

According to Taylor-Davis, South African team leader for 350 Africa said the people who are causing climate change — big corporations that burn fossil fuels and governments that support coal mining and the extractive industry –are not affected by it.

“The poor aren’t causing the problem, but they bear the brunt of climate change. They are suffering from drought, they suffer the worst in storms because they just aren’t able to build houses that can withstand storms or escape to higher ground,” Taylor-Davis told Daily Maverick.

Both Garcin and Taylor-Davis also agreed that climate change is unjust. Although President Cyril Ramaphosa recently launched the Good Green Deed initiative, which encourages South Africans to do one good green action per day, ordinary citizens are not the root cause of climate change.

It has been well documented that 71% of greenhouse gas emissions are produced by just 100 companies. Although Garcin acknowledges that it is important for people to reduce their carbon footprint, placing the onus of climate change on regular people is not only unrealistic, it is also dangerous.

Mozambique is a prime example of the inequalities of global warming. The country ranks 180 out of 189 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index, which measures education, economic prosperity and life expectancy. The country contributes a measly 0.14% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

According to statistics, at least half of the population of Mozambique lives in poverty, with the divide between rich and poor quickly becoming more extreme. A legacy of colonialism and civil war has left the country unable to protect itself against extreme weather and rising ocean levels.

“Looking at Beira, this was a city that was absolutely not prepared to deal with such an event, and there are multiple reasons for that, but one of the main reasons is that it’s a poor area,” said Garcin. “This cyclone is laying bare the fundamental injustices of climate change, and it’s something we need to talk about because this is just going to keep happening.

It is inevitable that people will connect Idai and climate change. It is always tricky to establish a direct causal link, but thanks to the evidence provided by a number of reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), including the most recent one from October 2018, we know that climate change is bound to increase the intensity and frequency of storms like Idai. At the very least, this crisis is a harbinger of what is coming.

APRECON

Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Follow on Instagram @_aprecon

Like our Page on FB  @aprecon

Yellow Vests: Spur of Violence as Protests, Unrest Returns after France’s Great National Debate

Over the weekend, on the 16th of March 2019, the Yellow vest protesters decided to set fire to stores and clashed with police in a return to violence on the streets of Paris. Protesters took to the streets of the French capital on Saturday in the fourth demonstration since unrest began in November. This outburst shows that the organizers are trying to give new momentum to their movement, after weeks of dwindling numbers.

Since the French yellow vests/Gilets jaunes movement gained international attention, protesters — some with similar grievances and others entirely unrelated — have used the yellow vest symbol in many places around the world.

Meanwhile, close to about 32,300 protesters demonstrated in France for the 18th weekend of Yellow Vest protests, according to the Ministry of Interior. In Paris, violence erupted on the Champs-Elysées Avenue, with shops looted and a building set on fire. The Yellow Vest protesters in Paris descended into violence on Saturday, as some hardline demonstrators looted and torched shops and businesses on Paris’ famed Champs-Elysees avenue.

A menswear store and the upscale Fouquet’s restaurant — a brasserie popular with politicians and film stars – were among the premises to have their windows smashed by groups of hooded demonstrators in scenes reminiscent of the worst “yellow vest” riots in Paris in December.

The demonstrators also set fire to a bank situated on the ground floor of an apartment building, which was engulfed by flames. The fire service evacuated the residents and extinguished the blaze. Eleven people, including two firefighters, suffered minor injuries, according to reports.

While many demonstrators marched peacefully, some masked activists tried to break down barriers outside the parliament. Others threw projectiles at police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades to disperse crowds. The protests have brought hundreds of thousands of people out onto the streets all over France.

Read Also: More Than 200 Arrested, Scores Wounded After Yellow Vest Protest Turns Violent in Paris

MORE THAN 10,000 PROTESTERS IN PARIS

More than 10,000 people demonstrated in central Paris, according to Interior Ministry figures. Of that number, about 1,500 were “ultraviolent” individuals whose aim was to cause destruction and to fight, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner disclosed.

However, the police was said to have arrested dozens of protesters and fired tear gas and water cannon in front of the Arc de Triomphe, the scene of angry protests in December.

It was alleged that the Yellow Vests protesters started bonfires, set cars alight and threw cobblestones at police as they sought to drum up new momentum for their four-month-old revolt against President Emmanuel Macron and his pro-business reforms.

PROTESTS REGAIN MOMENTUM AFTER NATIONAL DEBATE 

The 18th Yellow Vest protest comes a day after France wrapped up two months of national debate on the country’s social and economic problems. Turnout for the weekly demonstrations, held in cities across France, has been getting smaller since December, when they were overshadowed by looting and vandalism.

Up to half a million people took part in meetings held across the country to discuss topics including tax, services, unemployment and the environment. The yellow vest protests appeared to have diminished in last few weeks, with about 28,000 protesters counted nationally at last week’s demonstrations, and 3,000 in Paris — a far cry from previous figures. When the protests began, about 300,000 people were involved in a day of action to block roads and take over the streets.

It should be recalled that the protests started in response to a fuel tax increase, as part of Macron’s push for a cleaner energy policy. Macron subsequently dropped the policy and promised more than €10 billion ($11 billion) to boost the incomes of pensioners and France’s poorest workers.

Read Also: The Yellow Vest Protesters in France – A Brewing Revolution?

The movement sprang up spontaneously last year with supporters donning the luminous safety vests that are mandatory in all French vehicles. Backed by people in small towns and the countryside where most get round by car, it has snowballed into a wider movement against President Emmanuel Macron’s alleged bias towards the rich and big cities. After nationwide road blockades which has gotten people injured, arrested and dead

Macron came to power vowing to restore trust in politics, but the protests have brought widespread anger over his pro-business policies and perceived elitism to the streets. With approval ratings languishing at a high rate, many protesters regard him as arrogant and out of touch with people living modest lives in provincial France.

His government attempted to head off the protests last year by announcing a series of measures to help poorer families pay the bills, but to no avail. Macron who even addressed the nation last year, insisted that he would push on with making France’s economy greener but promising to make the transition less painful for the poor.

Act XVIII – “Ultimatum”: The 18th action of Yellow Vests

Scheduled for March 16, Act 18 of the movement took place the day after the official end of the Great National Debate with the aim of bringing together “the whole of France in Paris” to issue an “ultimatum” to the government.

On Saturday, March 16, throughout France swept the wave of nationwide protests. The 18th act of the “yellow jackets”, held under the slogan “Ultimatum. The whole of France — in Paris,” was marked by the escalation of violence. This was particularly evident against the backdrop of demonstrations a week ago, which took place in a relatively peaceful environment.

Protesters began to gather in the square of Charles de Gaulle in Paris on the morning of Saturday, after which they blocked traffic at the top of the Champs Elysees. The police had blocked the iron fences and appliances the lower part of the prospectus.

Read Also: Hundreds of ‘Yellow Vest’ Protesters Rally in London

Shortly thereafter, in the area of the arc de Triomphe and the Champs elysées, there were clashes with police. Law enforcement officers used water cannons, tear gas and traumatic guns, Flash-Ball against the demonstrators.

However, the French Senate has approved a bill that would impose new restrictions for the participants of mass demonstrations. Returning to the performances on March 16, which took place in the background of the completion of the first stage of the national debate, the protest was marked by numerous pogroms and arson, which were carried out are unknown violent protesters.

In Paris, several cars were burned, kiosks of the press and first floor of the building, which houses the office of the Bank Tarneaud were on fire. Representatives of the Paris fire Department reported that as a result of fire in a residential building, it injured 11 people, including two policemen. In the course of liquidation of the emergency situation firefighters rescued the woman and child, who were trapped on the second floor of the house.

“The perpetrators are neither demonstrators nor the bullies. They’re murderers,” said the interior Minister of France Castaner, commenting on the fire.

France’s ‘Great Debate’ is Over — So What Comes Next?

Emmanuel Macron’s initiative led to thousands of town hall meetings, and boosted the president’s ratings. But what comes after the great debate — aimed as a response to months of yellow vest protests — is less certain.

France wrapped up two months of citizen debates on Friday aimed as an immediate salve to the ongoing “yellow vest” demonstrations. But the biggest challenge lies ahead, analysts say; finding concrete solutions to a raft of long-held public grievances that go well beyond the protest movement.

For President Emmanuel Macron, who launched the so-called ‘great debate’ mid-January, the immediate takeaways have been largely positive. Up to half-a-million French participated in 10,000 meetings nationwide to discuss pre-set topics, from taxes and public services to democracy and the environment. Organizers also received more than 1.4 million online public comments, outlining other issues of concern, including jobs and immigration.

Just as importantly, Macron has seen a significant bounce in once-dismal poll ratings, even as public support for the yellow vests continues to erode. His approval rating jumped eight points by early March, to reach 28 percent. But how the crisis plays out for both sides in the coming months remains a big unknown.

“The problems start now” analyst Jean Petaux of Sciences-Po Bordeaux University told DW. “To totally finish with the yellow vests, the government has to address at least part of their demands, which are very disparate. And give the sense it is offering credible solutions.”

So far, the French president has given little indication of his long-term exit strategy. Some believe he doesn’t yet have one. One option— a referendum — is problematic both in terms of timing and the risk it may be rejected.

Macron is expected to announce the after-debate roadmap next month. “I’m not sure the government has a clear idea of what it’s going to do with this mass of information,” Reber said. “But they have all kinds of options.”

A referendum may be the most obvious path. But it raises a set of questions, analysts say, including whether to pair it with the European elections. Moreover, the French may vote down the proposals it lays out, amounting to a serious setback for Macron’s government.

Still on the great debate, which is already delivering lessons. “People are learning that politics and how to change a system is a very difficult process”. The next steps for the yellow vests are also unclear. A number of analysts believe the movement will slowly die out.

APRECON

Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Follow on Instagram @_aprecon

Like our Page on FB  @aprecon

Uganda-Rwanda Crisis: Old Friends, Simmering Border Conflict

Weeks ago, Rwanda restricted entry of commercial cargo trucks from Uganda, at Katuna, which is the busiest crossing point on the Uganda-Rwanda border. The diplomatic feud between Rwanda and Uganda has stopped most cross-border movements between the two countries

Rwanda however explained that the trucks from Uganda could use other border crossings, as it completing an ongoing project to revamp the Katuna border post,  Meanwhile, traders and authorities in Uganda described as ‘unfortunate’ that ‘movement of people and goods across the common border with Rwanda, ‘got restricted’.

Rwanda however issued a travel advisory ‘strongly advising’ its citizens not to travel to Uganda, because of ‘ongoing arrests, harassment, torture, incarceration without consular access’.

According to the latest World Bank Data from 2017, Rwanda was Uganda’s fifth biggest export market, selling about $180m worth of goods. Rwanda meanwhile exported $10m worth to Uganda. The authorities in Uganda are calling for trade to return to normal.

Rwanda and Uganda Relationship

Rwanda and Uganda have a shared political, ethnic and security history that has alternately been friendly and hostile over the decades.

Kagame fought in a guerrilla war that brought Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni to power in 1986. Years later, Uganda backed Kagame’s rebel group that helped end the Rwandan genocide and took power in Kigali.

The two countries nearly went to war in the late 1990s after their forces clashed in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo where they jointly helped topple former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko before turning on each other.

Rwanda depends for much of its imports on a trade route through Uganda to Kenya’s Indian Ocean port of Mombasa. The same artery is also a pipeline for goods from Kenya and Uganda to Burundi and parts of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Kagame also cleared the air on the on-going situation between Rwanda and Uganda, saying that it all dates back to many years ago and that the government has been making efforts to come to an understanding but in vain.

He particularly blamed Ugandan leadership for supporting elements, including Rwanda National Congress (RNC), who want to destabilise the country.

The President highlighted that more Rwandans continue to be illegally jailed in Uganda’s prisons, including military prisons, an issue he has personally raised over and over and engaged his Ugandan counterpart on many occasions.

“Almost every week there are people who are brought and dumped across the border, and when you asked some of them, they say they have been in prison for 2 years,” he said.

He added: “When we ask our friends from across the border, they tell us they were illegal immigrants, but they were in prison for 2 years, with no charges, until they pack them in a truck and take them across the border”.

Uganda and Rwanda Response(s) Over the Simmering war 

The foreign ministers of Uganda and Rwanda addressed the media in their respective countries, to provide clarification on the border standoff that has dominated news headlines for weeks.

Uganda’s foreign minister Sam Kutesa also issued a statement the same day flatly denying the charges laid out by his counterpart — Uganda addressed all the accusations leveled against it by Rwanda, simply describing them as ‘false’ and ‘not true’. ‘‘It is not true that Uganda arrests, tortures and harasses Rwandans. It is false that Uganda hosts any elements fighting Rwanda. Uganda is committed to addressing any trade related issues…’‘

Rwanda’s foreign minister, Richard Sezibera accused Uganda of sabotaging trade to its southern neighbour, in addition to mistreating Rwandans in Uganda and supporting rebel groups opposed to president Paul Kagame’s government.

On the issue of trade sabotage, Sezibera mentioned on Tuesday that Rwanda is exploring the use of alternative trade routes and corridors such as Central Corridor via Tanzania.

Both Sezibera and Kutesa concluded their statements saying they hope to resolve the outstanding issues and normalise relations, even though the former noted that Rwanda has laid out these complaints to Uganda for two years now, with no positive results.

Kagame told The EastAfrican newspaper last month, that the issues between Uganda and Rwanda have to be resolved because the alternative was ‘not worth thinking about’.

‘‘That must be resolved. Because the alternative is not something that we should even be thinking about, or entertaining,” Kagame said, adding that he is confident ‘the matter can be resolved’.

Meanwhile, the Ugandan prime minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda has assured parliament that Uganda is engaging the Rwanda government to address the closure of its three border crossing points in Kisoro, Ntungamo and Kabale districts.

Reports from the Chanika border post in Kisoro, Katuna in Kabale and Mirama Hills in Ntungamo indicate they were closed to business today, affecting the local communities on either side of the borders.

No one can bring Rwanda to its knees – President Paul Kagame

President Paul Kagame has told leaders at the annual National Leadership Retreat, locally known as Umwiherero days ago that Rwanda is not a nation that can be brought to its knees by anyone.

“I have learned lessons of our struggles and the hardships of our country. One of them is I am not in control of what somebody else thinks about me or plans to do against me. But I must be in control of something, and that is what happens here,” Kagame said.

“You can attempt to destabilize our country, you can do us harm, you can shoot me with a gun and kill me. But there is one thing that is impossible: No one can bring me to my knees. Men and women of my country, you should never accept to be brought to your knees. You are much better than that,” Kagame urged.

The President was addressing over 350 leaders from local and central government,  parastatals and the private sector at the Rwanda Defence Forces Combat Training Centre Gabiro in Gatsibo District.

The President also reminded the leaders of the importance of the National Retreat in acknowledging personal responsibility in achieving the transformation of the country.

“Umwiherero is about reminding ourselves of our responsibilities, and to ask ourselves how far we have come in this journey towards reaching our goal. We all know the goal; it is transformation, education, health and profitable trade,” he remarked.

“If we are all part of the same journey, how fast we go and how far we reach depends on each and every one of us. Every individual has to be contributing something, if we can increase that contribution, so much the better,” he added.

Uganda’s Enemies Will Not Survive, President Museveni Warns

President Museveni has issued a warning to anyone planning to destabilise Uganda, saying they will be met with decisive destruction.

“Those who want to disturb Uganda, they don’t know our capacity. Our capacity is very big. Once we mobilise, you cannot survive. I can assure you of that if you are a troublemaker,” the President said at the weekend while commissioning five factories in Mbalala Village, Nama Sub-county in Mukono District.

Mr Museveni did not direct his warning to any particular person or group but his remarks come at a time Uganda and Rwanda are having tense bilateral relations.

The simmering fallout has resulted in Rwanda closing its border with Uganda at Katuna.

As Mr Museveni issued the warning, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, speaking at a government retreat in Kigali, said he had heard of people who have said they don’t want to be destabilised but added that those same people should also not disturb others.

The Masses Dilemma

Despite denials, Rwanda has closed the border with Uganda and restricted the movement of Rwandans, signaling an escalation that could easily be sparked into a full border conflict. For those who pay only superficial attention to Rwanda-Uganda relations, it may come as a surprise little inconvenience. 

A protracted halt to people and goods crossing any of the borders along the route therefore has the potential to trigger a major regional economic crisis.

The border dispute between Uganda and Rwanda appears to be an escalation of the Cold War-style hostilities and allegations by the two countries of supporting each other’s dissidents that have been reported in Ugandan and regional media over recent months.

Rwanda and Uganda nearly went to war in the late 1990s after their forces clashed in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo where they jointly helped topple former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko before turning on each other.

Landlocked Rwanda transports a significant amount of its imports via a trade route passing through Uganda from the Kenyan seaport of Mombasa.

The same trade route serves as a crucial pipeline for Kenyan exports and also helps supply merchandise to Burundi and parts of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ugandans and Rwandans who share a lot including homes, businesses and relationships are certainly hoping that the issues can be resolved amicably, and normalcy restored.

APRECON

Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Follow on Instagram @_aprecon

Like our Page on FB  @aprecon

Sudan Unrest: President Omar al-Bashir’s Brazen Defiance in the Face Of Sudanese Demands

Anti-government protests have rocked several cities and towns in Sudan since last year, December. The protests started over the rising costs of bread and fuel, but has escalated into a call for the overthrow of long-time President Omar al-Bashir.

The protest began on December 19 in the city of Atbara, and has spread across the country, including to the capital, Khartoum. In some cities, security forces have used tear gas on protesters and witnesses report the use of batons and live ammunition by riot police. Protesters have attempted to storm official buildings and set fire to tyres in the streets.

Al-Bashir’s years in office have failed to lift Sudan out of its rampant poverty or bring peace and unity to the religiously diverse country. Sudan was Africa’s largest country until 2011, when the mainly animist and Christian south seceded, taking with it about three quarters of the country’s oil wealth.

In power since 1989, Omar al-Bashir is already one of the region’s longest serving leaders. His ruling Popular Congress Party has nominated him to run for another term in office next year.

He was indicted in 2010 by the International Criminal Court for genocide in Darfur, where a revolt was brutally suppressed by forces loyal to the government, including militias. Tens of thousands died in that conflict and hundreds of thousands were displaced.

CAUSE OF THE PROTEST

The main trigger for the continous protests was the government’s decision to increase the price of a loaf of bread from one Sudanese pound to three (about $0.02 to $0.06).

But anger has been boiling across Sudan, with some describing it as a “ticking time bomb”, over the rising costs and other economic hardships, including soaring inflation and limits on bank withdrawals.

“There is no cash at the ATM machines most of the time. Banks keep sending people away with only 500 SDG [about $10.50 at the official exchange rate] in their pockets, which is barely enough for a day,” said 29-year-old Yusuf Elhag, who has been protesting in Khartoum.

In 2011, South Sudan seceded from Sudan, taking most of the oil fields that its now northern neighbour relied on to boost its economy. Although the United States lifted its 20-year-old trade sanctions on Sudan in October 2017, the country has been unable to recover from losing three-quarters of its oil output.

Read Also: Sudan – Omar al-Bashir: A Call to Rescind!

The Sudanese people have been fighting for a better quality of life for decades. The country gained its independence in 1956. Two years later, Ibrahim Abboud took power in a military coup that forced out the elected civilian government. During Abboud’s rule, Sudan’s economy suffered, leading to widespread discontent.

At least 40 people have been killed in the clashes, according to rights groups, but the government has acknowledged only 24 deaths. Authorities have also detained more than 800 people since the unrest began, along with dozens of opposition leaders.

SUDAN’S SUPPRESSED OPPOSITION

The government has declared a state of emergency and imposed curfews in towns where some of the first protests took place. Schools and universities have been closed. National newspapers have been censored or shut down.

The Internet has been disrupted, and several phone carriers have restricted access to WhatsApp and other social media sites. Security forces have deployed tear gas and live ammunition against protesters as the death toll reaches 40 and continues to rise.

As Sudanese activists have made clear, these protests are about much more than the deepening economic crisis. Protesters are demanding the overthrow of the ruling NCP party as well as the small group of political and economic elites, including some opposition party leaders, who have held power for decades.

Read Also: This Week in Review: Re-Election of Senegal, Nigeria Incumbent Presidents, Sudan’s Unrest, DR Congo’s Ebola Crisis, Trump-Kim Meeting Top this Week News

Framing this uprising as spontaneous riots against rising bread prices also obscures the ways working-class Sudanese have mobilized against the regime, particularly in smaller towns, which have been hit hardest by recent austerity measures following decades of political neglect and repression.

OMAR AL-BASHIR’S REFUSAL TO STEP DOWN

Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir has promised to push through economic reforms – as he defied calls from protesters and the opposition to step down.

Two parties have withdrawn from the governing coalition as anti-government demonstrations continue – but President Bashir is refusing to budge.

Al-Bashir is yet to show any signs of succumbing to the protesters’ demands, with the 75-year-old president blaming unnamed “infiltrators” and foreign powers for the unrest.

Yet, the official tone has softened over the past few weeks with al-Bashir and his top officials seemingly trying to win over demonstrators by promising to tackle financial problems and release political prisoners.

Former Prime Minister Moetaz Moussa described protesters’ demands regarding improving the economy as “legitimate”.

SUDAN’S ECONOMIC DECLINE

Sudan’s worsening economic crisis has caused fuel, cash and bread shortages that in turn set off a wave of unrest that has surged across the country over the past two months.

The economic downturn has also alienated the professional classes, who blamed Bashir and the ruling National Congress Party for their troubles. According to businessmen, activists and academics it has also undermined Bashir’s authority and encouraged a protest movement that has persisted despite a security crackdown in which dozens have died.

The Sudanese Professionals’ Association has unveiled plans to submit a request to the parliament to raise the base level from which monthly public sector salaries are calculated of 650 Sudanese pounds – now worth just $13.60 at the official exchange rate – on December 25, six days after protests began to escalate.

In a country where more than half the population of 42 million are under 19, many of the protesters are young men and women struggling to find jobs that could pay them a living wage. Businessmen said an unskilled factory worker in Khartoum earns from 1,000 to 1,500 pounds ($18 to $27) a month and a skilled worker may make double that, barely enough for a family to survive.

Some families in the capital have pulled their children out of school over the last year or are serving them fewer and less nutritious meals, making them more susceptible to disease, according to a government presentation to social workers last month in Khartoum.

The economic crisis has hit salaried staff, young people and the unemployed particularly hard. Families have had to sell scarce belongings and crime has risen, the presentation said.

Read Also: Polls or Protest: Which Will It Be for Sudan’s Bashir?

Since the protests began the government has been spending even more money on largely imported, subsidized products including bread and fuel. But it has all but run out of the foreign currency it needs to pay for them, causing widespread shortages.

Sudan already has foreign debts of more than $50 billion, and has been struggling to attract new external financing. By the end of 2018, inflation was running at more than 70%. It then dipped to 43%, according to official figures, though one U.S.-based economist put it at nearly double that.

CABINET RE-SHUFFLE

President Omar al-Bashir has named a new prime minister as he pressed on with a shake-up at the top, even as protest leaders dismissed his move to impose a state of emergency across Sudan to quell nationwide demonstrations.

Bashir’s three-decade rule has been rocked by two months of protests that a deadly crackdown has failed to suppress. Days ago, he imposed a nationwide state of emergency and dissolved the federal and provincial governments.

In a televised speech to the nation, the veteran leader pledged to form a government of technocrats to address Sudan’s chronic economic woes, which have been the driving force behind the protests.

On Saturday, Bashir sacked his vice president and long-time ally Bakri Hassan Saleh, replacing him with Defence Minister General Awad Ibnouf. In a separate decree, he appointed Mohamed Tahir Ela, former governor of the agricultural state of Gezira, as prime minister.

But protest organisers and their supporters in the political opposition dismissed the reshuffles. They said the state of emergency showed that Bashir’s rule was weakened and only its overthrow would now satisfy the protesters.

APRECON

Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Follow on Instagram @_aprecon

Like our Page on FB  @aprecon

Algeria’s Ailing, Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Search of “5th Term” as President and the Rising Protest

Algeria’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is to seek a fifth term in April elections, the state media announced earlier this week, despite health issues that have kept him largely out of the public eye for years.

With no clear successor to longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algerians may well see their frail leader who rarely appears in public cling on for a fifth term in office. When Bouteflika came to power in 1999, he won the backing of his conflict-weary citizens who credited him with bringing about reconciliation after a fierce civil war.

The 81-year-old head of state, who has been in power since 1999, declared his widely expected candidacy in a message to the nation. Bouteflika, who uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.

The country’s ruling coalition – which includes the president’s National Liberation Front – lent its backing to Bouteflika earlier this year. Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia has said Bouteflika’s health was not “an obstacle” to performing presidential duties.

Retired general Ali Ghediri, 64, was the first to announce his candidacy after the presidency set the election date. Meanwhile, Algeria’s main Islamist party, the Movement for the Society of Peace, will also take part, backing its candidate Abderrazak Makri.

The country’s oldest opposition party, the Front of Socialist Forces, announced on January 25 that it would not field a candidate and called for an “active, intensive and peaceful boycott”. One possible successor, national police chief Abdelghani Hamel, was last month ejected from the president’s inner circle. The sacking of Hamel was intended to curb the official’s ambitions, according to a diplomat based in the capital Algiers.

The move is similar to reshuffles within the powerful intelligence services just months ahead of the 2014 election, in which Bouteflika clinched 81.5 percent of the vote despite being absent from the campaign trail.

Politicians have already been preparing for a fifth term under Bouteflika, with the secretary general of his National Liberation Front (FLN) in April asking him to run.
Last month, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said his Rally for National Democracy (RND) party would support the president “continuing his mission and his sacrifice in the service of Algeria.”

One fierce critic of Bouteflika’s decision to stay in power, New Generation (Jil Jadid) party president Soufiane Djilali, accused the presidential camp of trying to “neutralize other potential candidates.” There is “no doubt that President Bouteflika wants to finish his days in power,” he said.

The last presidential election saw a 50-percent abstention rate and it could reach a record high in 2019, with Algerians suffering from falling oil prices and youth unemployment at 30 percent. Half of Algeria’s 40-million population is now under the age of 30 and few young people remember the expectant days of their president’s first term.

Who is Abdelaziz Bouteflika?

Abdelaziz Bouteflika was born in Oujda, Morocco in 1937, and his family was the Algerian city of Tlemcen. Politically, “ In 1957, three years into the Algerian war for independence (1954–62), Bouteflika joined the National Liberation Front (Front de Libération Nationale; FLN) in its fight against French rule.

He became an officer in the National Liberation Army (Armée de Libération Nationale; ALN) in 1960. After Algerian independence in 1962, Bouteflika was appointed minister for youth, sports, and tourism, and a year later he was made foreign minister” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2014).

However, it was not long after Chadli Benjadid came to power in 1979, following Houari Boumedienne’s death, that Bouteflika was no longer the foreign minister of Algeria. Then, due to some corruption issues, he left Algeria in 1981, only returning in 1987 (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2014). Then, it was in 1999 that Bouteflika became president of Algeria.

Following his rise to power, Bouteflika worked to end the civil conflict in Algeria. He did this by offering amnesty to the Islamic Salvation Front. Following his ability to establish a peace in the mid-2000s, he began to work on developing economic and political ties to countries in Europe and the United States. In addition, he focused heavily on anti-terrorism measures within Algeria.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika has continued to stay in power for four terms, the fourth being the April 2014 elections.

Bouteflika’s Health Issues

Bouteflika’s health has continued to be a cause of concern for those who are wondering whether he has the ability to continue to hold power as the President of Algeria. Bouteflika made minimal public presence continued following the elections. For example, between the elections and 2014, he has made few public appearances.

In addition, along with his 2013 stroke, and his limited appearances the following year, Bouteflika was again hospitalized in November of 2014 in the French city of Grenoble. And, something out of the ordinary for Bouteflika, in October of 2014, “he failed to appear in public for Eid al-Adha prayers marking the end of the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca”.

However, those who back Bouteflika have continued to argue that his health is not an issue, and that he is more than capable of fulfilling his role as the leader of Algeria. Amar Saadani, who is the Secretary General of the National Liberation Front (FLN) was quoted as saying that “”The president is in good health and can perform his duties[.]” He went on to say that “”He spoke to citizens and took an oath. He is in possession of all of his physical and mental faculties”.

Ineffectiveness of the Opposition in Algeria

Despite criticisms of corruption, as well as the strong authoritarianism of Bouteflika, there has not been an opposition that has been able to challenge him successfully in Algeria. There have been various arguments put forth as to why this is the case.

For one, Bouteflika continues to hold onto military and economic power. Economically, he used rents to shore up support domestically, through business elites, as well as through the population. He does this by offering social services, or increases in salaries (as was the case in 2011). This allows him to keep a base of popularity.

Along with this, Bouteflika has oppressed challengers and others who have spoken out about the politics in the country. In addition, he controls the political and electoral spheres of the country. For example, Hugh Roberts points out that the system–which Bouteflika controls–favors him in elections. Thus, while there are officially opposition candidates, Bouteflika’s power is not truly threatened.

But while these factors of repression and economic influence are very important for Bouteflika staying in power. Many of those who criticized Bouteflika running in 2014 have met under the Committee for Freedoms and Democratic Transition–with attempts at forming a bloc against him, although not much has come out of the talks.

Military as Central Pillar

The country’s military has played a pivotal role in politics since the country gained independence in 1962. In 1992, the army intervened in the political process to prevent the Islamic Salvation Front, a loose coalition of Muslim thought currents, from acceding to power, a move that antagonised many Algerians.

As such, when Bouteflika announced the departure of his intelligence chief in 2015, many welcomed the development as ushering in a new era in the state’s historically troubled civil-military relations.

General Mohamed Mediene, or Toufik as he is better known to Algerians, reigned over the country’s arcane Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS by its French acronym) for the better part of a quarter of a century.

In 1999, Mediene, alongside top cadres from Algeria’s military, had engineered Bouteflika’s rise to power. But when Bouteflika sought to run for a fourth term in 2014, Mediene is said to have objected, prompting the president to terminate his powerful general’s duties, in what was largely seen as an effort to consolidate civilian control of the military.

The divorce, however abrupt, would prove difficult to execute in a country where the military played so significant a role in running the country.

The rising protests

In the month of february 2019, university students took to the streets in the latest wave of demonstrations, responding to calls on social media for a rare show of public dissent. They carried banners and chanted slogans against the 81-year-old president, who has governed Algeria for two decades and who has been ailing in recent years.

“Bouteflika, go away!” students called out, waving Algerian flags and singing the national anthem. Demonstrations took place across the nation, from the capital, Algiers, to the port city of Mostaganem in the west and the University of Adrar in the Sahara Desert.

The protests came as some students sought to distance themselves from a group of 11 student unions that had declared support for Bouteflika. “I am a student,” reads a sign posted to Twitter. “No organization represents me. No to a fifth term.”

Bouteflika, who has been in power since 1999, announced earlier this month that he would seek a fifth term, amid questions over his health. He has rarely appeared in public since a stroke in 2013 required him to use a wheelchair, and suspicions have been raised that his advisers, including his brother Saïd, are running the country.

“The people don’t want Bouteflika or Saïd,” students chanted in Algiers. Maher Mezahi, a freelance journalist based in Algiers, says Bouteflika is widely expected to win April’s election, as his National Liberation Front party faces little opposition.

Algerians “know that the election would be skewed heavily in [Bouteflika’s] favor if he does run,” Mezahi tells NPR, which is “why there’s such an urgency to stop him” before he submits his application, which is expected on Sunday. Authorities have maintained that Bouteflika is fit to run the country.

“To those who are dreaming of change I say ‘Have nice dreams,'” said National Liberation Front party leader Moad Bouchareb in a televised address on Saturday, according to Reuters. The president’s supporters have emphasized the risk of unrest and evoked memories of Algeria’s bloody, decade-long civil war that ended during Bouteflika’s first term as president.

But discontent over the country’s economy has bubbled up in the form of smaller strikes and protests.

In addition to a looming crisis, Algeria faces multiple political, economic and social challenges. With no clear heir, his succession could be troubled and worsen Algeria’s ability to tackle mounting economic challenges as oil income dwindles. This would deprive the wider region – particularly the Sahel – of an important stabilising presence.

APRECON

Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Follow on Instagram @_aprecon

Like our Page on FB  @aprecon

Invoking the ‘25th Amendment’: Could it Be Used to Unseat Donald Trump as US President?

President Donald Trump, 45th president of the United States on Monday, this week, seconded the allegation that there had been a coup attempt against him before heading out to play golf at his Florida club on Presidents Day.

The president tweeted a quote from Fox News guest Dan Bongino alleging “an illegal coup attempt” against him, adding “true!”

The message capped off a series of angry tweets Trump wrote on Monday about former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who gave an explosive interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday alleging that FBI Deputy Director Andrew Rosenstein repeatedly discussed using the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office.

The 25th Amendment is the part of the Constitution that details succession if a president dies or becomes otherwise incapacitated. However, Section 4 of the 25th Amendment has never been invoked in reality, though it’s a staple of thriller fiction. But there’s been a surge of interest in it throughout Trump’s presidency, as reports of the president’s bizarre behavior behind closed doors have piled up, and as his top officials have kept anonymously telling reporters that he’s unfit to govern.

The conversations came in the chaotic days after James Comey was fired as FBI director, McCabe told CBS, as the FBI became increasingly convinced that the president was obstructing into the agency’s investigation in Russian meddling in the U.S. election. Rosenstein went as far to offer to wear a wire to the White House to gather information, McCabe said. (Officials have previously told NBC News Rosenstein made the remark sarcastically)

The Department of Justice said in a statement that they saw McCabe’s telling of “events as inaccurate and factually incorrect” saying that the department’s “Inspector General found that Mr. McCabe did not tell the truth to federal authorities on multiple occasions, leading to his termination from the FBI.”

In a string of five tweets Monday, Trump wrote that there were “so many lies” in McCabe’s interview, calling it “deranged.”

“This was the illegal and treasonous ‘insurance policy’ in full action!” Trump wrote in another tweet.

Read Also: Donald Trump’s Border Wall Bid & Longest Shutdown in US History

Mr McCabe said in the interview, “Rod raised the [25th Amendment] issue and discussed it with me in the context of thinking about how many other Cabinet officials might support such an effort.” He added that he believed Rosenstein was “counting votes or possible votes” to remove Mr Trump from office. It was reported on Sunday that Mr Baker, in his testimony to Congress, provided even more details about the alleged 25th Amendment discussions — saying two Cabinet officials were “ready to support” such an effort.

“I was being told by some combination of Andy McCabe and Lisa Page, that, in a conversation with the Deputy Attorney-General, he had stated that he — this was what was related to me — that he had at least two members of the president’s Cabinet who were ready to support, I guess you would call it, an action under the 25th Amendment,” Mr Baker testified.

What the 25th Amendment of U.S. Constitution Says?

The 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution addresses what happens to the presidency and vice-presidency if the president and/or vice president dies, resigns or becomes incapacitated or disabled. Passed by Congress on July 6, 1965, the 25th Amendment was ratified by the states on February 10, 1967.

Invoking the 25th Amendment has always been controversial, especially Article 4, which allows for removal of a president who is deemed incapacitated by any kind of illness—including mental illness—or injury.

Prior to the 25th Amendment, presidential succession procedures existed, but they were vague and didn’t cover every contingency. Assumedly, the vice president would become president if the president died or resigned. However, it wasn’t clear what should happen if the president was temporarily incapacitated or if the vice president was incapacitated.

Read Also: France and Italy: A Deeper Rift Over Africa Migrants Crisis

The 25th Amendment sought to address these concerns. The original Constitution allowed for the vice president to become acting president if the president died, resigned or became debilitated, but it didn’t state who had the power to declare the president unfit to serve or prevent the president from returning to office.

The 25th Amendment and Donald Trump’s dilemma

Under the leadership of Donald Trump, some have initiated dialog about invoking Section 4 of the 25th Amendment against him. Still, the 25th Amendment exists to protect the democratically-elected President and the line of succession. It makes it difficult to unseat a President without proven just cause and majority consensus.

Until the 25th Amendment, each administration came up with its own plan to handle presidential and vice-presidential vacancies and reinstatement. This ambiguity led to confusion, ambiguity and in some cases, deceit.

For instance, in 1841, President William Harrison became the first president to die in office; vice president John Tyler succeeded him. Harrison’s cabinet gave Tyler the title, “Vice President Acting President,” but Tyler wanted more. He moved into the White House, had himself sworn in as president and assumed full presidential powers, including giving an Inaugural Address.

Despite some controversy, Congress eventually confirmed Tyler’s presidency. In 1919, after having a series of strokes and ignoring warning signs of ill-health and neurological problems, President Woodrow Wilson had a massive stroke from which he never recovered during his presidency.

When his Cabinet suggested the vice president take over, Wilson’s wife Edith and his doctor, Cary Grayson, conspired to keep his condition a secret from both Congress and the public, leaving the United States without a competent leader.

For Donald Trump to be removed from office under the mechanism included in the amendment, one of two things has to happen.

  • A majority of the Cabinet and Vice President Pence must agree that Trump is unfit for office, or
  • Pence and a commission established by Congress (which doesn’t currently exist) would have to reach a similar agreement.

If such an agreement is met, a letter is sent to Congress and Trump is out. However, Trump endorses claim that McCabe was part of ‘coup attempt’.

Former White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon’s exposition

Last year, September, Former White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon, said U.S. President Donald Trump was facing a “coup”, He told Reuters, pointing to an anonymous column in the New York Times detailing resistance within the Trump administration.

“What you saw the other day was as serious as it can get. This is a direct attack on the institutions,” Bannon said during a flying visit to Italy. “This is a coup, okay”.

Read Also: Venezuela Crisis: Nicolás Maduro, Juan Guaidó and The Presidential Power Tussle

The column which was published last year was written by an unnamed senior administration official, the New York Times said. The writer slammed Trump’s “amorality” and said: “Many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”

Bannon said the last time a U.S. president had been challenged in such a fashion was during the American Civil War when General George B. McClellan clashed with the then president, Abraham Lincoln. “This is a crisis. The country has only ever had such a crisis in the summer of 1862 when General McClellan and the senior generals, all Democrats in the Union Army, deemed that Abraham Lincoln was not fit and not competent to be commander in chief,” Bannon said.

Trump however said, the U.S. Justice Department should find out who wrote the piece, adding that it was an issue of national security. Bannon was fired by Trump in August, 2017 after he fell out with the president’s more mainstream advisers over his efforts to bend the Republican party to his own economic nationalist agenda.

Bannon said he had resigned from his post and told CBS television at the time that the “Republican establishment” was looking to nullify the 2016 election and neuter Trump. “There is a cabal of Republic establishment figures who believe Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. This is a crisis,” Bannon said in Rome.

Thinking the Unthinkable: Could there Be a Military Coup in the US?

There are so many things that stands in the way of an American coup actually happening? First and foremost is the ingrained legitimacy of the civilian commander-in-chief, to whom the US military has been subordinate for 250 years. But it’s important to remember that the US military’s oath is taken to defend the Constitution. If there were ever clear evidence that the president had acted to subvert the Constitution, and Congress proved unable or unwilling to impeach that president, the military’s first obligation might come into question.

The second major obstacle to a successful coup is the fact that military authority is not invested in one person; the National Guard, unless called into federal service, is subject to the authority of state governors. Meanwhile, the US’s gun control laws mean that any potential leaders of a military coup would have to deal with the problem of a well-armed citizenry.

Read Also: Attempted Gabon Military Coup: Ali Bongo’s Health and Other Controversies

To neutralise these two fronts of potential resistance, the plotters of an American military coup would need to deny them information on what’s happening, and just as importantly to deny any would-be loyalists the time or ability to act.

The last major obstacles are the sheer size of the US and the way power is diffused across it. Any coup would have to do more than simply secure Washington, DC; to seize maximum control over the centres of political, financial and media power, it would also (at a minimum) need to secure Manhattan and large parts of Los Angeles.

However, any plot would have two crucial things working in its favour. First, the sheer implausibility of a coup means that the US domestic intelligence agencies, particularly the FBI, aren’t looking for signs of unrest within the military and second, the sheer size and complexity of the US military means that a conspiracy involving those of sufficiently high rank could move substantial military assets without raising too many questions.

APRECON

Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Follow on Instagram @_aprecon

Like our Page on FB  @aprecon

 

 

2019 Nigeria Elections: The Preparations, Postponement and People’s Reactions

At the beginning of the year, there was a charged socio-political atmosphere in Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, the political situation got heightened as analysts, voters and observers eagerly await the outcome of the poll.

The APC and PDP, the two leading political parties in the country, have outlined their plans and economic strategies in separate policy documents.

For the APC whose Presidential Candidate is  incumbent Nigeria president, President Muhammadu Buhari, the policy framework is tagged the “Next Level” which seeks to leverage on its past four years of seeming progress, in moving the nation forward.

On the other hand the PDP presented an equally robust plan termed “Get Nigeria Working Again” seeking to go through a pro-market strategy to return Nigeria to sustainable economic growth.

Last year, late december, INEC boss assured that INEC was ready to conduct a free, fair and credible polls in 2019. “We will continued to improve on the logistics to enable the commission have itch-free, credible polls come 2019,” he stressed.

He further explained that conducting states elections was more difficult than conducting the Federal elections.

“It is more difficult to conduct states elections than that of the general, because people will be more focused on the state where the election is taken place,” he said.

Although, he said there were improvements in the last Osun election, as the voting materials arrived at the polling units, promising to consolidate on that and ensure that the 2019 general election meet the global standard.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Feb 7th, 2019 also assured Nigerians that it was fully ready to conduct free, fair and credible general elections this month.

INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, gave the assurance in Abuja while speaking at the 2018 edition of the annual LEADERSHIP Conference and Awards held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, with theme: “Multiparty  Democracy, Stability and Peaceful Elections: Connecting The Dots.” He said: “We are set for the elections and all logistics have been put in place to ensure hitch-free conduct of the polls.”

The INEC boss said that no matter how dubious or malicious such  persons or organisations may be, there was no way they can manipulate the electoral process in their favour.

He insisted that with the stringent measures INEC had put in place  from the polling units to the collation centres, Nigerians and the  international community should expect nothing less than credible and  acceptable elections from the electoral umpire.

POSTPONEMENT

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, shifted the Presidential and National Assembly elections by one week earlier this morning. The chairman of the electoral commission, INEC, Mahmood Yakubu, at about 2:40 a.m. on Saturday formally announced the postponement of the general elections.

The postponement means the presidential and National Assembly elections earlier scheduled for February 16 will now hold on February 23. The governorship and state assemblies elections initially scheduled for March 2 will now hold on March 9.

The decision by INEC to postpone the polls has been met with shock and scorn across the country.

Breaking News: The #NigeriaDecides2019 Elections now to hold on; 23rd February, 2019 for Presidential and National Assembly while the Governorship, State House of Assembly and the FCT Area Council Elections is to hold on 9th March, 2019. pic.twitter.com/6zhvBLQe2a

— INEC Nigeria (@inecnigeria) February 16, 2019

INEC’s Chairman Mahmood Yakubu made the a shock announcement on Saturday morning that “Proceeding with the election as scheduled is no longer feasible,” citing logistical challenges.

Nigeria’s two main political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), swiftly condemned the move, accusing each other of trying to manipulate the vote.

READ THE FULL SPEECH

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) met on Friday, 15th February 2019 and reviewed its preparations for the 2019 General Election scheduled for Saturday, 16th February 2019 and Saturday, 2nd March 2019.

Following a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan and the determination to conduct free, fair and credible elections, the Commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the elections as scheduled is no longer feasible.

Consequently, the Commission has decided to reschedule the Presidential and National Assembly Elections to Saturday, 23rd February 2019. Furthermore, the Governorship, State House of Assembly and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council Elections is rescheduled to Saturday 9th March 2019. This will afford the Commission the opportunity to address identified challenges in order to maintain the quality of our elections.

This was a difficult decision for the Commission to take, but necessary for the successful delivery of the elections and the consolidation of democracy.

The Commission will meet key stakeholders to update them on this development at 2p.m. on Saturday, 16th February 2019 at the Abuja International Conference Centre.

However, this is not the first time INEC will be postponing elections. In 2015, the then chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, also announced a postponement of the 2015 elections due to insecurity.

PEOPLE’S REACTION

The postponement of the February 16 Presidential and National Assembly elections by INEC has caused a predictable outrage. Meanwhile, Nigerians have taken to  social media platforms, most especially Twitter to express their views about the role played by INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, in the postponement of the 2019 elections.

While some doubted Prof. Yakubu by giving him the benefit of the doubt, others condemned him. This decision has equally left the Nigerian public both confused and angered, many complaining that they had already travelled to their states of origin in preparation for the vote.

The opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has alleged that the commission’s shoddy arrangement plays into the plans of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to rig the elections in their favour and further cling to power.

“Having failed in all their nefarious options to enable them cling on to power, the APC and the INEC came up with the idea of shifting election, an action that is dangerous to our democracy and is therefore unacceptable,” he said in a statement.

Another reaction to the postponement was made by former Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, who said it confirmed the opposition’s fears that the ruling government would try to rig the election.

“Two days ago, I told Nigerians that the Presidency cabal were considering postponement of the elections because they knew that they can’t win. Now I’m vindicated. With this, they have only succeeded in making their situation worse. Nigerians will defeat this tyranny ultimately,” he said on his Twitter account (@GovAyoFayose).

President Muhammadu Buhari’s media aide, Bashir Ahmad, expressed frustration with the timing of the postponement especially since many Nigerians, including the president, had travelled to their localities to vote.

“Kai INEC! A lot of people traveled to cast their vote today, some for many hours, some from abroad, but you did such a thing just few hours to Election, haba, you could have taken this decision since Thursday or even early,” he posted.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s spokesperson, Laolu Akande, expressed a similar opinion about INEC’s decision, “Mr. President was already in Daura in Katsina State and the VP already in Lagos to vote this morning before the postponement just announced by INEC. This is truly disappointing, but the march to the Next Level continues. Nigeria will prevail,” he said.

STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT BUHARI ON THE POSTPONEMENT OF GENERAL ELECTIONS BY INEC

I am deeply disappointed that despite the long notice given and our preparations both locally and internationally, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed the Presidential and National Assembly elections within hours of its commencement.

Many Nigerians have traveled to various locations to exercise their right to vote, and international observers are gathered.

INEC themselves have given assurances, day after day and almost hour after hour that they are in complete readiness for the elections. We and all our citizens believed them.

This administration has ensured that we do not interfere in any way with the work of INEC except to ensure that all funds were released to the commission.

We now urge INEC to ensure not only that materials already distributed are safe and do not get into wrong hands, but that everything is done to avoid the lapses that resulted in this unfortunate postponement, and ensure a free and fair election on the rescheduled dates.

While I reaffirm my strong commitment to the independence, neutrality of the electoral umpire and the sanctity of the electoral process and ballot, I urge all political stakeholders and Nigerians to continue to rally round INEC at this trying national moment in our democratic journey.

I, therefore, appeal to all Nigerians to refrain from all civil disorder and remain peaceful, patriotic and united to ensure that no force or conspiracy derail our democratic development. I have decided to move back to Abuja to ensure that the 14.00 hrs meeting called by INEC with all stakeholders is successful.

Elections postponement plan to disenfranchise voters – Atiku Abubakar, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate

Atiku Abubakar, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, alleged that the postponement of the general election by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is “obviously a case of the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob.”

In a statement released in the early hours of Saturday, February 16, Atiku said: “The Buhari administration has had more than enough time and money to prepare for these elections and the Nigerian people were poised and ready to perform their civic responsibility by voting in the elections earlier scheduled for Saturday, 16 February, 2019.

“By instigating this postponement, the Buhari administration hopes to disenfranchise the Nigerian electorate in order to ensure that turn out is low on the rescheduled date.” Atiku further alleged that the the election postponement is a bid to frustrate Nigerians from participating in the election.

He said: “Their plan is to provoke the public, hoping for a negative reaction, and then use that as an excuse for further anti-democratic acts. “As such, I call on all Nigerians to be patient. We have tolerated the maladministration of this government for four years. We can extend our tolerance a few more days and give them our verdict via our votes.”

Meanwhile, The spokesman of the House of Representatives, Abdulrazak Namdas (APC-Adamawa), on Saturday decried the postponement of the general elections.

In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday, Namdas described the postponement as “unfortunate.” The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had on Saturday shifted the elections few hours to the opening of polling units.

APRECON

Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Follow on Instagram @_aprecon

Like our Page on FB  @aprecon

France and Italy: A Deeper Rift Over Africa Migrants Crisis

Italy’s Deputy prime minister, Luigi Di Maio has blamed France for forcing migrants to make the strenuous journey from Africa to Europe after close to 170 people drowned while attempting to cross the Mediterranean sea.

According to News report, One boat carrying 117 people sank off the coast of Libya while a second, believed to be carrying 53 people, went down in the western Mediterranean.

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister, Di Maio said he saw “hypocrisy” from Europe, Mr Di Maio, head of the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) which makes up half of the ruling coalition in Rome, expressed his “condolences to the victims”.

He added: “There are countries, like France, which in Africa continue to have de facto colonies, with the franc as currency, ‘money’ that it is used to finance its public debt weakening the economies of those countries where migrants come from. The place for Africans is Africa, not the bottom of the sea.”

Mr Di Maio had already sparked annoyance when he accused France of leading colonial-style policies in Africa, prompting the French Foreign Ministry to summon the Italian ambassador and the Italian government last autumn accused France of dumping underage migrants over the border without authorisation.

“For several months, France has been the subject of repeated accusations, unfounded attacks and outrageous declarations,” Ms von der Muhll said. “This is unprecedented since the end of (World War II). To have disagreements is one thing, to exploit the relationship for electoral purposes is another.”

Luigi Di Maio is an Italian politician serving as Deputy Prime Minister of Italy and Minister of Economic Development, Labour and Social Policies since 1 June 2018. He previously served as Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies in the XVII Italian legislature. He is the leader of the Five Star Movement, an anti-establishment party founded by Beppe Grillo.

The Incendiary Comments

The allegations marked the latest diplomatic spat between the two countries, following last year’s quarrel over migration, and, specifically the Aquarius migrant rescue ship.

Despite France’s reaction, Di Maio stood by his comments in a statement to the press on Monday, adding that he believed France had prevented the economic development of 14 African states.

He specifically referred to the CFA franc, the umbrella term for two France-backed currencies used in 14 states across west and central Africa.

“I think that France is one of those countries that by printing money for 14 African states prevents their economic development and contributes to the fact that the refugees leave and then die in the sea or arrive on our coasts,” he said in a statement broadcast live to Facebook.

Speaking in Italy’s Abruzzo region, Di Maio said he believed France would drop in the rankings of the world’s largest economies had it not been for “what it is doing in Africa.” “If we have people who are leaving Africa now it’s because some European countries, and France in particular, have never stopped colonising Africa,” he said.

“If France didn’t have its African colonies, because that’s what they should be called, it would be the 15th largest world economy. Instead it’s among the first, exactly because of what it is doing in Africa.”

France and Italy Relationship

Historically the strong relations between France and Italy have significantly reduced following the formation of a government coalition in Italy comprising the Five Star Movement and the League in June 2018.

Points of contention between the countries have included immigration, budgetary constraints, the Second Libyan Civil War, the CFA Franc, and Italian support for opposition movements in France.

In June 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron accused Italy of “cynicism and irresponsibility” for turning away the Aquarius Dignitus migrant rescue ship.

The Italian government summoned the French ambassador in response, with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte describing Macron’s remarks as “hypocritical”.

Meanwhile, In September 2018, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini condemned France’s foreign policy in Libya, including its advocacy for the 2011 military intervention in Libya and actions during the Second Libyan Civil War, accusing France of “putting at risk the security of North Africa and, as a result, of Europe as a whole” for “economic motives and selfish national interest”.

France and Italy are in a diplomatic crisis, provoked by a recent meeting between Italy’s deputy prime minister, Luigi Di Maio, and representatives of the French Gilets Jaunes protest movement.

Di Maio has expressed his support for the Gilets Jaunes as they prepare to stand candidates in the European Parliament elections this year. This has caused so much trouble for the French president, Emmanuel Macron, that the French government has pulled its ambassador out of Rome, accusing the Italian government of making verbal attacks “without precedent since World War II”.

Di Maio’s gesture was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Tensions between the two governments – over corporate takeovers, policy towards Libya, and an exhibition Leonardo Da Vinci’s works – have been mounting since a new populist “government of change” came to power in Italy last June. This latest conflict has soured relations to an unprecedented point. It’s difficult to see how they can improve in the near term.

France’s Macron Slams Italian Migrant Policy

French President Emmanuel Macron affirmed that Italy is in crisis with the rest of the EU, after several other European countries stepped in to take in migrants rescued at sea who were refused entry at Italian ports.

“There’s a political crisis between Italy and the rest of Europe,” Macron said during the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“Italy has decided not to respect the rules of international law, and maritime and humanitarian law in particular.”

The French president was speaking after France, Germany, Spain and Portugal agreed to host 58 people who were picked up in the Mediterranean last week by the NGO ship Aquarius, which remained at sea for several days in search of a friendly port.

It was the latest standoff between a rescue ship and Italy’s coalition government, which declared Italian ports closed to all ships carrying migrants –  even Italian coast guard boats – after it took power in June.

In the latest crisis Italy, Malta and Tunisia refused the Aquarius harbour, and Italian authorities instructed it to hand the migrants over to the Libyan coastguard. The two organizations that operate the Aquarius, SOS Méditerranée and Doctors Without Borders, refused on the grounds that conditions in Libya are unsafe.

‘Yellow vests’ Caused diplomatic crisis between France and Italy

A meeting between the French ‘yellow vests’ and the Italian deputy prime minister, Luigi Di Maio, has lit a fuse between Paris and Rome. The relationship between the two countries has deteriorated in recent months.

While the list of candidates from the “yellow vests” for the European elections is still being awaited, some of the movement’s representatives met Di Maio, who is also labour minister, on 5 February.

The leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S) made this unexpected meeting public on Twitter, referring to a meeting with candidates from the “Ralliement d’initiative citoyenne” (RIC) list. Only a small number of candidates have so far been announced of the 79 required to stand in the May 2019 European elections.

“Today, with @ale-dibattista, we have made a visit to France and met the leader of the ‘yellow vests,’ Cristophe (sic) Chalençon and the candidates of Ingrid Levavasseur’s list for the European elections. The wind of change has crossed the Alps,” Di Maio tweeted.

Even so, several members of the RIC participated in the meeting with the Italian minister, including Christophe Chalençon, one of the contested media figures of the ‘yellow vest’ movement. The meeting, which was made official by the Italians, comes in addition to support Di Maio has already expressed for the “yellow vests” since the beginning of January.

The minister, whose party formed an alliance with the far-right to form the Italian government, compared the ‘yellow vests’ to the Italian Five Star Movement. At the same time, he criticised the French government, accusing it of pursuing policies “which are not only damaging to the French people but also to Europe.”

APRECON

Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Follow on Instagram @_aprecon

Like our Page on FB  @aprecon

 

Venezuela Crisis: Nicolás Maduro, Juan Guaidó and The Presidential Power Tussle

For the past few weeks, Venezuela’s political crisis has continued to stem up violent protests and growing concern due to the subtle efforts by the opposition to unseat the socialist president, Nicolás Maduro.

According to research, Venezuela as a nation over the years has been faced with persistent hyperinflation, political instability and shortages of food and medicine. Venezuela which is one of Latin America’s richest countries, is now plagued with shortages of everything.

President Maduro started a second term on January 10 following a widely-boycotted election last year that many foreign governments refused to recognise. Similarly, Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself interim president.

Shortly after Juan Guaido took an oath swearing himself in before his supporters, US President, Donald Trump publicly recognised him as the country’s leader. In response, Maduro broke off diplomatic ties with the United States and gave the American diplomats in the country 72 hours to leave.

The Presidential Battle

The lingering situation has continued to create a sort of “internal” and “external” aspects of the crisis.

To a large extent, Venezuela’s political crisis and presidential tussle is of the government’s own making. Instead of easing or ending it, the government’s actions—and inactions—over the last several years have made it far worse.

Yet, the government has not acted in a vacuum, but in a hostile domestic and international environment. The opposition has openly and repeatedly pushed for regime change by any means necessary.

However, President Nicolás Maduro told the U.N. General Assembly few months ago that there was no crisis. He said “Venezuela is the victim of world media attacks designed to construct a supposed humanitarian crisis so as to justify a military intervention”.

For two decades, backers of Venezuela’s “Bolivarian Revolution” — the brainchild of President Hugo Chávez, who died in 2013 — talked up its empowerment of the poor through welfare programs and leftist labor laws. But since Maduro, Chávez’s anointed successor, took office, the already shaky economy has spiraled into a seemingly bottomless crisis.  

Hugo Chavez, a former paratrooper jailed for two years after leading a failed coup in 1992, was first elected president in 1998 and revolutionized Venezuelan politics with fiery anti-U.S. rhetoric.

He nationalized thousands of companies or their assets, reducing the country’s capacity to produce anything but oil. He channeled revenue to the poor and expanded Venezuela’s influence in the region by doling out cheap oil.

He used widespread support to transform a pluralistic democracy into a largely authoritarian system. When the oil bonanza ended in 2014 under Maduro’s rule, the country could no longer rely on oil revenue, which accounts for 95 percent of foreign-currency earnings, to pay for imports.

Juan Guaido, 35 years, the president of the opposition-dominated National Assembly, announced Jan. 23 that he would assume Maduro’s powers temporarily, a move recognized by the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Peru and Chile.

Guaido invoked a constitutional amendment that allows for the head of the legislature to lead a caretaker government until new elections can be held. The Assembly had already declared Maduro’s rule illegitimate following his re-election in May, which was widely seen as a charade.

Maduro has dismissed actions by the Assembly, which was stripped of its power in 2017 by a Supreme Court largely loyal to the president, but the body remains recognized as a legitimate source of authority by regional powers.

Venezuela’s Crippling Economy

Venezuela, home to the world’s largest oil reserves, Since its discovery in the 1920s, oil has taken Venezuela on an exhilarating but dangerous boom-and-bust ride that offers lessons for other resource-rich states.

Decades of poor governance have driven what was once one of Latin America’s most prosperous countries to economic and political ruin.

In 2014, global oil prices dropped really low, and crushed Venezuela’s economy. Simultaneously, Maduro’s been busy consolidating power since he took office. And his government got blamed for the country’s current crisis, with respect to corruption and mismanagement. The crisis has led to hyperinflation, massive debt, food and medicine shortages, its currency becoming basically worthless, and millions leaving the country. many has also blamed Chavez and his policies for the crisis too.

Observers and economists have stated that the crisis is not the result of a conflict or natural disaster but the consequences of populist policies that began under the Chávez administration’s.

Following Chávez’s death, Nicolás Maduro became president after defeating his opponent Henrique Capriles Radonski by a mere 235,000 votes, a 1.5% margin. Maduro continued most of the existing economic policies of his predecessor Chávez. Upon entering the presidency, Maduro faced a high inflation rate and large shortages of goods, problems left over from Chávez’s policies.

Foreign Influence

Earlier this month, Maduro was inaugurated for a second term after winning re-election in 2018. But a number of countries have refused to recognize his win, alleging that the election was rigged. The Venezuelan constitution says that when the presidency is vacant, the head of the National Assembly i.e the parliament takes over. Because the National Assembly does not consider the legitimacy of Maduro’s presidency, Guaido was able to invoke the constitution to put himself temporarily in charge.

Therefore, countries that support President Maduro: Bolivia, China, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia, Syria, Turkey.

Countries that support opposition leader Juan Guaido: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United Kingdom, United States.

Moises Naim, a former Venezuelan minister now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said via Twitter at the end of last week that this group should be referred to as the “autocrats’ alliance.”

Of those in support of Maduro, the EIU’s Freijedo said Russia and China are the ” wildcards .”

US President Donald Trump officially recognised Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela just minutes after the latter had said he would take over the executive powers.

US gives control over bank accounts to Guaido

The US certified the authority of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to control certain assets held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or any other US-insured banks, the State Department said on Tuesday.

The certification, given on Friday, applies to certain property held in accounts belonging to the Venezuelan government or its central bank.

“This certification will help Venezuela’s legitimate government safeguard those assets for the benefit of the Venezuelan people,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement.

Trump warns Americans not to travel to Venezuela

President Donald Trump on Wednesday warned US citizens against travelling to Venezuela amid the political crisis there over control of the government, as the US and other nations have recognised Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s rival Juan Guaido.

US President Donald Trump’s national security advisor warned of “serious consequences” if any harm comes to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido .

Bolton’s warning followed a request by the Maduro government’s attorney general for the Supreme Court to bar Guaido from leaving the country and to freeze his assets.

On August 11, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump said that he is “not going to rule out a military option” to confront the autocratic government of Nicolás Maduro and the deepening crisis in Venezuela.Trump’s US advisers explained that it is not wise to even discuss a military solution due to the long history of unpopular intervention in Latin America by the United States.

Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino immediately criticized Trump for his statement, calling it “an act of supreme extremism” and “an act of madness”. The Venezuelan communications minister, Ernesto Villegas, said Trump’s words amounted to “an unprecedented threat to national sovereignty”.

Representatives of the United States were in contact with dissident Venezuelan military officers during 2017 and 2018 but declined to collaborate with them or provide assistance to them.

UN’s Secretary General, Antonio Guterres position

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has posited a proposal to find a peaceful solution to the political conflict in Venezuela.

Guterres asserted on Monday that the States of the General Assembly and the Security Council recognize Nicolas Maduro as the constitutional and legitimate president of Venezuela over the self-proclaimed President in charge, Juan Guaido.

Guterres advocated for the dialogue against those who deny the possibility of solving the situation in Caracas and called to reduce tensions.

On the other hand, the UN expert on human rights, Idriss Jazairy, said the economic sanctions announced by the U.S. government against the South American nation, do not contribute to a solution, on the contrary, worsen the crisis even more.

Nicolas Maduro Calls for Dialogue and Respect

Nicolas Maduro, reiterated on Friday, Feb 1, in his disposition to dialogue as the only way for peace, in the midst of the tensions that the nation is experiencing due to the developing coup dӎtat that the opposition sectors are encouraging.

‘Dialogue, respect and cooperation among peoples is the only way to achieve peace in the world. That is the path we propose with our Bolivarian Peace Diplomacy,’ the Head of State wrote in Twitter.

In this way, the President ratified his call for unity among Venezuelans and for political debate with those who seek to ignore the constitutionality of his term and foster the establishment of a parallel government in the nation.

In an interview with the Russian agency Sputnik, the President confirmed his willingness to talk to the Venezuelan opposition about ‘the future’ of the country despite the constant aggressions of the opposition sector.

Maduro did not rule out the possibility of advancing the legislative elections in Venezuela to reconstitute that power, after the National Assembly was declared in contempt since 2016 for irregularities in the election of three MPs.

It would be very nice if there were early elections for parliament, it would be a better form of political debate and a solution with the popular vote’, he said.

I’ m ready, with an open agenda, to sit down with opposition sectors to talk about the welfare of Venezuela, peace and the future’, he said.

He also expressed his willingness to talk with U.S. President Donald Trump on the Venezuelan context. ‘I’m sure that if we see each other face to face and we talk, another story will be written,’ Maduro added.

APRECON

Follow us on Twitter @aprecon
Follow us on IG         @_aprecon
Follow us on FB          @aprecon

Nigeria: The Suspension of Chief Justice Onnoghen – Is it Constitutional for the President?

The dramatic suspension of Justice Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria by President Muhammadu Buhari, and the subsequent swearing-in of Justice Tanko Muhammed as the Acting CJN has continued to generate heated debates and controversies among Nigerians.

There have been a lot of mixed reactions regarding the allegations against the Chief Justice of Nigeria. The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and a number of lawyers have condemned the actions of the CCB and the presidency tagging it an attempt to intimidate the Judiciary.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, has been charged to court over a six-count criminal charge due to his refusal to declare his assets.

The charge which was filed Thursday, 10th January 2019 by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) alleges that the CJN not only failed to disclose his assets as required by law, but also operates multiple foreign bank accounts.

According to reports, Onnoghen, who is the highest judicial officer in Nigeria, was arraigned on Monday, 14th January 2019 before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). The case includes a motion for the tribunal to compel the CJN to vacate his office and concentrate on clearing himself.

Who’s the Chief Justice?

The Chief Justice of Nigeria or CJN is the head of the judicial arm of the government of Nigeria, and presides over the country’s Supreme Court and the National Judicial Council. The Chief Justice of Nigeria is nominated by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria upon recommendation by the National Judicial Council and is subject to confirmation by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The appointment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, President of the Court of Appeal and Chief Judge of a state and that of the Federal High Court is provided for under the 1999 constitution.

For the CJN, it is provided under section 231(1). The President makes the appointment on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC) subject to confirmation by the Senate. It is the same procedure for the President of the Court of Appeal, which is provided for in section 238 (1).

The Appointment of CJ Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen

Before his emergence, there was so much frenzy, furor and hysteria over the appointment of the Hon Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen as Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), rather than the substantive CJN.

The debate took every dimension possible, including accusing the Federal Government of trying to suppress the right of one part of the country in favour of another.

He was appointed acting CJN on November 10, 2016, when Mahmud Mohammed, his predecessor, retired.

A controversy had brewed over President Muhammadu Buhari’s delay in sending his name to the senate for confirmation as CJN.

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo eventually forwarded his name to the upper legislative chamber, but not until two days to the end of his tenure, which was renewed by the National Judicial Council (NJC).

Onnoghen is remarkably the first southerner to be CJN since 1987 when Ayo Irikefe retired.

The Suspension of the Chief Justice, Walter Onnoghen

The Federal Government on Friday suspended the embattled Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Onnoghen following the order of Code of Conduct Tribunal of January 23rd.

To replace him, President Muhammadu Buhari swore in the acting CJN in the person of Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed from Bauchi State.

According to the President, the suspension stands till the conclusion of his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed was conveyed to the Presidential Villa at about 4:30pm in a black Mercedes Benz C240 with number plate GWA: 900FA.

President Buhari, at the short ceremony, said: “A short while ago, I was served with an Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal issued on Wednesday 23rd January 2019, directing the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Walter Nkanu Samuel Onnoghen from office pending final determination of the cases against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal and several other fora relating to his alleged breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.

What does the law say?

While it is true that Justice Walter Onnoghen did not declare his assets in line with the Declaration of Assets Act, the executive’s preparation for his arraignment does not follow the due process.

In the recent 2018 case of Nganjiwa vs F.R.N, the Court of Appeal addressed the issue of whether or not a serving judicial officer can be subjected to criminal prosecution without complying with the condition precedent of subjecting the judicial officer to the disciplinary jurisdiction of the National Judicial Council. The CA held that no serving judge in Nigeria can be investigated or tried in a court of law, without first being removed from the Bench.

The procedure is to prepare a written petition against Onnoghen, and pass it on to the NJC for an administrative disciplinary process. The NJC then investigates the violation and notifies the CJN in writing of the allegations while providing him with reasonable time to respond.

If the NJC considers the allegations to be valid, he is to be recommended for removal from office by the executive. After his dismissal, he can be investigated and prosecuted by any anti-corruption agency such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Given that the CCT did not file its motion against Onnoghen in conformity with the appropriate procedure, it is only right to question the validity of his proposed arraignment.

To be precise, Section 292 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states that ‘’A judicial officer shall not be removed from his office or appointment before his age of retirement except in the following circumstances –

(a) in the case of – (i) Chief Justice of Nigeria, President of the Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Grand Kadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and President, Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, by the President acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the Senate.

CJN’s response

In a statement sent in response to the queries raised by the CCB, Justice Walter Onnoghen said he forgot to make a declaration of his assets after his initial 2005 declaration expired:

“My asset declaration form numbers SCN 00014 and SCN 00005 were declared on the same day, 14/12/2016 because I forgot to make a declaration of my assets after the expiration of my 2005 declaration in 2009. Following my appointment as acting CJN in November, 2016, the need to declare my assets anew made me realize the mistake.

“I then did the declaration to cover the period in default. I did not include my standard charted bank account in SCN 000014 because I believed they were not opened. I did not make a fresh declaration of asset after my substantive appointment as CJN because I was under the impression that my SCN 000015 was to cover that period of four years which includes my term as CJN,” – Walter Onnoghen

Following the retirement of former CJN, Mahmoud Mohammed, Onnoghen was appointed acting CJN in November 2016.

His appointment was initially stalled by President Muhammadu Buhari until Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo forwarded Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation as the most senior judge on March 1 2017.

Eventually, Walter Onnoghen was sworn into office as the country’s 17th CJN on March 8, 2017.

Court Order flouted?

President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to suspend the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, was in contravention of a court order restraining the President, the Code of Conduct Tribunal and the Attorney-General of the Federation from removing Onnoghen.

According to court documents obtained by our correspondent on Friday, Justice I. E Ekwo of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had on Monday restrained all parties from suspending or removing the CJN.

Buhari, however, went ahead to suspend the CJN, relying on an order of the CCT

Onnoghen’s Suspension – Constitutional or Unconstitutional?

The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), has defended the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, who is facing charges for alleged fraudulent assets declaration.

The Federal Government announced the suspension of the Chief Justice on Friday, stating that the action followed an order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal dated January 23, 2019.

It added that the suspension would stand till the conclusion of his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Friday, swore in Justice Ibrahim Tanko from Bauchi State as the acting Chief Justice

He said, “It is constitutional. If you look at Section 292 of the constitution, paragraph one clearly makes provision for that where the Chief Justice is guilty of a code of conduct.

“The provision is very clear. It states that where the Chief Justice is guilty of a breach of the code of conduct, he can be removed by an address of two-thirds majority of the Senate. It is quite clear that the Senate itself cannot initiate that address; there is only one person who can do that and that is the President.”

The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders forum has described the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari as a coup against constitutional democracy

In a statement signed by Chief E K Clark (South South), Ayo Adebanjo (South West), Chief John Nwodo (South East) and Dr Pogu Bitrus (Midddle Belt), the leaders in a statement titled ‘Constitutional Crisis As Buhari Illegally Suspends CJN’ , the leaders said they have checked through the constitution and found out that President Buhari lacks the power to suspend the CJN unilaterally except by 2/3 of the National Assembly.

The statement reads: “The attention of Southern and Middle Belt Leaders has been drawn to a coup against Constitutional Democracy in Nigeria by President Muhammadu Buhari by the Suspension of CJN Walter Onnoghen this evening and swearing in a replacement. This is a constitutional crisis foisted by desperation and morbid desire to foist rule of thumb.

“We have checked through the constitution and the President has no power to unilaterally suspend the CJN.

APRECON

Follow us on Twitter @aprecon
Follow us on IG         @_aprecon
Follow us on FB          @aprecon

Donald Trump’s Border Wall Bid & Longest Shutdown in US History

The partial US government shutdown caused by an impasse over Donald Trump’s proposed wall on the Mexican border is still on after the Republican majority in the Senate was unable to rally support for Trump’s wall, after House Republicans passed an 11th-hour wall funding bill on 20 December.

Sadly, the partial shutdown has greatly disrupted some government operations leaving hundreds of thousands of federal employees furloughed or working without pay. The federal government was partially shutdown after lawmakers could not reach an agreement about funding for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.

The shutdown has now lasted into the new year (2019), with no indication of when it will end. The over 29 days shutdown appears to be the longest government shutdown ever — and its effects are becoming increasingly apparent.

What’s a Government Shutdown?

A government shutdown occurs when nonessential government offices can no longer remain open due to lack of funding. The lack of funding usually occurs when there is a delay in the approval of the federal budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The shutdown remains in effect until parties can reach a compromise and the budget bill get passed. During a government shutdown, many federally run operations will be inactive.

Some organizations may still stay open by running on cash reserves, but once these funds run out, they will also close. Any office which does not receive funding from Congress would continue to operate during the shutdown.

Meanwhile, as of January 21, 2019, the shutdown is in its 31st day. It is the longest U.S. government shutdown in history, having surpassed the 21-day shutdown of 1995–1996.

In January 2019, the House—now controlled by a Democratic majority—voted to approve the appropriations bill without wall funding that had previously passed the Senate unanimously.

On December 6, Congress passed a second continuing resolution to December 21, to give more time for negotiations on Trump’s proposed border wall, which had been delayed due to the death and state funeral of George H. W. Bush.

Democrats and Republicans appeared no closer to ending the impasse than when it began, with President Donald Trump lashing out at his opponents after they dismissed a plan he’d billed as a compromise.

Trump on Sunday, January 20 branded House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi a “radical” and said she was acting “irrationally.” The president also tried to fend off criticism from the right, as conservatives accused him of embracing “amnesty” for immigrants in the country illegally.

Trump has continued to maintain that he will veto any bill that does not fund the wall, and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked the Senate from considering any appropriations legislation that Trump will not support, including the bill that had previously passed.

Cause of the US Government Shutdown

The cause of the shutdown is as a result of the dispute over funding for Trump’s border wall, the one Mexico was supposed to pay for.

Donald Trump has been seeking $5 billion for the wall; Democrats have been offering $1.3 billion for border security. A deal in this case would not be difficult to envision, as the numbers involved are dwarfed by the $3.8 trillion budget.

The shutdown began after Trump and Democrats failed to come to an agreement on whether to allocate funds to a wall on the US southern border.

The president requested $5.7bn be added to new federal spending legislation that needed to be passed before the previous spending expired on December 21.

The Democrats vehemently opposed the demand but after Trump refused to give it up, the shutdown went into effect the following day.

Meanwhile, during Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, Trump promised to build a wall along the Mexico–United States border for which Mexico would pay. The president of Mexico rejected the idea of providing any funding for a U.S. border wall.

In 2018, Trump requested $18 billion in federal funding for some 700 miles (1,100 km) of barrier on the border, mostly to replace 654 miles (1,053 km) of aging fence built under the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

On December 25, 2018, Trump reversed course, suggesting that he might accept 500 to 550 miles (800 to 890 km) of either mostly refurbished barrier (rather than new barriers in locations that did not previously have them) by November 2020. Trump’s proposals and public statements on the wall have shifted widely over time, with varied proposals as to the design, material, length, height, and width of a wall.

However, in September 2018, Congress passed two “minibus” appropriations bills for the fiscal year 2019 federal budget, which began on October 1, 2018.

These bills combined five of the 12 regular appropriations bills covering 77% of federal discretionary funding, and included a continuing resolution until December 7 for the remaining agencies.

Donald Trump’s Bid

President Donald Trump spoke about the shutdown recently, asserted that it will continue until his demand for funds to construct a U.S-Mexico border wall are met.

He said “I can’t tell you when the government is going to be open. I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they’d like to call it,” Trump said in the Oval Office after a video conference with U.S. troops, who are stationed overseas.

On January 8 in a press conference, a reporter asked Trump if he was considering declaring a national emergency, to which Trump replied, “I have the absolute right to do national emergency if I want” and suggested that he could declare an emergency.

After this, Trump repeatedly threatened to declare a national emergency to unilaterally order wall construction without congressional authorization.

An attempt by Trump to invoke emergency powers would almost certainly prompt a lengthy legal challenge in court. Democrats responded that Trump lacked the authority to declare a national emergency; Representative Adam Schiff called it a “non-starter”.

On December 11, Trump held a televised meeting with Speaker-designee Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in the Oval Office and asked them to support an appropriation of $5.7 billion for funding of a border wall. They refused, resulting in an argument between Trump and both Congressional leaders.

During the contentious discussion, Trump said, “I am proud to shut down the government for border security … I will be the one to shut [the government] down. I’m not going to blame you for it … I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down.” Schumer replied, “We shouldn’t shut down the government over a dispute.”

Three days later, it was reported that Trump was willing to sign a bill with no funding for a border wall that delayed a government shutdown into 2019 and the new Congress. On December 18, following a meeting with Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the government would not shut down on December 22 and that Trump was “flexible” over funding for a border wall. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby commented that the most likely resolution was a bill that funded the government until early February.

Federal Workers Groan in Hardship

Federal workers and contractors have been forced to stay home or work without pay, many of which are already experiencing mounting stress from the Government Shutdown affecting hundreds of thousands of them. The disruption is starting to pinch citizens who count on a variety of public services.

No doubt, 2019 began with an economic thud for some of these federal workers. This is however apparent that they are going through troubled times and global growth seems to be plummeting.

The US government shut down which began on the December 22 has affected more than 800,000 federal workers in nine different departments, as well as several federal agencies. This includes the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Transportation and Treasury.

As America’s longest-ever government shutdown continues, federal workers face an uncertain financial future. some workers are relying on yard sales, food banks and loans to make ends meet, others have turned to crowdfunding – raising money through online donations.

More than 1,500 crowdfunding campaigns have been set up on GoFundMe since the shutdown began, a company spokesperson said, raising more than $300,000 (£232,000).

APRECON

Follow us on Twitter @aprecon
Follow us on IG         @_aprecon
Follow us on FB          @aprecon

Zimbabwe Crisis: Fuel Price Hike, Currency Crisis and the Violent Protests

 

Angry Zimbabwe protesters barricaded roads with burning tyres and rocks on Monday, 14th January 2019, after the government increased the price of fuel in a bid to improve supplies as the country battles its worst gasoline shortages in a decade.

It was reported that Protesters turned back drivers and blocked buses from carrying passengers in Zimbabwe’s two main cities of Harare and Bulawayo as the main labour federation called for three-day nationwide strike.

Soldiers, Security Operatives deployed

Soldiers were deployed at a shopping centre in Bulawayo’s township of Entumbane where protesters looted shops.

Demonstrators in the second city had attacked minibuses heading to the city centre and used burning tyres and stones to block the main routes into town while some schools were turning away pupils fearing for their safety.

Shops closed in downtown Harare as riot police patrolled the streets and a military helicopter flew over the capital.

According to video footage from the Centre for Innovation & Technology, police fired teargas to disperse youths protesting outside the high court in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo.

In the southern city of Bulawayo, commuter bus drivers and touts blocked thoroughfares with burning tyres, tree branches, and blocks of stone.

Riot police tried to quell demonstrations in the western suburbs of Emakhandeni and Luveve, firing warning shots and tear gas but the protesters remained defiant.

Demonstrator Glen Ncube, 25, expressed anger at the president’s announcement on Saturday of a 150 per cent fuel price increase and the police actions.

“What kind of a man does this? Can Mnangagwa even be called a president? He’s making life hard for us and these police are trying to stop us as if they don’t know our pain,’’ Ncube said.

Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Dilemma

President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week announced more than 100-per cent rise in the price of petrol and diesel in a move he said would end fuel shortages.

The last time things were this bad was in 2008, when the country was contending with hyperinflation that saw prices doubling every day, left shop shelves empty and forced people to buy groceries from neighbouring countries or on the black market.

The following year, the government abolished the Zimbabwean dollar in favour of the use of other currencies, primarily the US dollar.

Read Also: Attempted Gabon Military Coup: Ali Bongo’s Health and Other Controversies

Mnangagwa has said his government will not let businesses raise prices but they have been doing so anyway, arguing that they have no choice but to buy dollars at a premium on the black market.

Inflation is already at a 10-year high of 31 percent and, in the past two weeks, public transport firms have tripled fares citing a shortage of fuel, which some have been buying on the black market.

Fuel price hike

In a televised address last week, Mnangagwa said prices of petrol and diesel would more than double to tackle a shortfall caused by increased demand and “rampant” illegal trading.

Petrol prices have been raised from $1.24 a litre to $3.31 (2.89 euros) and diesel from $1.36 a litre to $3.11.

The president’s announcement came after fuel shortages which began in October last year worsened in recent weeks with motorists sometimes spending nights in fuel pump queues that stretch for kilometres.

Most service stations still had no fuel to sell to motorists who have been sleeping in their vehicles to queue. Some said they were awaiting an official notice from the regulatory authority (ZERA).

Deputy Information Minister of Energy, Mutodi tweeted that commodity price volatility “will be temporary before goods prices normalize”.

Currency crisis

The acute shortage of U.S. dollars has made it hard for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to import fuel.

Zimbabwe abandoned its own currency in 2009 after it was wrecked by hyperinflation, and adopted the greenback and other hard currencies such as sterling and the South African rand.

There’s not enough hard currency to back up more than $10 billion in electronic funds trapped in local bank accounts, prompting demands from businesses and civil servants for cash that can be deposited and used to make payments.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube told a townhall meeting on Friday a new local currency would be introduced in less than 12 months.

“On the issue of raising enough foreign currency to introduce the new currency, we are on our way already, give us months, not years,” he said.

Mnangagwa is under pressure to revive the economy but dollar shortages are undermining efforts to win back foreign investors sidelined under his predecessor Robert Mugabe.

People killed, Injured in the fuel hike protest

A human rights group in Zimbabwe says five people were killed in clashes between demonstrators protesting fuel hikes and security forces who opened fire on some crowds.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights on Tuesday reported the death toll as many businesses in the capital, Harare, and other cities were closed following Monday’s violence. This is Zimbabwe’s biggest unrest since deadly post-election violence in August.

Another human rights group says 26 people suffered gunshot wounds and that some were afraid to go to hospitals for fear of arrest.

State security minister Owen Ncube says lives were lost, police officers were injured and property was damaged. He says more than 200 people were arrested and blames the main opposition MDC party and some civil society groups for the violence

APRECON

Follow us on Twitter @aprecon
Follow us on IG         @_aprecon
Follow us on FB          @aprecon

 

 

Attempted Gabon Military Coup: Ali Bongo’s Health and Other Controversies

On Monday morning, 7th of January 2019, at about 4.30am, a small group of junior military soldiers seized the national radio station in Gabon, an oil-rich country in central Africa, and declared a coup.

It was reported that a nationwide internet disruption was detected by global internet observatory (NetBlocks) starting at approximately 7:00am UTC among other things, Lieutenant Kelly Obiang delivered the attempted coup message (in French) on national radio.

Who led the Coup? – Lieutenant Kelly Ondo Obiang

The military spokesman and leader of Patriotic Movement of the Defence and Security Forces of Gabon, Lieutenant Kelly Ondo Obiang, stated on national radio and state television on early Monday morning that he and his supporters were disappointed by President Ali Bongo’s message to the nation on New Year’s Eve, calling it a “relentless attempt to cling onto power”.

Kelly Obiang also claimed they were setting up a “National Restoration Council for restoring democracy” in Gabon.

He said “The eagerly awaited day has arrived when the army has decided to put itself on the side of the people in order to save Gabon from chaos”.

“If you are eating, stop; if you are having a drink, stop; if you are sleeping, wake up. Wake up your neighbours … rise up as one and take control of the street,” he added, calling on Gabonese to occupy the country’s airports, public buildings and media organisations.

Gabonese Government

The Gabonese government was quick to have thwarted the attempted military coup on Monday, retaining control of the oil-rich West African nation after two plotters were killed and other army officers including Lieutenant Kelly Ondo Obiang, got arrested.

Five army officers who took over state radio in the coup attempt have been arrested, government spokesman Guy-Betrand Mapangou, told Radio France International.

Read Also: Malabu Oil Scandal – The Trial of Shell and Eni Corruption Case in Nigeria

Authorities have regained control of the state broadcasting offices and a major thoroughfare in the capital, Libreville, which were the only areas taken over by the officers, according to the spokesman.

Ali Bongo’s Health

Ali Bongo, in power since 2009, has been out of the country since October amid reports that he had a stroke. He recently addressed the country in a New Year’s message that was filmed in Morocco, where he has been receiving medical treatment.

In his brief New Year’s speech, the 59-year-old Bongo declared that the country was “indivisible” and acknowledged his health problems without giving details. “A difficult period,” he called it, and a challenge that he surmounted “thanks to God.” He promised to put all of his efforts into improving the daily quality of life for Gabon’s people.

The French-educated Bongo, who was the country’s defense minister before becoming president, narrowly won re-election in 2016 while opposition rival Jean Ping claimed irregularities and continues to call himself the country’s real president

Oil-rich Gabon has been ruled for more than half a century by Bongo and his father, Omar, who died in 2009. Critics have accused the family of profiting from the country’s natural resources while not investing enough in basic services for the population of more than 2 million.

Africa’s Historic Coups

Of the 40 African countries that have seen coups, Morocco, Kenya, Cameroon are the three countries where none have been successful. In 12 of those 40 countries, coups occurred within five years of gaining independence. In total, 23 African countries have seen at least three coups. Indeed, only 14 around a quarter of Africa’s 54 countries are yet to experience a military coup.

Burkina Faso, land of Thomas Sankara, is the coup capital of Africa after witnessing 10 attempts—the most on the continent.

Togo was the first country in West Africa to experience a military coup on the 13th, January 1963, Togolese soldiers, demobilised from the French colonial armies and facing unemployment as a result of refusal of their applications to join ‘the miniscule Togolese army, staged an armed coup that led to the assassination of President Sylvanus Olympio.

However, In many ways, a lot of African countries possess a cocktail of ingredients that stir coups with long-term leaders who invest power in themselves at the expense of weakened institutions.

APRECON

Follow us on Twitter @aprecon
Follow us on IG         @_aprecon
Follow us on FB          @aprecon

Malabu Oil Scandal – The Trial of Shell and Eni Corruption Case in Nigeria

On December 17th 2018, An Italian judge revealed that the oil majors Eni and Royal Dutch Shell were fully aware their 2011 purchase of a Nigerian oilfield would result in corrupt payments to Nigerian politicians and officials.

The Milan judge made the comment in her written reasons for the September conviction of Nigerian Emeka Obi and Italian Gianluca Di Nardo, both middlemen in the OPL 245 deal, for corruption. The pair were jailed for four years.

It should be recalled that Shell and Eni in 2011 jointly acquired the license to the area known as OPL 245 in the waters off Nigeria’s coast, but so far development has been fluctuating amidst the investigations.

This account of the deal is based on interviews with more than a dozen people with knowledge of the case, internal company emails and documents, and hundreds of pages of court documents from cases in Britain, Italy and Nigeria reviewed by the Journal.

Global Witness last year released emails that they claim show that Shell knew much of the money initially paid for the oil block would be passed to Dan Etete, a convicted money launderer and former Nigerian oil minister, and would be used to bribe Nigerian officials.

The Malabu Deal

The Malabu deal, struck in 2011 under former President Goodluck Jonathan, saw the Nigerian government as a negotiator in the sale of OPL 245 oil block in offshore Nigerian waters.

Two international oil and gas giants, Royal Dutch Shell and Italian Agip-Eni, paid out about $1.1 billion to Dan Etete, a former Nigerian petroleum minister who had previously been convicted of money laundering in France. The payout would later become a subject of cross-border investigation spanning over six countries.

Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi and four ex-Shell managers, including former Shell Foundation Chairman, Malcolm Brinded, are on trial in one of the largest cases in the history of the oil and gas industry. All the accused have denied wrongdoing.

Two men named in the case – Emeka Obi, a Nigerian consultant in England, and Gianluca Di Nardo, an Italian – stood as middlemen in connecting parties and ensured the transfer of the funds through international bank accounts in the oil deal, prosecutors alleged. They were convicted last month in Italy.

OPL 245 Deal

OPL 245, one of Africa’s most valuable oil fields, contains an estimated nine billion barrels of untapped oil, worth nearly $500billion even with today’s bargain bin oil prices. Its eventual purchase boosted the world’s fifth-largest company’s proven reserves by a third (proven reserves are a key statistic for shareholders).

The field has been at the center of legal battles since 1998, when Etete first acquired rights to it through his front company. Months before it finally sealed the deal in 2011, Shell had to pay $30 million in a separate settlement on bribery charges in Nigeria.

The controversial oil deal — the OPL 245 oilfield — was said to have been signed off to Shell and ENI after both companies allegedly paid bribes to Nigerian officials to the tune of $1.1 billion.

The struggle over OPL 245 dates back to 1998, when the Abacha government awarded the oil rights to a newly minted Nigerian firm called Malabu Oil and Gas. According to court documents, the company was ultimately owned by figures close to Mr. Abacha’s regime, including his son and Mr. Etete, then the country’s oil minister.

The company was meant to pay the government $20 million for the license, but paid only a little over $2 million, according to the court documents.

In 2001, Shell agreed to acquire a 40% interest from Malabu in the oil field. Shell, already a dominant producer in Nigeria, hoped the move would expand its footprint in the oil-rich waters off the coast. But within months, Malabu’s ownership was revoked by the new, democratically elected president, Olusegun Obasanjo.

The Corruption Allegations

The corruption case against Shell and Italy’s Eni filed by prosecutors in Milan is centered on the shady $1.3bn deal for a vast African oil field. A former Nigerian president got indicted in the allegations of hundreds of millions of dollars paid as bribes including Giant oil companies, offshore accounts, ex-MI6 agents.

The Allegations of corruption and bribery had been mounted over the years, forcing Shell and Eni to repeatedly maintain that they acquired the rights to the lucrative block in line with Nigerian law.

Also Read:NIGER DELTA: Five Decades of Industrial Rape PART 1
Also Read:NIGER DELTA: Five Decades of Industrial Rape PART 2
Also Read:NIGER DELTA: Five Decades of Industrial Rape PART 3
Also Read:NIGER DELTA: Five Decades of Industrial Rape PART 4
Also Read:NIGER DELTA: Five Decades of Industrial Rape PART 5
Also Read:NIGER DELTA: Five Decades of Industrial Rape PART 6

But email exchanges between Shell management cited in a report by corruption watchdog Global Witness, suggested that Shell was aware the money was likely to be funnelled to individuals, including Etete and Jonathan.

Several Nigerian government officials were believed to have received several million dollars in bribes for the enabling roles they played. Ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, under whose watch the deal was struck, has also denied wrongdoing. However, the former president is not on trial over the long-running case.

In 2017, APRECON embarked on an investigative quest down to the Niger Delta axis which is Nigeria’s concentration of oil companies and saw first hand environmental devastation, It was quite visible that there was lack of Environment Impact Assessment & Environment & social impact assessment.

APRECON in series of detailed articles got the authorities to pay attention to the effects of the industrial activities on the people and the ecosystem, as well as improving the lives of those inhabiting the area. This is the simplest of demands, and rightly so, that has ironically kept the region a battle ground for three unequal gladiators: the government, the oil companies and the people who decide to speak out in whichever way they chose to.

Everything has turned sour, so long as the people are concerned as, since then, the region has instead harvested a basket of multi-faceted problems: environmental degradation, high rise in violence, boundary disagreements and readjustments; oil thefts and fatal accidents, loss of the ecosystem and dangerous depletion of food/water resources, underdevelopment.

APRECON

Follow us on Twitter @aprecon
Follow us on IG         @_aprecon
Follow us on FB          @aprecon

Globalisation and Unemployment: Two Coins of Different Sides

Among the most significant issues affecting the well-being of most countries are the implications of economic globalisation for employment policies. Globalisation can have both negative and positive impacts on a country. Globalisation and unemployment are two phenomena which are amongst the most widely discussed issue in economics world today. Globalisation is the process of interface and integration between people, companies and government worldwide. It can also be viewed as the involvement of goods, services and the economic resource of capital, technology and data. It has grown due to advances in transportation and communication technology. The wide spread of globalisation comes with development in international trade, ides and culture.

In 2000, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) acknowledged four basic aspects of globalisation: trade and transactions, capital and investment movements, migration and movement of people and the dissemination of knowledge. Most times, globalisation is perceived as the factor responsible for increase in unemployment. More so, it is widely believed that globalisation could lead to unemployment and injustice, as well as to imposing cuts on social programmes and leaving unprotected an increasing number of people.

Overtime, globalisation has helped developing countries deal with the increasing economic developed in the rest of the world. It has led to more developed countries investing in developing countries, however, it has had a negative impact in Africa. In 2004, World Bank disclosed that globalisation has led to more than 85% of the World’s population to live for at least 60years. With such report, it shows the improvement in human capital but this same ‘philanthropist’ in a way leads to unemployment, increase in inequality etc.

Unemployment and poverty in most African countries have been on the increase despite the foreign aids. United Nation attributed the economic woes to: deterioration of trade, foreign debt, declining official development assistance levels and the negative effects of globalisation. Globalisation ought to be the vehicle of prosperity, help decrease the rate of poverty and unemployment in several economies. Globalisation is seen as a way to overcome the limitations that come from religions, political parties and cultures that are locked in their own mentality. However, despite these promising positive effects on globalisation on countries, it has increased impoverishment and call has been made to international community to adopt measures to counter backlashes.

Read Also: The Interface between Youth Unemployment and Labour Productivity

Globalisation of the economy is certainly very profitable for some privileged groups. But the interests of these groups cannot be identified with those of the whole of humanity. Hasty and anarchic globalisation can only cause unemployment, injustice, disorder, instability everywhere and in the end will inevitably be disadvantage for the whole of mankind. It is not inevitable, necessary or desirable. It would be conceivable only if it were preceded by world political unity, comparable development of different economies and the establishment of an appropriate world institutional and ethnical framework, conditions that obviously are not and cannot be currently met (Allais, 1999).

According to recent researches, unemployment in most economies is as a result of real salaries that are too high and insufficiently flexible, of the speed of technological progress in the information and transport sectors and of monetary policy that is restrictive. Allais (1999) opined that developing countries opening up to the outside world was a necessary condition for progress and the proof of this was the extremely rapid progress of emerging countries in Southeast Asia.

The emergence of globalisation led to a change in the structure of labour demand towards higher skills requirements of firms and not an overall reduction of labour demand at a given real wage. The inter-trade industry and the faster dissemination of knowledge have got the appealing property of linking the process of globalisation to unemployment issue in the continent.

Finally, opinions have seen globalisation as the woe of economies, stating it affected unemployment by moving the job patterns, wages disparities, immigration of labour from developing to developed countries. On the flip side, globalisation enhances the growth of international market, financial flows across countries, so, how could a promising experience translate to unemployment and underemployment? Globalisation has been thought as a tool, depending on how a country uses the tool or how often or even the ways it is used.

APRECON
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

The Interface between Youth Unemployment and Labour Productivity

If a census is taken in any postgraduate class and they are asked the reasons for coming back to pursue academic, many youths will reveal it is the inability to secure a good and accommodating job in the country. Ask the youths that risked everything to cross the Mediterranean Sea in the bid to get to Italy; they will tearfully explain that the labour market has no placement for them. This is no justification for the actions taken by the youths; however, youth unemployment in the country is prevalent and alarming leading to numerous consequences. Lot consequences have been attached to youth unemployment: the crimes rates, migration, brain drain, human capacity under-utilisation, and increase in poverty, weak purchasing power and obviously a negative change in labour productivity in the country.

According to International Labour Organisation (ILO), unemployment can be defined as the number of the economically active population who are without work but are available for and seeking work, including people who have lost their jobs and those who have voluntarily left work. The youth unemployment rate can be expressed as percentage of the total numbers of persons available for employment at any time but cannot get job. This menace has been seen as one of the obstacles to social and economic progress.

Youth unemployment is one of the cancan worms eating deep into the sustainable growth of Nigeria today; it has maintained an upward trend over the years. A high unemployment is one of the critical socio-economic problems battling Nigeria. Despite the increase in the working population, the employment level is inadequate to absorb the increasing youth in the economy entrants. It is sad to note that the term unemployment has graduated to underemployment in the country, in recent years; youths are more likely to work in low quality job, working long hours for low wages, engaged in hazardous work. The end of this menace seems not to be at sight yet. Generally, unemployment has been a headache to the government, policy makers and even individuals in the country.

Unemployment is a sensitive indicator of the conditions of the labour market. When unemployment rate is low, jobs are secured and relatively easier to find, low rate is often associated with improving wages and working conditions as well as employers competing to attract and retain workers. In recent years, Nigeria has witnessed low labour demand and productivity. Labour productivity is very important in any nation, it determines the prices and wages in the economy. Increase in labour productivity has largely be associated with an increase in wages, low productivity leads to instability in prices, reduction in wages. Whenever the issue of youth unemployment is mentioned, labour productivity theories play-out.

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and according to the United Nation; it would be the third most populous country come 2050. Large human capacity is seen as strength of any country because it implies large economically active population. However, despite these promising factors, the country high level of youth unemployment has plunged it into low productivity over the years. The low productivity has not only affected the growth of the economy, it has also affected the standard of living of the people living in the country, leading to more people falling below the poverty line.

The world is at its 4th industrial revolution, unfortunately, Nigeria is yet to explore the 2nd industrial revolution needless to talk about the 4th revolution. Empirical investigations have found out that there is a positive relationship between youth unemployment and labour productivity in Nigeria. For any country to improve its productivity and probable drive into industrialisation, the youths have to be economically involved in the building process of the economy. Even the agriculture suffers set back because the youth are not finding their place in the sector, the manufacturing is not left in underdevelopment as a result of the increasing youth unemployment.

In conclusion, after all the programs and policies enacted by the government, the rate of youth unemployment has refused to decline. More youths graduate yearly with no placement for them. It is a crying change that the mandatory service year observed by youths is also suffering from this malady. Youth corps members are rejected in various organisation that are being posted to because no space to accommodate them. Why are all policies and programmes geared towards solving this menace falling flat? When will there be space in the labour market to accommodate the youths? These and more are the puzzling questions that led to one’s lack of sleep not as a result of being a nocturnal but because one just wonder.

APRECON
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

 

 

Ethiopia-Eritrea Peace Deal: A New Dawn for Sustainability?

This year is one full of hopes and happiness for the Ethiopians and Eritreans, what a time of relief and rejoicing for them when the border was open. Many families reunited and their joy knew no bounds, for 20 years some many were trapped by war on the other side. For two decades, the border was closed and no one dare moves across, however, 2018 gave them a new joy. The Ethiopia-Eritrea border is bustling once again, revitalising frontiers.

Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in the early 1990s, and a dispute over the border plunged the twin country into war in 1998, locking the two nations in unyielding hostilities that left more than 80,000 people dead. The conflict continued as a cold war after Ethiopia refused to honour an UN-backed commission verdict demarcating the border. Eritrea is the most diplomatically isolated state in Africa, the UN imposed sanctions including an arms embargo in 2009; accusing the government of aiding Islamist militants in neighbouring Somalia which the government denies.

The country was put on hold for 20 years and everything revolved around the border dispute. Prior to the peace deal, Eritrea’s president, Isaias Afwerki has used Ethiopia’s rejection of the subsequent boundary ruling to justify a host of repressive domestic policies. These include jailing journalists and dissidents, refusing to implement the constitution and running an indefinite military conscription program the UN likens to slavery. According to the United Nations figures, hundreds of thousands of young Eritreans have fled across the Sahara and the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in recent years (before the peace deal) to escape compulsory and indefinite conscription once justified by the state of war with Ethiopia.

ALSO READ: Nigeria’s Investment Attractiveness: A Lost Race?

This cold war continued and an end seems impossible not until 2018; a year of breakthrough for the Ethiopians and Eritreans. The turning point came in June when the Ethiopian Prime Minister (PM), Abiy Ahmed announced that his country would fully accept and implement a peace agreement that was signed in 2000 but never honoured. After weeks of meeting and deliberations, the formal deal was signed by both parties.

Weeks after the two nations formally ended 20 years of conflict, President Afwerki and PM Abiy met to open crossings in border towns dotted with debris from a war that killed thousands. Many danced and waved flags while families reunited after two decades. Family reunification is the immediate result of the peace deal. But in the long term, what will it translates for both countries economically? Is this a new dawn for sustainability?

Ethiopia has a population of more than 100 million people; it is the second most populous country in Africa. The country has consistent economic growth, however, it is also one of the poorest countries in the region. Eritrea is home to more than 5 million people, the country has reported consistent growth deficits and poverty. The peace deal could also spur foreign investors to consider Eritrea as a business hub and likewise solidify the country relationship on the international scene.

Analysts stipulated that both countries will benefit from the normalisation. Ethiopia is a land-locked country; negotiating access to Eritrea’s seaports could boost sustainable economic growth and development. Since the conflict, Ethiopia has been forced to use the Djibouti’s seaports; the former sends its 90 per cent foreign trade through the latter. The normalisation opened a new dawn out of isolation for Eritrea, PM Abiy made propositions to the UN secretary to lift the sanctions against Eritrea. Today, the UN lifts the ban, lifting the sanctions could help to unlock new paths for investments and sustainable economic growth in the Eritrea.

Both countries are back to business. After the border was opened, business women and men were glad to be back to economic activities. A merchant in the Eritrean town of Senafe gladly said: we have everything we didn’t have before, from the smallest to the biggest products. The report released by EY attractiveness survey revealed that in 2018, Ethiopia’s investment attractiveness is seven times better than previous years. The EY’s attractiveness program focuses on insights derived from understanding growth from Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) perspective into countries and regions across globe.

Furthermore, the peace agreement will creates space to prioritise economic development over security. More resources were diverted to national security than sustainability. Eritrea has a mandatory national service program which is throat cutting but the government saw the program has a necessity to protect against the continued threat of fighting with Ethiopia. Eritrean migrants have reported that they were fleeing the mandatory program.

Eritrea will be the new sweetheart of investors because it has a lot of untapped resources, including vast potash; an important element in modern fertilizers. The country is a producer of Bisha, gold and copper. Bisha is ‘hot cake’ in the industry, whoever owns this resource will have a head start in future mineral licence; so potential investors will see this as a rat race. According to World Bank, Bisha currently consists of 10 per cent of Eritrea’s GDP.

Although, these indicators are in the favour of both countries, it is however impediments for the governments to set the ball of proper and sound policies rolling for the betterment of the economies. All these may not be enough to drive sustainable economic growth, the future economic and humanitarian conditions will be determined by the direction of their home policies. The governments need to employ policies and sound governance reforms that would restore trust between the citizens and the government for a stable economic growth.

The Eritrean government should adopt trade policies that would strengthen the unregulated and unstable exchange rate. Owing to the fact that the Eritrean nafka has an unstable value compare to the Ethiopian birr, the trade scenario has to be guided by some strategies. The economies have to adopt broader economic and regulatory reforms, work dutifully on the cost of doing business, the ease of doing business and also provide basic social amenities to make the economies more business friendly.

Beyond signing the deal, there are more for both governments to embark upon to benefit the economy. Ethiopia-Eritrea peace deal will remain mere deal if proper reforms are not enacted.

APRECON
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Nigeria’s Investment Attractiveness: A Lost Race?

The reality of economic growth is that business and investment spending are the true indicators of the economy. To understand where the economy is headed, forget about the populace’s spending and look into the interest rates, the productivity level of that country, economic attractiveness and readiness. I would borrow a leaf from the quote of Robert Trout, a successful society is characterised by a rising living standard of its population, increasing investment in factories and basic infrastructure and the generation of additional surplus, which is invested in generating new discoveries in science and technology. Simply put, no economy can succeed without any form of investment.

The EY report revealed that Nigeria’s economic attractiveness has been overtaken by other African countries; the country has lost the race of the investment destination in the continent. Can Nigeria equalize? The EY’s attractiveness program focuses on insights derived from understanding growth from Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) perspective into countries and regions across globe. The survey use custom-designed methodology and explores both developed and emerging markets. The program helps public sector and business leaders to make economically sound strategy and policy decisions.

According to Investopedia, FDI can be defined as an investment made by a firm or individual in one country into business interests located in another country. Generally, the macroeconomic variable takes place when an investor establishes foreign business operations or foreign business assets, including establishing ownership or controlling interest in a foreign company. It is the term that describes investment from one country into another country that involves establishing operations or acquiring tangible assets, including stakeholders in other businesses.

In recent years, Nigeria’s FDI has been struggling. In 2017, it was $981 million, a drastic fall from its previous peak of $5 billion in 2008. Truly, there are many factors militating against the growth of the FDI ranging from, prolonged insecurity, poor infrastructure and the likes. This macroeconomic indicator is highly quintessential because is it assumed to benefit a developing country by supplementing domestic investment, creating employment opportunities, transfer of technology, increase domestic competition and improve the trade openness of the economy.

The report released revealed that despite the drag in economic growth in the country, Africa investment attractiveness has improved. However, Nigeria experienced a decline while South Africa, Morocco, and Kenya showed a stronger FDI gains ahead with more projects coming their way. Nigeria is losing the race to investment attractiveness and hope to improve is dashed with the recent closure of business offices of HSBC and USB; two major global lenders that attract investors.

Here from the horse’s mouth:

We have tracked FDI for a number of years, and while we can easily assess trends in terms of shifts by sectors and geography, there is little analysis that contributes to understanding whether individual countries are under-or over-achieving in attracting FDI. To build that analysis, FDI projects have been tracked against the size of the economy, and its score on the annual World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking. Through this analysis, it appears that countries with strong growth rates and that adopt more business-friendly policies tend to perform better in attracting FDI. Rwanda is, by far, Africa’s most successful country in terms of attracting FDI. This is evidenced by the fact that Rwanda ranks as one of Africa’s most business-friendly destinations. It is also one of the continent’s most consistent rapid growth economies. Rwanda receives 1.5 FDI projects for every US$1 billion of GDP. Measured on the same criteria, South Africa receives only 0.32 projects, attracting only 20% of what Rwanda does, given its relative size. Major economies, such as Nigeria and Angola trail by an even larger margin, receiving only 0.16 and 0.02 projects respectively. Both countries also rank very low on the Ease of Doing Business rankings compared with their counterparts in the continent. That, coupled with their recent low growth after plunging oil prices in 2016 and the same scenario persisting in 2017, would explain their low score according to this methodology.

The report hinged the falling FDI on the volatility of oil prices which the economy over depended on. The country’s reliance on crude oil for revenue and foreign exchange remains a weak link for sustainable economic growth and development. The lack of diversification puts the economy at the mercy of the dictates of the oil sector which is vulnerable to boom and doom cycles. When oil price is high, FDI inflows increase and when there is a fall, the latter follows suit. According to National Bureau of Statistics, in 2014, during the increase in oil price, the country recorded its highest FDI inflow at nearly $2.7 billion. Shamefully, as the oil price fell, the FDI follows like a lover. The over reliance on the oil sector serves as a dictate to the level of FDI inflows in the economy, Nigeria can no longer continue like this on this race else we lose out.

ALSO READ: Nigeria and Industrial Revolution: Matters Arising

More so, the prolonged insecurity in the country is one factor militating against the increase in FDI inflow, the issue of insecurity in the country has become a war of giants. Insecurity put off foreign investors; safety first. Another, hindrance to the nation’s successful race to investment attractiveness is the poor infrastructure. The lack of stable power supply serves as a deterrent to major investments in the country. The cost of running a company in the country is high as a result of the reliance on expensive alternative energy source and the throat-cutting cost of petrol or diesel. With all these foxes that spoil the vine, it is not surprising to see Morocco, Kenya and South Africa overtook Nigeria.

However, the game is not yet over; all hope is not lost. The federal government has to get down to business and correct these incongruities. There should be efforts to expand the revenue base of the economy through diversification and expansion of tax base. Implement plans to strengthen the regulatory framework for investment. Wonderfully, Nigeria jumped 24 places to 145 out of 190 countries surveyed in the 2017 World Bank Doing Business Index. This is a sign that the business environment of the economy is friendly and ready for business. Nonetheless, is there any hope soon for the country? Owing to the coming 2019 election with all the burahrah of political uncertainty, no wise investor would pitch his/her tent of investment in Nigeria for the time being. The economy is fragile at this stage, so, the FDI will be kept below its peak in the next months or years unless the country experiences a ‘growth miracle’.

The race towards investment attractiveness is within reach, all depends on the strength of the athlete. Can the country race well?

APRECON
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Nigeria and Industrial Revolution: Matters Arising

For any economy to drive to maturity and industrial revolution, structural transformation must occur. Structural transformation accompanies development; they are interrelated. According to Clark-Fisher model of development, structural change must occur for any economic progress to occur. Structural transformation can be referred to as how an economy transit from agriculture to industry and from industry to services. The initial stage of any economy is the agriculture phase, then gradually moves to industry and then to services. So, it is impossible to transit to industry if the agricultural stage is not well managed. To achieve a structural transformation, the mother sector (agriculture) must be well managed, monitored and explored, hence, no development can be achieved by any country. However, some countries transit from agriculture phase to service phase; this is a faulty transition that will drag the development process of the country. Any country that desire development must experience each phase duly before any transformation can be achieved.

Industrial revolution began in 18th century when agricultural societies became more industrialised and urban. Prior to industrial revolution, which began in Britain in late 1700s, manufacturing was subsistent with the use of crude tools. Britain is seen as the birthplace of industrial revolution and number of factors contributed to revolution in the country. Apart from the fact that it had great deposits of coal and iron ore, which was important for industrialisation, Britain was the leading colonial masters, implying that colonies can serve as a source of raw materials as well as the market place for the sale of the manufactured goods.

During the industrial revolution, other sectors benefited a great deal from the transformation. Industrialisation brought about an increased volume and variety of manufactured goods and an improved standard of living for some; it also resulted in employment and improved living conditions for the poor and working class. The transportation industry also underwent significant transformation during the revolution. Also, the communication industry was not left out in the transformation process during the revolution.

ALSO READ: Zimbabwe: Almost Forty, But Unfortified!

However, the revolution would not have occurred without the mother sector; the agricultural sector, increasing agricultural productivity facilitates industrialisation. The notion is hinged on Engle law which states that as income increases, food consumption reduces. When agricultural productivity increases, the farmers have more income and they demand for manufactured good, leading to more productivity in the industry sector. Also, increasing the agricultural productivity will lead to an increase in the supply of Agric raw materials. To experience industrial revolution, the raw materials have to be supplied in a sustainable manner. Most of the raw materials needed by the manufacturing companies are sourced from the agriculture sector, in a situation whereby the agricultural sector is not sustainable then industrial revolution is impossible and will remain a myth.

In Nigeria, the agriculture sector has remained undeveloped despite the numerous policies and programmes that has been enacted in the sector. Prior to the struggle the sector is experiencing, it had rich history and played a progressive role in the economy, playing a crucial role in the economic growth of the country. This success was achieved through investment in agriculture both at the federal and the regional level, various research institutes were established across the country. These research institutes include; Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), Ibadan; National Institute for Horticultural Research and Training (NIHORT), Ibadan; Institute for Agricultural Research and Training  (IAR&T), Moor Plantation, Ibadan; National Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR), Benin; Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria (RRIN), Benin; National Cereal Research Institute (NCRI), Badeji; Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN), Ibadan; National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), Vom, Jos; National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCI), Umudike; National Institute for Fisheries and Fresh Water Research, Kanji; National Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research, Lagos; National Institute for Animal Production, Zaria; International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan; National Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research (NITR), Kaduna; and Universities of Agriculture across the region. This was geared towards boosting the agricultural productivity, however, those are past glory.

Agricultural produce serving as raw materials accelerated the industrial revolution in Europe pioneered by the British. Nigeria which is a former British colony was a source of raw materials for Europe and it aided the industrial revolution experienced in Britain especially. If the country indirectly fast-tracked the revolution experienced in Britain, what is happening now? Owing to the oil boom in the country, 1970s, agriculture experienced a decline. According to statistics, the contribution of agriculture to the GDP in 1960 was about 60%, however, this decline overtime to only about 25% between 1975 and 1979. This sharp decline shouldn’t have been a headache if the productivity level didn’t decline simultaneously with the decline in the sector’s share to the GDP. At the early stage, the share of agriculture sector to GDP would increase but will experience a decline to usher in structural changes; however, this does not imply that the level of productivity will reduce. The sector share to the GDP can only decline, but the productivity level must increase. In Nigeria when the share of agriculture to GDP decline, the productivity level was also stagnated which led to the large importation bill of food.

The above chart shows the contribution of the three sectors (agriculture, industry and service) to the nation’s GDP from 2007-2016. The three sectors represent the transition an economy needs to move from primitive stage to development, which as earlier stated must be gradually to avoid faulty transition. The graph above shows that as the agriculture sector’s share declines, the industry and the service sectors’ share increase which anyone can hastily translates it to mean that the economy is experiencing a structural transition.

The country did not duly explore the industry sector because the agriculture sector productivity level has declines. Rice, which is a common food consumed by larger percentage of the population in the country is yet to be fully produced in the country because of fall in researches and technology. It is difficult for any country to industrialise without technology and quality education, the value system of the economy can affect the pace of industrialisation.

According to economists, for any country to experience industrialisation revolution, labour in the agriculture sector must be moved to the modern sector, however, the sector’s productivity must not decline as a result of the labour migration. The productivity level of the agriculture sector can be maintained through technology, training of labour, investing in factors of production, investing in agriculture researches. The Lewis model presented in 1955 known as the two-sector model and the surplus labour model focused on the need for countries to transform their structures away from agriculture towards industrial activities. The model posited that transferring workers out of the agriculture does not reduce productivity in the whole economy, this gives the industry more workers and there are more profits for manufacturers to re-invest, thereby leading to capital accumulation and economic sustainability.

Every country that has experienced industrial revolution and developed has experienced a movement of labour from the agriculture sector to the industry. During the industrial revolution in England, almost 75% of the population was dependence on agriculture in 1700. By the census in 1841, only 22% of the people worked in agriculture; there was a drastic decline for the revolution to be a blast and it was. In 1830, citizens of United States working in the agriculture sector was roughly 90% but by 1870, the figure declined to 50% and by 2008, less than 2% are employed in agriculture. Also, in 1970 China has over 80% of its populations working in the agriculture sector, however, in 2015; it reduced to about 25%. Puzzling, in Nigeria the percentage of total employment in agriculture has declined from 58.1% in 1970 to 30% in 2017, according to International Labour Organisation (ILO). Nigeria has successfully become a country where lawful law becomes lawless.

The matters arising in Nigeria’s industrial revolution are that the country has not explored its comparative advantage. Agricultural produces have to move beyond the raw and be more value added. To improve and drive industrial revolution, the country needs technology and outstanding researches on how to improve agriculture. To achieve industrial revolution, structural and institutional changes are needed, without which no country shall see INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION.

APRECON
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Minimum Wage Agitations: A Search for Gold in a Desert

It is no longer news that the labour market in the Nigeria and the Federal government are at loggerhead on the issue of minimum wage rate. The Nigeria labour congress (NLC) and the government have been on the minimum wage saga for months, unfortunately, a Nash equilibrium is yet to be reached by the two players. The saga has been a back and forth scenario with the government offering to increase the wage to NGN25,000 from NGN18, 000 but the other party is not ready to dance to the tune; it is either NGN30,000 or no party. Okay, the story continues with meetings upon meetings and we can only sit and watch the end of the action film. State

To make our journey through this piece easier, minimum wage is the lowest remuneration that employers can legally pay their workers. In the field of economics there is no clear cut on the effect of minimum wage on the welfare and the economy at large, however, increase minimum wage has been perceived as a means to improve the standard of workers in the country. In the bid to improve Nigerian workers’ livelihood, the NLC sought to fight for an increment in the wage rate. Can this struggle make a difference?

The current minimum wage received by workers in the country is NGN18, 000 which was an adjustment made in 2010. Since 2010, the economic situation has changed and inflation has reduced the purchasing power of workers over time. Think about it, can you value NGN100 this day as you would a decade ago? I guess the answer in NO. Obviously, the current wage rate is not a living wage for workers, the agitation is necessary but is it timing?

The macroeconomic indicators are not showing any sign of a good state, the inflation rate is leapfrogging, and the exchange rate of the country is highly volatile. According to the Central Bank of Nigeria earlier this month, the economy is at the verge of slipping into recession come 2019 if the necessary athourities are not getting their hands ‘dirty’ to drag the nation beyond the mud. The economy is fragile growing by only 1.5 percent in Q2 2018, a fall from 1.95 percent in Q1 after the shock of recession. Also, the foreign reserves have been dwindling and the Debt Management Office (DMO) reports that the debt profile of the country is rising. The former minister of finance, Okonjo Iwela made an illustration about the economy of Nigeria with a cake, she brought cakes of different sizes and demonstrated how the economy will continue to shrink if the revenue base is not grown. She nailed the point really good; how can any economy live on debts without improving on it revenue base? That is a sign of irresponsibility. With all these realities staring at the country, is it safe to increase minimum wage?

The ‘Yeas’ for Minimum Wage

It is saddling to note that if some arithmetic is to be carried out, the current NGN18, 000 received is 6, 00 per day for 30 days. How can an individual with family and huge bills survive on 600 per day? That is the puzzling question. The increase in minimum wage will improve the standard of the living of workers in Nigeria, reduces poverty, reduces inequality and boosts the morale of workers to be more productivity. In the economics world, it is belief that paying high wages to workers boost their morale to exert more effort to work, so, increasing the minimum wage rate is like an ignition.

Over the years, the inflation rate has experienced nothing but a rise. This has reduced the real wage rate of workers in the country; the real wage rate is the nominal wage (the wage individuals take home) divided by the prices. So, increasing prices which is inflation translates to decrease in the wage rate. The increase in minimum wage is more likely to deliver income gains to low-skilled workers, it may also stimulates macroeconomic growth if productivity is shifted toward more highly-skilled sectors, possibly by inducing additional training for low-skilled workers. Some economists likewise opined that when the government increase the minimum wage, it serves as an engine growth.

The ‘Nays’ for Minimum Wage

Who doesn’t want a raise in his/her income? Just as my people will say ‘small work, big money’, but this cannot always be the case, because there are economic repercussions. Increase in national wage rate is not a ‘silver spoon’, there are consequences to pay. The theories of economics suggest that the macroeconomic effect of increase in minimum wage on the gross domestic product is ambiguous. The increase in minimum wage will reduce the level of employment in the country, creating more level of unemployment. When wage increases, the labour cost increases leading to a decrease in firm’s profit and job hours and cause adverse effect on the employment and the working hours.

More so, the increase in minimum wage will lead to inflation as a result of increase in the overall production cost of firms. To offset the increase in labour cost, the firms have to pass some costs burden to the consumers (and sometimes the consumers bear the entire burden, depending on the necessity of the goods). Consequently, the real wage rate of the workers didn’t improve; it is just like a journey in a circle.

Another disturbing factor to consider is the dual nature of the Nigerian economy. The economy has two sectors of labour market; the formal and informal sector. The formal sector has smaller labour force when compared to the informal sector. Minimum wage can only be binding in the formal sector but not in an informal sector, the latter is highly unregulated. Minimum wage cannot be binding in a sector that is not regulated. In Nigeria, the informal sector absorbs more labour force than the formal sector, so, where is the improvement of standard of living?

The Gist beyond the Economics Fundamentals

All the ‘yeas’ and ‘nays’ for the increase in minimum wage will set the ball of decision rolling and anyone can be in a dilemma of where to pitch his/her tent. Honestly, Nigerians need a raise in income owing to the fact that other countries have gone ahead when it comes to minimum wage. South Africa has approved the increase in minimum wage, other Africa countries except war-ravaged countries have a higher minimum wage than that of Nigeria; we shouldn’t be left out.

Presently, the Nigerian economy is unsteady, demanding for an increase in minimum wage now is like building a castle in the sand; what a great fall it would be. The economy is just recovering from recession and there are warnings of sliding into the economic crisis again, increasing the wage at this critical stage will lead to loss of jobs for low-skilled labour. Isn’t it hilarious to note that the country is yet to pay the salaries of its workers and agitations for an increase are made? The labour association confirmed it that at least, 33 of 36 states of the Federation owe workers and yet a raise is requested for. The government is not faithful to NGN18, 000 pledge would they be to NGN25, 000 or NGN30, 000?

How can the government pay NGN30, 000 in an economy where recurrent spending including personnel costs and overhead cost takes the lion share of the national budget? The government has overtime disbursed more funds to recurrent expenditure than capital expenditure, increasing the wage bills will only reduce the funds meant for education, health, infrastructure etc.

The NLC has better challenges to worry about which will serve as a means to an end. The labour should demand for increased investment in major sectors and the social amenities that take a larger percentage of the salary. Another issue of concern the NLC should address is the workers’ protection in terms of working hours, working conditions and job satisfactions. There are many companies in the country that the working environment is not conducive for the workers, neither are the working hours comfortable; but what can they do? Man pikin must chop.

When one weighs the pros and cons of the demand for increase in minimum wage rate, it is obvious that one outweighs the other. In an economy (like Nigeria) where the informal sector is larger than the formal sector, agitating for minimum wage rate is a wasteful journey. The employment laws of the country need reforming for workers to be more protected. More agitation for minimum wage will never satisfy the welfare of the people, stop looking for gold in a desert.

APRECON
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

The Key Factors of Economic Competitiveness

The Global Competitiveness Index is a yearly report published by the World Economic Forum. It measures the set of institutions, policies, and factors that set the sustainable current and medium-term levels of economic prosperity. The index is organised into 12 mainstays; institutions; infrastructure; ICT adoption; macroeconomic stability; health; skills; product market; labour market; financial system; market size; business dynamism; and innovation capability.

Competitiveness is achievable for all countries, provided the necessities are carried out. For countries that intend to set their path into competitiveness, these factors must be notable.

  1. Human capital development is ‘bae’:Physical capital was seen as a driver of growth, policy makers had always believed in accumulating capital through savings and investment. However, over the years accumulation of human capital was later seen as an engine of growth. According to World Bank, investing in a healthy, educated and resilient population is important to competing effectively in the global economy. Education, health and skills of a population are among the key drivers of productivity, mainly in the context of economic and technological transformations.
  2. Economic competitiveness goes beyond trade. Any economy open to trade, calls for more innovation. However, the concept of trade should move beyond just trade to the era of exchange of innovative ideas and expertise. There should be more alliance across borders.
  3. Technology offers a path to economic advancing: Technology is an important tool for growth and prosperity. In African countries, the benefits of technology as a means to economic advancing remain largely untapped. It is quintessential for African economies to provide greater knowledge on and access to ICTs to the majority of the populace
  4. Weak Institution is a cancan worm:Weak institutions continue to be the cancan worm hindering competitiveness, development and well-being in many countries. Any government concerned about economic competitiveness must pay serious attention to the institutions as a major source of efficiency.
  5. The soundness of infrastructure and the financial system. The quality of infrastructure and financial system is paramount to competitiveness. Basic elements of such infrastructure are still missing in many African economies, hampering their competitiveness. The financial system is also still an area of relative weakness for several economies; any economy that lacks sound financial system is vulnerable to unproductivity and retard growth.
  6. The need for a proactive and far-sighted leader. All above, economic competitiveness will remain a tale without a far-sighted and an intelligent leader. Setting longer-term priorities and enacting proactive efforts to create sustainable growth are hinged on the leaders. So, no economy improvement with a short-sighted individual or tyrant as a leader.

APRECON
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Zimbabwe: Almost Forty, But Unfortified!

A popular notions says; “life begins at forty”, however, a life that would begin well at forty need to start preparing and planning to begin well. The United Kingdom ceremonially granted Zimbabwe independence on 18 April, 1980. The independence ceremony was held in a stadium in Salisbury, the former capital, many dignitaries (foreign and domestic) attended the great ceremony of freedom from the colonial master. What a happy day it was for Zimbabweans to be a free and control her political and economic institutions, unknown to them, the ship is heading towards an iceberg not at sight at the take-off stage.

Many Africa countries fought for freedom from their colonial masters. They fought with all zeal, hoping for a better economic structure, however, some of the countries headed into economic crisis and disasters. Zimbabwe is also falling apart as hope of surviving is nowhere at sight. Zimbabweans are lamenting on the critical state of the economy daily and helps are not surfacing. This economic crisis is not unfamiliar to the people of the country because economic crisis has become identical to the nation.

Things had begun to fall apart as far back as 1998, in the year there was economic crisis accompanied by riots and strikes in the country. The economic crisis persists in 1990 and in 2001 the Finance Minister, Simba Makoni publicly announced that the nation is in an economic crisis, stating foreign reserves have run out and warning of serious food shortages. In 2002, there was a state of disaster declared as worsening food shortages threaten famine. Also, in 2006, the year-on-year inflation exceeds 1,000 % which led many Zimbabweans to be miserable billionaires in 2008. Have you ever seen the pictures of people using wheel barrows to carry cash to make a purchase? The situation was pathetic. One can just hope the economy doesn’t deteriorate again to that state.

Fast track to 2016, a new national currency called bond notes is introduced as a means of payment which led to what economists call Gresham’s Law. This law is about bad money driving out the good money, the bad money here is the bond notes while the good is the US dollar used as a means of payment before the crisis. As the bond notes were introduced the US dollars became scarcer. So soon, the bond notes became scarce too and the government turned to the printing machine to get more bond notes; the beginning of the disaster. In economics, printing more money might translates to inflation which can be bad for the economy.

The campaign slogan of the new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa was “Zimbabwe is ready for business” but reverse has been the case so far. Almost immediately he was sworn in as president the country begins the struggle to gain grounds in the economic world. In the midst of the campaign, the president visited China and we all hoped for a mutual agreement and a favourably take-home from the visit. China has been the ‘saviour’ of Africa, so, why should Zimbabwe be left out? I asked myself, why would China leave the country to such economic degradation and found out that China is unwillingly to provide the immediate funds needed by Zimbabwe, mentioning concerns over the country’s inability to repay existing debts. If China will not help Zimbabwe, who will?

The economic crisis in the country is alarming and something objective must be carried out, what can it be? Prices of food are increasing incessantly and some are in short supply. It is also very expensive to be sick in the country because prices of medical products are also increasing rapidly.  Many apportioned the cause of the immediate crisis to the introduction of a news tax on electronic transactions, however, the foundation has been shaken.  The new levy was introduced to raise revenue from the large informal sector, but it met the economy unprepared and the ship is at the verge to shipwreck. Zimbabweans live in fear, still haunted by the memories of the 2008 crisis, no one want to go down the lane again; it was miserable.

In 2018, the Permanent Secretary in the office of the president and cabinet, Ambassador Stuart Comberbach said the government is working on a new short-term economic blueprint expected to help stabilise the economy. Zimbabwe is targeting to be a middle-income economy and targets a GDP of over $65 billion. The Ambassador said: “there is a short-term plan the government has been working on for economic stabilisation. This is a two-year plan which is now ready in draft form and will obviously go through consideration by the new cabinet and see to what extent it meets expectations”.

Will the short-term plan take the economy from this struggling stage to a phase of maturity? There are a lot of functions that need to be carried out by the government and the newly elected minister finance, Mthuli Ncube, a former chief economist at the African development bank and a lecturer in finance at the London school of economics. The long-standing problem the government should address in the short-term plan is the debts profile of the country which affects it credits rating and hinders aids from international agencies; at least we know why China withdrew its immediate funds. According to the Zim Bollar index, the debt profile of the country is increasing; domestic debt rose by 72% between June 2017 and June 2018. The country still owes World Bank, AfDB and the Paris Club; who else will the nation borrow from?

Another problem the short-term has to solve is level of productivity, the major sectors in the country before the great fall was mining, agriculture and manufacturing. The country once known as the breadbasket of the continent has become the shadow of itself. All hands should be on deck to revive the productivity level of the country, there must be strategies to make sure the importation bill is reduced to the barest minimum and the economy starts participating in economic activities. Also, the plan has to involve how to woo investors into the country, no one will invest in a country awaiting a great disaster.

More so, it is high time, the country had its. Although, this a long time targets but plans can be made towards achieving this goal. Using other countries’ currency for a longer period of time is like losing one’s identity and above all, Zimbabwe’s economy is expose  to any crisis.  The nation has to work towards its own currency in order to curtail imported economy crisis.

The country is yet to be revived from this disaster if the cost of governance is not reduced, a country involved in more non-economic activities than economic activities is going nowhere to happen. If the cost of governance can be halved, from research it has been found that the economy thrives better provided the amount got is disbursed to more economic activities like human capital development, infrastructure etc. Let’s pause and think, is the ruling government ready for the cut in governance cost? Are the government officials ready to pay the price to have a great nation? Hope they are ready to forfeit the large allowances?

Hope the country is preparing to be ‘fortified’ at forty because 2020 is just around the corner?

APRECON
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Ten Strongest Currencies in Africa

A currency is a system of money in general use in a particular country for trading, according to Oxford dictionary. Money has its own history of evolution, in no particular order, metal coins, cowries, gold, paper money, commodity money, fiat money, bank notes and digital money are the various form of currency used and are currently in used.

A currency is strong when its value is improving when compared to other currencies, when it’s worth more relative to other currencies. When a currency is strong, travellers can go other countries and live like a king and queens, however, when it comes to trading zone, it is an advantage and also a disadvantage -this is a talk for another day.

Globally, one of the strongest currencies is Dollar because of its general acceptability, so, the ten strongest currencies in Africa are compared to the United State Dollar (USD). Find the list below:

  1. Libyan Dinar (1 USD: 1.38 LYD): Dinar is the currency of Libya, a country in North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the North, Egypt to the East, Sudan to the Southeast, Chad and Niger to the south and Algeria and Tunisia to the West. The country is popularly known for the vast oil reserves, which constitutes 95% of the nation’s total exports earnings and about 60% of its gross domestic products. The nation is also known for its insecurity, nonetheless, it standard of living is still a top notch.                                
  2. Tunisian Dinar (1 USD: 2.84TND ): This is also a North Africa country, bordering the Mediterranean Sea and Sahara Desert to the North and East, Algeria to the West and Southwest, Libya to the Southeast. The nation has a diversified economy depending on phosphate oil, car parts manufacturing, tourism and agro-food products The standard of living in the country is relatively on average with a high minimum wage rate.
  3. Ghanaian Cedi (1 USD: 4.80 Cedi): This nation has the third strongest currency in the continent and first in West Africa. The nation is known for diverse wildlife, old forts and secluded beaches. It is bordered by the Ivory Cost in the West, Burkina Faso in the North, Togo in the East and the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean in the South. The country has a stable diversified economy based on rich hydrocarbon, tourism, solid minerals, and auto-mobiles among others.
  4. Moroccan Dirham (1 USD: 9.44 MAD): This North Africa country has a relatively liberal economy. The country has followed the principle of privatization of certain economic sectors. The nation is the fifth largest economy in Africa by GDP (PPP), it is also a major player of economic affairs in the continent.
  5. Botswana Pula (1 USD: 10.65 Pula): A Landlocked country located in Southern Africa has maintained a strong tradition of stable representative democracy, with a consistent record of uninterrupted democratic elections. The nation is one of the fastest growing economies since independence, averaging about 5% growth per annum over the past decade. The country was praised by the African Development Bank for sustaining one of the world’s longest economic booms. Diamonds, copper, nickel, soda ash, meat and textiles constitute the nation’s total export earnings.
  6. Zambian Kwacha (1 USD: 12.09 ZMW): This is a Southern Africa country, bordered by Democratic Republic of Congo to the North, Tanzania to the Northeast, Malawi to the East, Mozambique to the Southeast, Zimbabwe and Botswana to the South, Namibia to the Southwest and Angola to the West. The nation is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and depends majorly on copper/cobalt, electricity, tobacco, flowers and cotton as its source of export earnings.
  7. South Africa Rand (1USD: 14.25 Rand): This is the second largest in Africa after Nigeria; it is one of the most industrialised countries in Africa. Gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment constitutes the nation’s total export earnings.The nation is the only African member of the G-20 economic group.
  8. Namibia Dollar (1 USD: 14.58 NAD): It is a country in Southern Africa, the nation gained independence from South Africa in 1990. The economy has a modern market sector which produces most of the country’s wealth and a traditional subsistence sector. Diamonds, copper, gold, zinc, lead, uranium, cattle, processed fish, karakul skins constitutes the nation’s total export earnings. The government of the economy has pursued free-market economic principles designed to promote commercial development.
  9. Eritrean Nakfa (1USD: 15.0 ERN): This horn of Africa, it is relatively small, however, has a stable currency. The nation is bordered by Sudan in the West, Ethiopia in the South and Djibouti in the Southeast. Eritrea has an extensive amount of resources such as copper, gold, granite, marble and potash. The total export earnings of the nation constitutes; food, livestock, small manufactures, sorghum and textiles.
  10. Egyptian Pound (1USD: 17.95 EGP): A Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the Northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba to the East, the Red Sea to the East and South, Sudan to the South and Libya to the West. The nation is highly centralised planned economy; it is the third largest economy in Africa by GDP (PPP) and one of the most developed in the continent. Crude oil and petroleum products, cotton, textiles, metals products, chemicals, agricultural products are the nation’s total export earnings.

APRECON
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Ways to Raise Capital for Your Business Idea

To gather the business ideas could require some days of brainstorming and sometimes, those ideas just drop into your heart like a storm and you are sure it’s the idea you need to be the great entrepreneur you have always dreamt to be. However, after getting those ideas, what happen next? Where do I get the funds to get started? How do I raise the capital? Those are the questions that would arise next, except you are ‘OBO’ – you are from a wealthy background.

The stumbling block to every beautiful business idea is capital and the dilemma of how to source for it. So, I got your back here, let dutifully go through the possible options you can explore.

  1. Personal Savings: Many business experts will advise any willingly entrepreneur to raise his/her capital through personal savings. Yes, I know you will want to ask; how can I save? The first thing to ask you is; Am I ready to be my own boss? If yes, then be ready to save even from that seemingly small salary you are getting now. You can start planning on how to start and grow your business, write out plans and during that period, save up to get it started. The size of capital should depend on the type of business you intend to venture into, small size business would require small capital, and so, you do not need to break the bank to get started. Also, most businesses start small but expand as times goes by.
  2. Grants from Family and Friends: In case, your personal savings couldn’t do much, the next available option to explore is your inner circle; your family and friends. They are set of people that trust in you, so, you need to make them see the ‘sense’ in your business idea. You should be able to get grants from them, or loans with zero-interest rate to start your business.
  3. Loans from MicroFinance Banks: Micro finance banks are friends to budding entrepreneurs. They provide micro loans to poor entrepreneurs or small entrepreneurs lacking capital and access to larger banking institutions. In Nigeria, there are different banks like; Accion Micro finance bank, AB Micro finance bank, Lapo Micro finance bank and many more that give small loans to entrepreneurs. The requirements are not throat cutting, some of the process you will go through are; get a guarantor, submission of passports and filling of forms. After all these within days, you can get your funds and your business is alive! But, you must find a way to back the money, be credible.
  4. Partnership: Another option that could be considered by any budding entrepreneur is partnership. Although, this requires a legal process to ensure that the rights of all partners are legally backed to avoid ‘stories that touched the heart’. If you can find someone that has idle cash balances, approach such person with your business idea and form a partnership form of business. Some of the advantages of partnership business organisation that is a disadvantage to sole proprietors are the existences of continuity and more innovation. However, ensure there is a legal protection and backing before starting the partnership business.
  5. Search for Investors: Another available option is to search for investors, I must confess, this is not easy, neither is it a quick way to source funds, however, it can be the biggest means to source for funds. You need to look for that one business-minded individual that thinks your idea is awesome and would take the market by a storm. To raise funds via this means you need to get a good business plan to represent your business idea perfectly.

The headaches most entrepreneurs have are how to bring the business idea into reality and how to raise funds for the business. No business idea can become a reality without the capital, after drafting the plans; it is the next important resource. So, with the above options, you should get that idea started and make sure you thank me whenever I cross your path; I hope to get a discount when I need your service and/or products. Enjoy the business ride!

APRECON
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Proper Templates for Business Plan

Last week, we discussed tips of a catchy business plan and also the ‘do not’ of a sound business plan. Now that we have a full grasp of the tips to make a business plan scale through, it is time to understand the patterns in which the document has to follow.

Business plan templates are planning tools for start-ups and budding entrepreneurs. Without a proper lay down pattern, the document might be thrown into the trash can which might mark the end of that beautiful business idea. So, here are the proper business plan templates to follow to the latter.

Create a Cover Page

This is obviously the first page that would be seen, it entails the plan name, company name, address, phone numbers and email address. Ensure the details on this page are input correctly and with proper theme font and font size. Do not make it too busy; keep it formal and no unnecessary design.

Create a Legal Page

This is not totally compulsory for all business plans, however, it is necessary.  Write a legal page for confidential agreement. This page contains the guide for the reader or investors on how to keep the content of the document confidential. Ensure concerned parties sign the page. I am sure, you want to protect that wonderful business idea from predators.

Table of Contents

This is a table properly labelled, showing the contents of the document. Outline the chapters, the subtopics and referencing the exact pages where the chapters are in the document.

Executive Summary Page

This is a page that more resource is needed. It summarises the key components of our business plan, description of the company, who the company is and the location of the company. This is just like an abstract page in your project work, it comes first in the document but it is written last. It is like an extract of all other sections.

Summary of Start-up Requirements

On this page, summarise your start-up requirements, expenditures and assets required on the commencement of the business. This can be incorporated into a table format to explicitly show the start-up requirements. Of course, you should not be surprised when the balance sheet reads loss because no profit yet, the business is just starting. In a situation where you seek to expand an existing business, your balance sheet might still read loss. The table should include expenses for starting the business or expanding and also the assets need to start/expand as he case maybe.

Product and Services

This is where your business idea is discussed fully. This segment includes detailed description of the product and/or services being delivered. In this segment explain the benefits of the products and/or services to the consumers convincingly. Go into details on how the products and/or services are produced and tell about the future plan for the product and/or services.

Summary of Market Analysis

This segment is the summary of the market survey you must have carried out. In this segment, describe the various groups of target customers for your product and/or services. Explain in details what qualifies the mentioned target customers to fall into the market analysis. After which you can go ahead to state the nature of the product and/or services in line with the chosen target customers. Identify the location of the target customers and how to get to them. You must carry out a deep research on the product in the market before you can successfully complete this segment. Check the buying pattern of that product and/or service in the market and state the growth pattern you expect your product to follow in years to come.

Strategy and Implementation

In this segment describe and summarise the corporate strategy for target marketing sales and marketing activities and how to develop the product and/or service. Look for a grand style strategic that is very convincing to show how you plan to take over the market with our business idea, however, maintain a consistent sales and marketing strategy; you do not want to be an ‘Oliver twist’.

Sale Forecast

This is the real deal in the document; it is very essential and difficult. It is a forecast into the unit of sales, the rate of sales and also the prices. This also requires in-depth research and strong assumptions to create the sales forecast of any desired number of years (which should be a short term plan). The factors to be concerned are: the market size of the product, the market share, the competition in the market and many others that can pose a great threat to sales.

Management Summary

This will describe the management team and structure for the business. This includes positions and job description and position that need to be filled.

Financial Plan

This is the financial aspect of the document, to be on the safer side if you cannot effectively carry out this segment, it is better to give this aspect to a financial analyst. This segment includes: funding source, financial projection.

  • Start-up Funding

This explains how the business would be funded and sourced (equity, loans, investment).

  • Financial Projection: This include tables showing the projected profit and loss; showing the income generated from sales, key budget items, the percentage increase in sales and profits. This also includes the projected balance sheet showing the current asset and liabilities.

The above segments should be careful included in the business plan. Remember the don’ts of a business plan; keep it formal and do not try your comedian talents in the document. It is for business, make it so.

APRECON
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

The Don’ts of a ‘Catchy’ Business Plan

If you are in to get tips on how to have a great business plan, then you need to see the previous article. It was wonderful to have a lead on how to make your business plan outstanding, however, it is wisdom to know the ‘no go area’ for a good business plan.

Every entrepreneur seeks to impress and to bring out a unique business plan forgetting some common errors that must be avoided. Trust me; you do not want to fall into such category of entrepreneurs. Therefore, here are the don’ts of a great business plan:

  1. Avoid empty claims: Truly, some statements might sounds confusing and intriguing but if you cannot  establish those statements with facts; statistics, charts, diagram or quotes leave the statement out of your business plan. Yes, take it out, irrespective of how sugar coated it might be.
  2. Rumours about competitors: Avoid gathering facts about your competitors based on rumours, dig deep into the real story. If you are certain a competitor is liquidating, you can allude to it but stay away from listing the competitors weakness based on hears-says.
  3. Usage of superlative and strong adjectives: Avoid words like; major, incredible, amazing, outstanding, unbelievable, terrific, great, most, fabulous, best. These strong adjectives do not have a place in a business plan.
  4. Unprofessional financial projections: You do not want to show amateurism in presenting your financial plan which  might mean incredibility on your part. So, if you cannot do the financial aspect of your plan, safe yourself the stress and distress. Get a credible accountant.
  5. Overly optimistic time frame: In no account should you day dream of getting your business running in few months after launching. Starting a venture is never Nollywood neither is it a Bollywood. Do your assignments properly, carry out research about numerous ventures. If it takes the ventures 12 months to get started and running then do not see yours as a super business create allowance for any unforeseen circumstances beyond control. Be conservative in your time predictions.
  6. Overestimation of financial projections: Do not join the clique of happy-go-lucky entrepreneurs; be realistic in your financial projections. It is better to underestimate than set expectations that are not fulfilled.
  7. Long Documents: Some entrepreneurs love to express themselves fully in their business plan. Avoid long documents, do not choke the readers. It is appropriate to keep your business plan short and simple; only relevant information should be included.

The success of a business plan is the beginning of a successful business. A business idea that lacks a great and well outlined business plan is a waste of time and resources. Avoid the listed blunders and get ready to be your own boss!

APRECON

Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Tips for a ‘Catchy’ Business Plan

Do you intend to start a business; small or large? Or you intend to expand your existing business? Guess what, all these will just be a dream yet to be explored without a strong business plan. As the old adage says: “he who fails to plan, plans to fail”, you need a business plan to succeed in business. However, who starts a venture knowing it head towards failure? I guess no one will.

A business planning is the art of crafting strategies and tactics necessary to achieve certain milestones and also to make certain forecasts in line with the corporate. To have your business plan fly some tips are necessary to be known and digested.

  1. Know your competitors: Prepare to name and know your competitors, search for what makes them different and how well to beat them in the market. However, do not belittle your competitors to avoid being taken by surprises.
  2. Know your audience: As an entrepreneur, you can have different business plan for different business purposes. One can be for seeking funds, another for wooing investors and the likes. However, knowing and understanding your audience will give you a step ahead in your business planning.
  3. Be Factual about your claims: While writing your business plan, if you claim that the business idea will take the market by storm then be prepared to provide facts. Mere words will not go a long way.
  4. Be conservative about financial estimates and projections: Make sure your financial projections are more conservative, if you think your business idea can capture 20 percent of the market in the first year indicates the reasons for the thoughts.
  5. Be realistic with time and resources: Do not be like the happy-go-lucky entrepreneurs who are overly optimistic with time and resources. Being realistic means credibility which is a good trait for a sound business minded individual.
  6. Engage a strong management team: The builders determine how the structure of the building will look. Make sure your team has good credentials and expertise. Ensure they have the needed skills to push the venture into prosperity.
  7. Discuss Pay-out options for the investors: Investors are not charity giver; they want to know when they can get their money back and at what rate of returns. Therefore, provide a brief description of options for investors or at least mention you are ready to discuss options with any serious prospect.

With all these, your business idea is ready to take the great fly to success! Executing a great business idea comes with a price and planning is the first price that needs to be paid. The above are all about tips to have a great business plan, how about tips that make a great business idea fall down flat? Next we will go through ‘the don’ts of a business plan’. Stay tuned!

APRECON
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

GSM Clocks 17years, More Emphasis on Data

Seventeen years on, Nigeria’s mobile telephony (GSM) sector has put up an impressive performance, raising telephone subscriber base from just over 400,000 in August 2001 to 162 million in June 2018, generating thousands of direct jobs and several thousands of indirect ones, raising internet penetration, giving verve to online and electronic transactions, making significant contribution to GDP, improving the way we live and lifting investor confidence in the country, despite hiccups here and there.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) which is the telecommunications industry regulator, remitted N1333.4 billion to the consolidated revenue fund of the Federal Government in 2017.

The National Bureau of Statistics report confirmed that the Nigerian telecommunications sector, during the second quarter of 2017, contributed 9.5 percent to the GDP in contrast to 9.1 per cent contribution in the first quarter of the year.

“Sub-Saharan Africa’s mobile industry is showing strong progress in achieving the targets of the SDGs, predominantly through increased connectivity and access to information, but also through the delivery of services, such as mobile money, that increase productivity, improve well-being and reduce poverty,” says John Giusti.

GSM  debuted in 1982 as a pan-European communication technology and had since spread beyond the frontiers of Europe to other jurisdictions including Africa. Nigeria, therefore, came late to the party. The good news, however, is that though a late entrant into the GSM market, Nigeria has outpaced many countries across the globe in terms of market size and telephone penetration.

The first GSM service rolled out in August 2001 following a successful Digital Mobile Licence, DML, auction conducted in January of the same year by the nation’s telecom regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC. That auction, the first in Africa, was adjudged transparent and world-class by both the World Bank and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The NCC had placed the asking price for each licence at a conservative $100 million. But at the end of the auction, each licensee paid as high as $285 million.

As revenues from voice services dwindle over the years, Nigeria’s four mobile networks, MTN, Glo, Airtel and 9mobile are paying more attention to data services. The emphasis is on LTE technology.

LTE (Long-Term Evolution) is a standard for high-speed wireless communication for mobile phones and data terminals, based on the GSM/EDGE and UMTS/HSPA technologies. It increases the capacity and speed using a different radio interface together with core network improvements.

In a major push for data revenues, MTN which is the market leader signed a N200 billion seven- year Medium term loan agreement with a consortium of local banks, with FBN Quest acting as a facility agent.

The largest operating telecommunications company in Nigeria, declared that the loan raised from 12 Nigerian banks will be used for expansion and improvement of data services where it sees a major part of its revenue growth coming from in the future.

Speaking at the signing, Chief Executive Officer, MTN Nigeria, Ferdi Moolman, expressed enthusiasm at the completion of the agreement, saying it signposts MTN’s commitment to and confidence in Nigeria, and the strength of the strategic collaboration between MTN Nigeria and local financial institutions, that will help deepen and broaden the provision of ICT services in Nigeria.

“The signing of this loan facility is a major landmark in our expansion programme in which we are making significant investments. The facility will enable us evolve the network to deliver convergent and superior quality, drive voice capacity expansion and data service penetration, maintain optimal capital structure and funding level that support growth and expansion,” Moolman said.

“Making it possible for people to connect to each other and the world, find and share information and ideas, create and access new digital services and reimagine old services. This partnership puts in place infrastructure that empowers commerce, industry and the provision of public services,” Moolman said.

MTN’s debt increased to 69.8 billion rand as of the end of June, compared with 57.1 billion rand six months earlier.

Kunle Awobodu, MTN Nigeria’s Chief Financial Officer, told BusinessDay that; “although MTN has the most expansive fibre network in the country, there is an issue with fibre cuts and attack. Therefore, we need to protect our network in a way that even when we get attacks, our network doesn’t go down. We are going to invest in ring-fencing our coverage all over Nigeria and also invest in fibre infrastructure so that high speed data can reach the rural parts of the country.”

Industry watchers say that MTN’s continuous investment in growth and expansion of services shows extreme confidence in the Nigerian market. They also say that the N200 billion loan syndication is a marker as to the strength of Nigerian banks to service telecommunication businesses which are capital intensive investment areas.

“Our revenue base is still largely dominated by voice which contributes about two third of our total revenue, but what we are beginning to see is that people are not making calls as much as they used to, and are more interested in data based applications, so, as we transition into this movement, we need to invest in our network. Our view is that we must prepare for the future. If a big portion of our revenue is going to come from data and from digital services in the future, we have to start that investment now, and that is why we have taken the medium term loan,” Awobodu said.

The loan facility is structured with a two-year moratorium and a repayment plan of five years and is denominated in Naira.

MTN had in 2013, raised a total of N239 billion in loans for expansion which is said to wind down in 2019.

“We raised the loan locally and that loan is winding down next year. We have kept to the loan servicing agreement and all the repayments have been made as at when due. Final payment will be done in 2019,” Ishmael Nwokocha, MTN’s General Manager, Corporate Treasury Finance.

According to Awobodu, MTN already has Long Term Evolution (LTE) frequency in some parts of the country.

“We actually have LTE frequency, but the more frequency you have, the better services you can provide and it also helps us in terms of the coverage that we can give to the populace. So we keep looking for opportunities in the market to give us services to the outer part of Nigeria with better network quality.

“What we are doing with our LTE services is that we plan to expand. We started with three cities; Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt and we expanded to reach about nine or 10 cities in total, but we have cities that are still not on 4G and we would like to expand into those cities, and this is part of why we are doing this CAPEX expansion,” he said.

APRECON
Follow us on twitter @aprecon

Uber to Push Further into East Africa

Uber, the global ride-hailing company, is considering expanding into two other East African countries before the end of 2018, focusing on low cost services like Chap Chap in Kenya, the company said on Friday.

In Kenya, East Africa’s richest economy per capita, Uber competes with Estonian ride-hailing firm Taxify, Nairobi-based Mondo Ride and Little, which has a partnership with telecoms operator Safaricom.

Nairobi was the first city in Africa in which Uber piloted a low-cost, quick-trip option Chap Chap, using 300 small brand-new Suzuki Altos as a less expensive alternative to regular cars on the Uber app.

There are now more than 400 Chap Chaps, which means “faster” in Kiswahili, on the roads in the capital of Kenya, Uber’s second-largest market in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We are focusing hard on Chap Chaps,” Uber’s East Africa general manager Loic Amado said in an interview, calling the service “a tremendous success so far”.

The lower price is possible because the Alto is more fuel-efficient than the average car an Uber driver uses.

Amado said that the popularity of its low cost services has led Uber to consider expanding into two other countries in the region before the end of 2018. He declined to give details.

In March Uber extended its low-cost options to include a motorcycle service in Uganda’s capital and rickshaws in Tanzania’s capital.

“You are able to get a much bigger piece of the population in touch with your technology and then it’s easy to afterwards add the additional products like uberX or more premium (products),” Amado said.

The company said that it has 311,000 active monthly riders in the region with 9,000 active drivers. It operates in four cities in Kenya and neighboring Tanzania and Uganda.

To address rider’s safety concerns, Uber has introduced rider insurance for uberBoda in Kampala and Nairobi, Amado said.

It is also differentiating itself by offering services like UberEats, which launched in May in Kenya’s capital and has 100 partner restaurants, Amado said.

APRECON
Follow us on twitter @aprecon

Threats to Shut the Nigerian Border: The Facts Beyond Mere Words

The Nigerian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, announced that the government will shut the border with an unnamed neighbouring state which he accused of illegally importing rice to Nigeria. Nigeria consumes rice in quantity; even as one of the largest producers, it is also one of the largest importers of rice in the world. In 2016, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation stated that Nigeria imported 2.3 million metric tonnes of rice which was about half of the country’s estimated requirement in that period. In 2018, the minister of Agriculture announced that the total demand for the staple in the country is at about 5.5 million metric tonnes (MT) per year of which 3.3 million MT is produced locally leaving 2.3 million MT to be imported.

Rice is classified as either Asian or African with the botanical names of Oryza sativa and Oryza glaberrima respectively. The staple is a cereal grain that grows in swampy areas, in regions with high rainfall but can still be grown in areas with little rainfall through the use of water-controlling terrace system. The grain is sensitive and requires a lot of care and attention to grow well. The cultivation can be done by transplanting or direct seeding, the seeds are sprayed onto the soil after which it is ploughed into the soil by using plough. Prior to cultivation the rice seeds in soaked in water for 34 hours (1 day 10 hours) and allow to dry for 24 hours then it is ready for planting, what a process! It takes about 4 months or 6 months for the grains planted to be ready for harvest, depending on the soil type and other climatic factors. The rice is harvested by cutting the stalk directly beneath the heads and the grains separated from the stalk by a mechanised thresher.

Shutting down the Nigerian border to hinder the importation of rice will encourage more smuggling of it. The country is clamouring for self-sufficiency in rice production, the federal government hopes to reduce the importation bill of rice to 95% and likewise rice farmers by an appreciable amount. To achieve self-sufficiency is applaudable but like they say, Rome is not built in a day, a process is required.

The Central Bank of Nigeria gave small scale farmers grants and soft loans to ensure there is increase in productivity but there are many other factors that need to be considered apart from the funds being disbursed. Some farmers do not even have access to the funds and had to get loans with high interest rates from commercial banks and those that were lucky experienced a great bottleneck in administrations and protocols.

In the words of the Managing Director of AgroNigeria, Richard Mbaram: achieving self-sufficiency in the next couple of years is merely a pipe dream. Rice production is not willed into existence, it is cultivated and systematically sown. There is research, there is mechanisation, there is warehousing and storage. There is market opening and market access. You cannot drive industrialisation or agro-industrialisation without connecting the farm gate where the production is happening. Do we have that? We are far back in terms of achieving that.

Of a truth, the threats will only lead to more smuggling if the country can not achieve self-sufficiency as and when due. The country has achieved progress in rice processing so far, there has been increase in the local production of rice and the importation of rice has been reduced. The number of rice mills (both integrated and cottage) have increased by more than 50% as the government and the private sector continue to make more investment in processing. Such success is worth applauding, but the government has more to achieve to reduce rice importation and drive into self-sufficiency. Whatever way anyone views the progress so far, what to note is that the journey is still far, there needs to be more strategic plans to be injected into the rice processing industry to improve the value. The industry needs more human resource, technology (irrigation, biotechnology etc) and financing.

The challenges disrupting the industry range from sub-optimal processing capacities, insufficient storage facilities, unavailability of quality inputs to other production enhancing infrastructure. The rice processing sector can also be more valued beyond mere raw rice being processed and packaged. There are numerous chain values that can be judiciously added to the staple, like rice flour which is made from ground raw rice.

Just like Thailand and US, the country can make rice milk and this can serve lactose intolerant people in the country. What about rice bran oil? It is an oil extracted from the rice bran and rice germ; it is highly rich in vitamin E, other antioxidants and various plant sterols. The oil can be used for cooking and also to dress salad.

It is high time the government added more value to agricultural produces and move from rudiments to high technological implements. It is time to bring out the quality in our farm produce, no more ‘unleavened’ produces. Nigeria can achieve self-sufficiency in food production, we have the lands, we have the resources, the people are available; they just need incentives, advanced technologies, trainings and also the after harvest period need to be put into consideration. It is not yet uhuru for the closure of borders to prevent illegal rice importation in Nigeria if the strategics plans are not rolled out.

APRECON
Follow us on twitter @aprecon

How to Write a Good Business Plan

Like the popular adage which says “he who fails to plan, plans to fail”, this is also related to business. Without a plan, a business is essentially without guidance and the day-to-day activities are likely to be haphazard. A business plan gives your business direction, defines your objectives, maps out strategies to achieve your goals and helps you manage possible bumps in the road.

There are so many people out there with brilliant business ideas but no capital to finance the business ideas; putting your business ideas on paper, in form of a plan, helps to attract investors to finance your business idea. For example, if you want to apply  for a loan in a bank to finance your business, the first thing the bank will need to see is your business plan.

A business plan is not just required to secure funding at the start-up phase, but is a vital aid to help you manage your business more effectively. By committing your thoughts to paper, you can understand your business better and also chart specific courses of action that need to be taken to improve your business.

Writing a business plan is easy and doesn’t always require the services of an expert, as long as you know what your business is all about. A business plan is like a roadmap for business success. In this article, I’m going to make writing a business plan as easy and simple as possible.

Before going into writing that wonderful business plan, let’s take a look at the seven important components you must include in your business plan.

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Business/Company Description
  3. Market Analysis
  4. Organization Management
  5. Service or Product Line
  6. Marketing & Sales
  7. Financial Projection

Having known these components, let’s go into details on how to integrate them into your business plan.

  1. Executive Summary

This is considered the most important section of every business plan. This is so because it’s usually the first thing the reader or investor will see when reading your business plan and its content can either make or mar you. This component briefly discloses to your reader where your company is situated, where you want to take it and why your business idea will be successful. This section exposes your overall strength and if you’re seeking for financial support, the executive summary is the place to grab a potential investor’s interest.

For an established business, be sure to include the following information;

  • The mission statement
  • Company information
  • Growth highlight
  • Your product/service
  • Financial information
  • Summarize future plans

For a startup or new business, you won’t have much information as an established enterprise. All you need to do is focus on your experiences and the decision that lead to the establishment of that business venture.

  1. Business/Company Description

This is easy to handle provided you know the goals and objectives of your business and its unique proposition. When writing in this section, be wise to make the investor understand what the company is all about, and its goals.

What to include in your Company Description

  • Describe the nature of your business and list down your targeted audience or the marketplace that you aim to satisfy.
  • Give a detailed explanation on how your products and services meet these needs.
  • Which consumers, organisation or business does your business serve or will serve? Don’t forget to include them.
  • Make known an advantage you have which you think will be an edge in making the business a success.
  1. Market Analysis

The market analysis section is where you illustrate your enterprise and market knowledge. It should contain your industry description and outlook, information about your target market, distinguishing characteristics, size of the primary target, pricing and gross margin target, competitive analysis etc. This section should be well detailed as possible for the reader to really understand your vision about the business.

  1. Organisation & Management

This section is what exposes the overall structure of your enterprise. It includes your company’s organisational structure, details of company owners, profiles of your management team and the qualifications of your directors.

This section also delves deeper into making known all the chains of authority, functions and backgrounds of those in the board of directors or employees. You will have to convince your reader that your staffs are more than just names on a letterhead.

  1. Service or Product Line

This is usually the main purpose why businesses exist. What are your services and products like? This is the section where you explain the benefits of such products or services to potential customers.

What to include in your service or product line section

  • A description of your product/service
  • Details about your product life cycle
  • Intellectual property
  • Research and development (R&D) Activities

With all these settled, you can then move over to the marketing & sales section.

  1. Marketing & Sale

This section deals hugely on your marketing strategy. How do you drive sales? What strategy do you or will you use to compel customers into buying your products? This strategy should be part of an ongoing business evaluation process and unique to your company.

An overall marketing strategy should include four different strategies

  • A market penetration strategy
  • A growth strategy
  • Channels of distribution strategy
  • Communication strategy

After you’ve defined your marketing strategy, the next job will be your sales strategy.

Your overall sales strategy should include two primary elements:

  • A sales force strategy – What kind of people are you going to recruit in your sales unit? How would they be trained? How would their compensation be? These are the questions that will be contained in this element.
  • Your sales activities – It’s important you break down your sales strategy to activities. For example, you need to identify your prospects and make a detailed list of them. Analyse intensively all the various needs and the leads with the highest potential to buy first.
  1. Financial Projection

For an established enterprise, you’ll be requested to supply historical data, at least; for the past three to four years in other to evaluate the company’s performance.

ALSO READ: Dear EFCC: How Much Have You Recovered?

For a new enterprise, you ought to have analysed the market and set clear objectives. If perhaps, funds are needed, you will then need to include another component to your business plan, FUNDING REQUEST and in details, seek for financial help with a detailed outline on what they will be used for.

Most business plans usually contain an APPENDIX, which provides the reader with such information as credit history, resumes, product pictures etc.. It is totally up to you, whether to include it or not.

Your business plan should be more than one copy for future uses and updates. You don’t need to pass through the stress of writing another business plan in the future, all you need is to update it, unless it’s an entirely different business.

APRECON
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Questions on Abacha’s Loot

Did you ever wonder why the recoveries of the so-called Abacha loot no longer excite many Nigerians? Did you ever wonder why Nigerians have lost the enthusiasm about the recovery of the much-talked about Abacha loot? The simple reason for this widespread public apathy is the fact that Nigerians cannot find evidence where these recovered funds were put into in the promotion of the welfare of the citizens. Accountability in the management of recovered funds is no less significant than fighting corruption. Can Nigerians, in all sincerity, fight corruption with lip service or half-hearted commitment? The billions recovered from the Abachas could have brought significant improvements in the social service sector and our decayed public infrastructure.

The recovery of the Abacha loot has dominated the headlines almost always; what is missing in the headlines, however, is how these recovered funds are being used for the welfare of Nigerians.

The former Obasanjo administration had recovered billions of dollars from the Abachas, but until he ended his term in 2007, the recovered funds ended up on newspaper pages.

The Abacha loot recovery process began in 1999 after former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, got into power. In July of that year, Nigeria began civil proceedings in London against Mohammed Abacha, Abubakar Bagudu and companies owned by them, which led to about $420 million in assets being identified and frozen. In May 2002, Obasanjo struck a deal with Abacha’s family so Nigeria could recover about $1.2 billion; while the Abachas would keep $100 million and bonds worth $300 million. Following that deal, in November 2003, the Nigerian government recovered $149 million from the Island of Jersey.

On August 19, 2004, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice transmitted to Nigeria, all the assets in Switzerland owned by the Abacha family, about $500 million and one year later, the then Minister of Finance, Okonjo-Iweala announced in a Switzerland press conference that Nigeria has recovered $500 million from the Abachas, and “about $2 billion total of assets with 40% interests in West African Refinery in Sierra Leone. In 2014 Okonjo-Iweala said, only $500 million was recovered  during the time she first served as Finance Minister, under Obasanjo government and they used the fund for projects.

Under the Goodluck Jonathan era, the recovery efforts continued and over $1 billion was recovered. In June 2014 Liechtenstein returned $227 million to Nigeria; on 7 August, 2014, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the return of $480 million back to Nigeria government. In 2016, Switzerland confirmed they have so far returned $723 million of Abacha loot back to the Nigerian government.

The civil society groups and the media have not shown the enthusiasm to follow up how these recovered funds are being applied to the welfare of Nigerians. It is not enough to be announcing huge recoveries of stolen funds without accountability about the use of such funds.

ALSO READ: Dear EFCC: How Much Have You Recovered?

These actually raise questions of transparency in the management of recovered funds. Can we fight corruption when Nigerians appear unenthusiastic about the management of recovered funds? Can democracy thrive when the citizens are not keen to hold government accountable about how it manages recovered funds? How effective is the Freedom of Information Act in practice to guarantee Nigerians access to the records of the recovered Abacha loot and how the monies were applied to the welfare of Nigerians?

Unless we are ready to confront these questions honestly, loot recovery efforts will end up creating a cynical and skeptical public attitude towards the country’s anti-corruption crusade. It is impossible to separate the anti-corruption war from accountability in the management of recovered funds. Any attempt to sidestep this issue will kill public enthusiasm about the war against corruption. Lest one is misunderstood, there is no attempt whatsoever to defend corruption by anybody. In fighting corruption, however, we must do so with sincerity to avoid creating a skeptical public attitude towards the anti-corruption crusade.

APRECON
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Dear EFCC: How Much Have You Recovered?

In the last few months,  Ibrahim Magu, the Acting Chairman of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and his team have struggled to give exact figures of recoveries from alleged treasury looters.

In November 2017, Magu disclosed that the commission had so far recovered N739 billion. In yet another instance in February this year, he claimed that the EFCC had recovered about N500 billion. These inconsistencies have aroused suspicions that the EFCC has no proper records of its recoveries and thus sparking claims of abuse of assets and funds recovered from its multiple investigations.

Curiously, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, who should by virtue of her office know the status of the recoveries, sparked further controversy in February when she disclosed conflicting figures. Following the controversy that ensued, the Minister in a leaked memo to the EFCC boss asked the agency’s head to brief her on the exact position of the recoveries.

According to her, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation had only received N91.4 billion from the EFCC, meaning that hundreds of billions are yet to be accounted for by the anti-graft agency.

This article therefore highlights worries over the inconsistencies in the figures of recoveries and the inability of these government agencies in that value chain to work closely and share information. The demand for full transparency and accountability from the anti-graft agency in their operations is what the agency itself stands for, interestingly and this is a reminder. This is important, coming against the backdrop of the corruption allegations against Magu culminating in his yet-to-be confirmed appointment by the Senate as the substantive chairman of the EFCC.

There are unconfirmed reports that the EFCC claims it expended monies from the recoveries to cover some of its operational costs. If this is correct then there is a problem with that. On whose authority or statutory law did the agency do this, when they are not supposed to be in possession of the money they recover?

I believe when transparency is absent in the government ministries and agencies, it gives rise to discrepancies and corruption; in this case, the EFCC and the Ministry of Finance are not been transparent with each other, and this gives a good example of what happens between the government ministries and agencies in Nigeria: each of them operates separately without transparency, accountability and synergy. This gives rise to corrupt practices that looks undefeatable.

ALSO READ: Nigeria’s Economy: Buhari vs Jonathan

If a system in which the transparency of data and accountability is the order of the day, such disgrace would not have happened, the data would have been there for everyone to see how much the EFCC recovered from the treasury looters, and the Finance Minister would not say this is the amount recovered and EFCC comes up with another figure as the amount recovered.

All these national disgrace can be stopped through transparent database, whereby the amount recovered is recorded and made public for other ministries, agencies and even the public to see. And I’m sure this will also help fight discrepancies and corruption in the government ministries and agencies. There are computers and internet in these offices. What are they used for?

I would like to suggest that all monetary recoveries and proceeds from disposed assets should be placed in a dedicated account at the central bank and records shared with the office of the Minister of Finance and the office of the Accountant General of the federation and the public as well.

APRECON
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon 

Oil In Kenya: A Blessing or a Curse?

In the recent past, Kenya has been hit by both negative and positive news. On the downside, several corruption scandals have hit the country from various sectors of the economy. Given that most of these scandals have been happening within public institutions, it is no surprise that citizens have lost confidence in public institutions due to this misuse of entrusted authority for personal gain. On the upside, there’s also been great news as Kenya’s ambition to become one of the global oil producers was boosted, following the flagging off of the first barrels of the resource destined for Mombasa from Turkana fields. The question begs: shall the discovery of oil in Kenya be a blessing or a curse?

For most Kenyans, the long-term expectations are that the exploration of this resource will lead to economic growth, consequently assisting in poverty eradication in the country. However, studies show that many oil-producing countries do not receive the economic and social benefits expected from the wealth generated by the hydrocarbon industry either directly, through the stimulation of the local and national economy, or indirectly, through increased tax revenues, a phenomenon referred to as the resource curse.

Resource curse is a form of economic decline that can arise from conditions such as weak controls on public expenditures; increased corruption; and increased political and economic dependence on the income provided by the production and exporting of the natural resource. Africa has provided many instances where natural resource greed such as that of minerals or crude oil has led to political instability, corruption and even civil war. Instead of serving as development agent, natural resources have served as propellants of internal conflicts in Africa as it is seen in the prolonged internal conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo who are all endowed with natural resources.

Natural resources and other windfall gains lead to an increase in fighting activities if there are multiple rivaling groups. Conflict could arise in cases where certain groups are seen to prosper from these gains at the expense of others. In the case of Kenya, Turkana County – where the oil was discovered – is one of the poorest regions in Kenya with 88% of the people living below poverty levels. Illiteracy levels are also high. The national & county governments should ensure that proceeds from the oil bring tangible benefits to the locals, to avoid a situation such as the one in Nigeria’s Niger Delta.

ALSO READ: World Investment Report of 2018: Analyses of Africa’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

Otherwise, with the current trend of high levels of corruption, wrangles between the national government and county governments, lack of accountability from the leaders, constant politicking that destabilises the country and decreased quality of institutions in Kenya, oil exploration is destined to be a resource curse for the country.

Unless these negative indices are sorted out, Kenya will be another example of a country blessed with resource curse like Nigeria and Angola. But if the negative indices can be checked, it will translate to greater economic development for the country. I believe the president has a lot to do in this case by providing strong and corrupt free institutions for the country.

According to the 2018 World Investment ranking, the Kenyan economy witnessed a huge boost due to high investment in technology as the government provides tax incentives to encourage investors. As African countries are trying to move to a  technology based economy, in which Kenya is showing a good example, will this discovery of oil not distract the Kenyan government from other sectors of the Kenyan economy like what was experienced in Nigeria? Even if the discovery of oil in the land is a blessing, how prepared is the kenyan government to deal with the environmental issue that will arise from the exploration?

APRECON
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

World Investment Report of 2018: Analyses of Africa’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

Africa endured a turbulent 2016/2017 as global commodity prices crumbled. This significantly exposed the fragility of many commodity-reliant economies in Africa and crippled the growth that had been accrued in the past few years. But majorly, foreign investors have now become sceptical of the African economies.

The latest World Investment Report released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) showed that FDI [Foreign Direct Investment] flows to Africa slumped to $42 billion in 2017, a 21% decline from 2016. Weak oil prices and harmful lingering effects from the commodity bust saw flows contract, especially in the larger commodity-exporting economies. FDI inflows to diversified exporters, including Ethiopia and Morocco, were relatively more resilient,” according to the report that was released on Thursday.

Foreign Direct Investment Inflows to North Africa

Morocco

Strong, diversified investment into Morocco contrasted with declines in FDI to the rest of North Africa –the only sub-region yet to surpass its 2007 peak. FDI flows to North Africa were down 4% to $13 billion. FDI into Morocco was up 23% to $2.7 billion, thanks to considerable investment into new car technologies (electrical, battery, cameras). By the end of 2017, the Government had confirmed 26 auto industry investments worth $1.45 billion, including a deal with Renault (France) to increase local sourcing of components to 55%. FDI into the country’s financial sector also expanded, as banking relations with China deepened. In addition, Uber (United States) expanded operations in both Morocco and Egypt.

Egypt

Despite a decline in FDI of 9%, Egypt continued to be the largest recipient in Africa with $7.4 billion. Inflows were supported by a large increase in Chinese investments across light manufacturing industries and wide ranging economic reforms beginning to pay off. Financial liberalisation, for instance, fostered more reinvestment of domestic earnings.

Tunisia

FDI flows to Tunisia remained flat at $0.9 billion, a 1% decline from 2016. Nonetheless, improved investment incentives following the promulgation of the recent investment law, as well as new legislation on public-private partnerships, supported inflows from Belgium’s Windvision into the country’s renewable energy industry, as well as FDI in the electronics, software and IT industries from French and regional investors.

Algeria

FDI into Algeria, which depends heavily on investment in oil and gas, fell 26% to $1.2 billion, despite the bundle of incentives offered by the country’s new investment law. Diversification was supported by FDI from Huawei (China) to help with Houari Boumediene Airport in Algiers and from Samsung (Republic of Korea), which opened its first smartphone assembly plant in the country. Proposed amendments to the energy law could increase foreign participation in the country’s oil sector considerably in the future, if successfully implemented.

Sudan

FDI flows in the Sudan remained stable at $1.1 billion. The country is largely reliant on Chinese investments into its oil sector and the reaching of an agreement with South Sudan to access its once-productive oil fields. The lifting of United States sanctions on the Sudan in 2017 is expected to increase FDI.

Foreign Direct Investment Inflows to Sub-Sahara Africa

Harmful lingering macroeconomic effects from the commodity bust weighed on FDI to sub-Saharan Africa – even though debt levels, foreign currency shortages and inflation rates appear to be improving.

Nigeria

FDI to West Africa fell by 11% to $11.3 billion, due to Nigeria’s economy remaining largely depressed. FDI to that Nigeria fell 21% to $3.5 billion. With domestic demand well below investor expectations, several consumer-facing companies from South Africa exited Nigeria in 2016. A modest recovery in oil production and the general economy in 2017, as well as the introduction of an investor and export window to bid for foreign exchange, could help entice companies to return to Nigeria in the future. At the same time, new technology start-ups in Nigeria, backed by venture capitalists from South Africa and elsewhere, are helping to diversify FDI inflows. Nigeria has attracted strong market-seeking technology inflows from United States firms, including Uber, Facebook, Emergent Payments and Meltwater Group. Chinese investments in the country consisted of efficiency-seeking manufacturing FDI into the textile, automotive and aerospace industries.

Ghana

Ghana attracted $3.3 billion in FDI flows (down 7%), on the back of fiscal consolidation and self-imposed reductions in government investment spending. Until this past year, Ghana’s diversified economy had facilitated a continuous increase in its FDI flows since the 2000s. A firm price for gold and ongoing investment from Italy’s Eni to develop the large Sankofa gas field could further encourage FDI in 2018. Sankofa produced its first oil in 2017, with Eni having contributed the largest amount of FDI in Ghana’s history through its 44% stake in the company.

Côte d’Ivoire

FDI into Côte d’Ivoire, was up 17% to $675 million, reflecting supportive public investments by the government and economic diversification. As one of the two fastest-growing economies in Africa (along with Ethiopia), the country has attracted FDI into consumer goods. Heineken (Netherlands) invested $35 million in 2017 to double beer production and compete with Castel (France). Hershey (United States) is set to help the country process more of its cocoa locally, boding well for future investment prospects.

Senegal

FDI into Senegal was up 13% to $532 million. Russian producer KAMAZ will invest approximately $60.5 million in the first phase of truck assembly production in the country.

Foreign Direct Investment Inflows to Central Africa

FDI flows to Central Africa decreased by 22% to $5.7 billion.

DR Congo

FDI flows to the DR Congo fell by 67% to $1.2 billion from $3.6 billion in 2016. The deepening economic crisis in the country, volatility in oil FDI and weak FDI in non-oil sectors contributed to the decline. In contrast, the global race for cobalt used in electric car batteries supported an 11% rise of FDI flows into the Democratic Republic of Congo, reaching $1.3 billion. Glencore (Switzerland) bought two mining assets for nearly $1 billion, increasing its stake in cobalt and copper mines.

Equatorial Guinea

FDI flows rose also in Equatorial Guinea (to $304 million from $54 million in 2016) and in Gabon, a major oil producer (up 21% to $1.5 billion).

Foreign Direct Investment Inflows to East Africa

East Africa, the fastest-growing region in Africa, received $7.6 billion in FDI in 2017, a 3% decline from 2016.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia absorbed nearly half of this amount, with $3.6 billion (down 10%), and is now the second largest recipient of FDI in Africa after Egypt, despite its smaller economy (the eighth largest in Africa). Chinese and Turkish firms announced investments in light manufacturing and automotive after Ethiopia lifted the state of emergency in the second half of 2017. United States fashion supplier PVH (Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger); Dubai-based Velocity Apparelz Companies (Levi’s, Zara and Under Armour); and China’s Jiangsu Sunshine Group (Giorgio Armani and Hugo Boss) all set up their own factories in Ethiopia in 2017. Several of these firms are located in Ethiopia’s flagship: Chinese-built Hawassa Industrial Park.

Kenya

Kenya saw FDI increase to $672 million, up 71%, due to buoyant domestic demand and inflows into ICT industries. The Kenyan Government provided additional tax incentives to foreign investors. South African ICT investors Naspers, MTN and Intact Software continued to expand into Kenya. United States companies were also prominent tech-oriented investors, with Boeing, Microsoft and Oracle all investing in the country. Significant consumer-facing investments by Diageo (United Kingdom) in beer and Johnson and Johnson (United States) in pharmaceuticals also bolstered FDI into the country.

Tanzania

The strong gold price and a diversified productive structure contributed to FDI inflows worth $1.2 billion into the United Republic of Tanzania. Facebook and Uber (both United States) expanded into that country while India’s Bharti Airtel continued to invest. The country’s inflows nonetheless recorded a 14% decline compared with 2016. Foreign telecommunication companies now must list, at least, a quarter of their equity on the local stock exchange, an effort by the Tanzanian Government to increase domestic ownership. In addition, a ban on exports of unprocessed minerals may adversely affect the country’s foreign mining assets.

Foreign Direct Investment Inflows to Southern Africa

In Southern Africa, FDI declined by 66% to $3.8 billion.

Angola

FDI into Angola, Africa’s third largest economy, turned negative once again (–$2.3 billion from $4.1 billion in 2016) as foreign affiliates in the country transferred funds abroad through intra-company loans. In addition, oil production declined and macroeconomic fundamentals deteriorated. Tenders for onshore oil blocks were suspended in 2017 but are to be re-launched in 2018 after a new government is appointed. A tender for oil blocks off southern Angola may also be opened in 2018 to offset declines in older fields.

ALSO READ: TOP FASTEST GROWING AFRICAN ECONOMIES IN 2018

South Africa

FDI to South Africa declined by 41% to $1.3 billion, as the country was beset by an under-performing commodity sector and political uncertainty. Investors from the United States, which remain the largest source of FDI into the country, focused on services industries. The standout project was the investment by DuPont (United States) into a regional drought crop research centre. Automotive FDI also remained significant. General Motors sold its South African plant to Japan’s Isuzu, and Beijing Automotive Group Co. announced an $88 million investment in a vehicle manufacturing plant in a joint venture with South Africa’s Industrial Development Corporation. European investors, led by Germany and the United Kingdom, remained very active in South Africa, through initiatives such as BMW’s retooling of factories. Automotive FDI into South Africa is increasingly developing regional value chains: Lesotho now produces car seats, and Botswana ignition wiring sets, for auto manufacturers in South Africa.

Mozambique

FDI into Mozambique also contracted severely, down 26% to $2.3 billion, amid austerity and debt defaults. Long-term prospects rely on the country’s liquefied natural gas potential being exploited and profits reinvested to advance domestic development. Mozambique’s coal sector attracted investor interest from a consortium of Chinese, British and South African firms, but the project is in its early stages.

Zambia

FDI into Zambia increased by 65%, to $1.1 billion, supported by more investment in copper. The government, keen to diversify the economy away from copper, announced the building of a $548 million cement plant in a joint venture between the country’s mining investment arm and China’s Sino Const., Israeli Green 2000, already active in seven other African countries, also invested in food production, further contributing to economic diversification.

Geographical sources of FDI to Africa are becoming more diversified. Investors from the United States, the United Kingdom and France still hold the largest direct investment stakes in Africa. Italy has also emerged as a major source of investment, particularly in the energy sector. At the same time, developing-economy investors from China and South Africa, followed by Singapore, India and Hong Kong (China), are among the top 10 investors in Africa. China’s FDI stock in the continent reached $40 billion in 2016, as compared with $16 billion in 2011, according to the report.

Africa’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Outflows

FDI outflows from Africa increased by 8 per cent to $12.1 billion. This largely reflected a significant increase in outward FDI by South African firms (up 64% to$7.4 billion) and Moroccan firms (up 66% to $960 million). Outward FDI by Nigerian firms, in contrast, remained flat at $1.3 billion, focused almost exclusively on Africa. Major African MNEs other than South African firms have, in the last few years, expanded their international footprints both within the region and elsewhere, with extra regional FDI heading to both developed and developing economies.

APRECON
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

South Africa First Quarter Economic Report 2018: A Disadvantage to Ramaphosa

The coming of President Ramaphosa brought with it renewed optimism for South Africans after years of stunted economic growth and instability under the former president, Jacob Zuma. Financial markets rallied initially after Ramaphosa took over, as investors were attracted to his promises to woo overseas investments to the country. But that euphoria seems to have cleared off as investors expect execution of those promises.

So far, since his ascension to power, he has removed his predecessor’s compromised ministers, appointed a new ones, notably, the Finance Minister; he also restructured state-owned companies and galvanised state agencies like the Hawks, the National Prosecution Authority and South African Revenue Service into action.

South Africa’s economy wobbled in the first quarter of 2018 after enjoying successive expansion in 2017. The country’s real Gross Domestic Product dipped by an annualised 2.2% in the first quarter 2018 after expanding by 3.1% in the fourth quarter of 2017, Statistics South Africa said in a report released Tuesday: the biggest decline since the first-quarter of 2009. The country also recorded the largest contraction in Agriculture at 24.2% —the largest quarter-on-quarter fall since the second-quarter of 2006.

Agriculture’s relatively strong performance in 2017 is one of the positive factors that helped keep the South African economy afloat in 2017. This momentum failed to carry through to 2018, with decreased production in field crops and horticultural products contributing to the decline in the first quarter.

The only sectors of the South African economy that witnessed improvement in the First Quarter of 2018  include: transportation sector, finance sector, personnel and government service sector.

A survey compiled by Markit also showed that business activities contracted in May. Respondents to the survey cited product shortages and weaker market conditions as the causes. Standard Bank’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) slipped to 50.0 in May from 50.4 in April.

Other sectors that declined include: mining, production (lower production in gold, platinum group metals and iron ore were the main contributors to poor performance), manufacturing (due to decline in the production of petroleum and chemical products, as well as basic iron and steel).

ALSO READ: The Economy of Uganda: Expectations, Opportunities

Trade activities contracted by 3.1%, construction industry continued to contract, experiencing its fifth consecutive quarter of decline. The industry has lost R1.7 billion in value since the fourth quarter of 2016, falling from R110 billion to R108 billion in the first quarter of 2018.  Electricity industries also recorded negative growth in the first quarter of trade.

As the country prepares for elections slated for next year, the president’s economic performance will go a long way to define the party’s chances. The African National Congress (ANC) should be conscious of the new African phenomenon of voting out political parties or persons that have held onto power for a long time.

APRECON
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Nigeria’s Economy: Buhari vs Jonathan

As Nigeria’s 2019 General Elections draw nigh, President Muhammadu Buhari and his team have insisted that economic growth under his presidency “is better than it has been in many decades,” it has equally stood by the old lines like a Trump that “the Economy is raging at an all-time high, and is set to get even better,” and “It has been many years that we have seen this kind of (economic) numbers.”…If not for the last reckless administration we would have been better off.

Let us consider the graphs below:


Figure 1: Jonathan and Buhari’s Administration Economic Growth Rate

The claims by the President’s henchmen, like Kemi Adesoun, that his stewardship of the economy puts his predecessors to shame can be checked by public information that is readily available to all.

In fact, the chart above on the economic growth of Nigeria both under Buhari and Jonathan administration shows that Buhari’s record so far falls somewhere between unremarkable and substandard. Moreover, other economic data suggest that the current expansion will likely wind down before his term ends, and his boasting will ring hollow once the economy slips from recession to depression.

It is commonly said that a president deserves some credit or blame for the economy’s performance only after he’s been in office about six months. On those terms, let’s measure Buhari’s words against the record for Nigeria per capita income, which measures the standard of living of an average Nigeria and also one of the indicators of economic development of a country, over the last three years (2015-2017), and those of the last three years before taking over the mantle of leadership.


Figure 2: Per Capita Income under Jonathan and Buhari’s Administration

It can be seen clearly from the chart above that, the per capita income for the last three years keep decreasing from $2,763(it is usually measured in US dollars) in 2015 to $1,994 in 2017 compared to the increasing rate experienced before taking over power from the Jonathan administration. This means that the standard of living of an average Nigerian is lower under the Buhari administration compared to that of his predecessor.

ALSO READ: TOP FASTEST GROWING AFRICAN ECONOMIES IN 2018

Like all of Buahri’s predecessors, the President promised to reform regulation and boost business investment, because such measures can stimulate faster growth. Moreover, if the new investments focus on productivity-boosting equipment, they also can help raise employment and incomes. Let’s take a look at the rate of unemployment under Buhari’s administration compared to that of his predecessor.


Figure 5: Unemployment Rate under Jonathan and Buhari’s Administration

From the chart above, the rate of unemployment under the Jonathan administration was at a decreasing rate from 10.6 in 2012 to 7.8 in 2014, which means unemployment was under check during Jonathan’s administration but the same cannot be said for the Buhari administration which has seen the rate of unemployment increasing from 9 in 2015 to 16.5 in 2017, which means many Nigerians have lost their jobs under the present administration.

The economic data has said it all, the economic situation of the country is far worse than what is been portrayed by the presidency. The highly sung economic achievements do not reflect on the lives of the people of the country. Job loss is on the increase, commodity prices are on the increase, inflation is still in double digit. It’s time to stop the talks and focus on a strategy that will foster economic development rather than focusing on the 2019 election: the people are the economy and the development of the economy means the development of the people.

APRECON
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon

Ghana’s Food Sufficiency Project: Obstacles

According to Bethenny Frankel, a television personality, author and entrepreneur, your diet is your bank account, good food choices are good investment. Food has become the only common thing that brings people together. Knowing these facts the president of Ghana, Nana Akufo Addo said that plans are underway to make the country food self-sufficient and reduce the huge food import bills. This statement sounds wahoo and intriguing but one should ask what are the possibilities of the plans? what are the prospects involved?

The agricultural sector in Ghana consists of a variety of produces and is an established sector that provides employment on a formal and informal bases. The agricultural produces are a variety of crops in various climatic zones which range from dry savanna to wet forests, running in eastwest bands across Ghana. The produces include: yams, grains, cocoa (which computes the largest exports), oil palms, kola nuts and timber.

However, in the past years, the Ghana witnessed short falls in profit from  produce exports due to illegal sellers sieving into the makeup, selling unofficially and illegitimately. Agriculture is a major contributor to the country’s export earnings and source of inputs for the manufacturing sector. It is likewise a major source of income for a majority of the population. In 2013, the sector employed 53.6% of the total labour force in the country but overtime the progress of the sector is retarding and needs restrengthening.

The sector has experienced its lowest growth (0.8%) in more than two decades in 2011, the same year Ghana started its oil production in commercial quantities. Another oil craze! If they are not careful, they will forget the sector just as the governments of their African giant-brother forgot theirs -you can guess the country.

Diversifying the economy is wonderful but the mother sectors should not suffer in a bid to diversify. If the agricultural sector is weak, manufacturing will fall, leading to more importation bills for the country. The country is blessed with vast arable lands yet, every year, millions of dollars are spent to import food into the country, this is what an economy that neglects agriculture gets as a reward. It is never too late to make amends!

Ghana is a net importer of basic foods (raw and processed) including rice, poultry, sugar and vegetable oils while its top exports are crude petroleum, gold, cocoa beans, cocoa paste and cocoa butter. The country has grown to be a larger importer of finished products, after exporting the raw produce. This will hamper the growth of the manufacturing sector overtime. The president and his team have to involve measures to add value to the produce, the cocoa butter can be produced into chocolate, ointments, toiletries and pharmaceuticals. They also import medication, which can be done away with if the agricultural sector is revamped and utilised.

The new programme to make Ghana food self-sufficient is ‘Planting for food and jobs’. The flagship programme is to help address the declining growth of the country’s agricultural sector, it is a clarion call on every single citizen to take farming as a full time or part time activity. It gears towards improving food productivity and ensuring food security, as well as reducing food import bills to the barest minimum. How does the programme seeks to achieve all?

The programme employed: Supply of improved seeds to farmers at subsidized prices (50% subsidy), free extension services to farmers (1200 extension officers from the five main agric colleges already enrolled onto the programme; an additional 4,000 extension assistants to be mobilised), marketing opportunities for produce after harvest (arrangements have been made to offer ready markets for farmers who will be participating in the campaign) and e-Agriculture (a technological platform to monitor and track activities and progress of farmers through a database system).

The condition to be selected for the programme is quite tight: a farmer will require a minimum of 2 to 3 acres to be part of the campaign. With this condition, the fate of small scale farmers that cannot afford 2 to 3 acres is anything but positive and this has an effect on the programme.

ALSO READ: Rethinking Buhari’s ‘Success’

Despite all the incentives the programme provides such as market opportunities for produce and others, a poor farmer might not be able to enjoy them. Of what use is a programme that does not reflect in the live of the peasants who make up huge part of the farming? The government of Ghana has to review this part of the programme, it should be extended to the smallest farmer in the country; after all, it is sufficience, enough food for all that they want. Provided the government seeks to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal 2, zero hunger, by 2030 (for everyone, everywhere should have enough good quality food to lead a healthy life) they should improve the productivity and income of small scale farmers. This improvement can mainly be achieved by promoting equal access to land, technology and markets, sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices.

Another failure the programme did not address is the storage facilities of agricultural produce. According to the World Food Programme Regional Director in charge of West and Central Africa, Adbou Deing, the agriculture production of the country has increased overtime but the losses after the production is huge. About 40% of food being produced is lost and this is the average in Africa. The major problem of Ghana being food self-sufficient is wastage after production; there is little issue with production because of the increase that has being experienced so far. So, what are the plans to stop the losses of agricultural produce? The wastage experienced in Ghana can only be reduced by investing in food processing and storage facilities across the country.

The world bank also suggested that instead of devoting a large chunk of agricultural sector to cocoa production through investing in diversified productivity, beyond a single crop. The bank also called for more investments in research to increase farmer technology uptake as well as irrigation infrastructure to increase productivity and mitigate the impacts of climate change. There has to be an improvement on the public expenditure allocation and management as well as budget coordination in the sector; it needs more funding to be revived. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture has to improve on the method of collecting data for proper analysis in order to improve the planning process, thereby enacting contextual policy in the sector.

Ghana cannot be food self-sufficient if oil still gets topmost priority to the neglect of the others. There should be value addition to the sector in such a way that raw produces are not the exports but processed products. Mr President, talk, they say, is cheap but action speaks louder!

APRECON
Follow us on twitter @aprecon

Rethinking Buhari’s ‘Success’

As Nigerians celebrated their Democracy Day on the 29th of May 2018, the presidency released a document on what the administration has achieved since 2015. Nigerians voted in President Buhari under the platform of All Peoples Congress (APC) as a result of loss of trust in the former President, Goodluck Jonathan.

In the document, the presidency highlighted the achievements on the economy, infrastructure and others, concluding that there has been a huge success, with more progress to be made. The presidency has given their report, the scorecard of the president, which shows a lot of success with no misfortunate, of course, they ought to blow their trumpets if no one cares to blow it for them. Let’s critically look into the report.

According to the report, the Nigerian economy is back and is on the path of growth after the recession of 2016-2017. It said the Muhammadu Buhari administration’s priority sectors of agriculture and solid mineral maintained consistent growth throughout the recession. This administration can laud themselves for getting the country out of recession, but the country went out of recession the same way it dabbled into it. The economy healed itself, there was no magic or special principles enacted by the government to take the country out of recession.

The root cause of recession turned out to be the messiah of the country, the recession came in abruptly, unplanned for, as a result of the sudden fall in crude oil prices in 2015, likewise, the growth experienced in 2017 was as a result of the appreciation in the price of crude oil. This is to say, the economy is on a table with uncomplete legs, the moment oil prices fall again, the nation might go down the drain, if we are yet to really diversify beyond just talks.

ALSO READ: TOP FASTEST GROWING AFRICAN ECONOMIES IN 2018

Although, the scorecard report indicates agriculture and solid minerals as its priority, yet it failed to talk about billions the president spent in search of oil in the north-eastern part of the country. No one is criticising the efforts of looking for oil but it would be more rational to observe what each region has and explore them instead of searching for what is not there at the detriment of the nation’s development. The funds wasted to search for the oil in the region could have been channeled properly. It is laughable: Nigeria survives on oil; a leadership comes and says we’ll diversify, then turns around to spend so much in search of the same oil! This is not how to prioritise agriculture. The sector is still as vague as it is, providing 48% jobs for the people compared to the over 70% jobs it created before the craze for oil exploration.

In the aspect of inflation, this administration is getting closer to the desirable rate of inflation. The inflation has fallen the fifteenth consecutive month while the nation’s external reserves are at their highest levels in five years, currently double the size of October 2016. This is an achievement that is obvious and achievable as a result of the strict principles of the monetary authorities. I think the government deserves some accolades for that, yet, the nation is not at the state of desirable inflation rate. The recent rate of inflation is yet to meet with the budgeted rate of inflation, the economy needs to strategise the more.

In the power sector, the report states that there was transmission expansion and rehabilitation programme which has resulted in a 50% expansion in grid capacity since 2015, from 5,000MW to 7125MW as at December 2017. It also launched the distribution expansion programme (DEP) which has approved by the Federal Executive Council in February 2018 to deliver 2,000 MW of unused power capacity to consumers in need. The presidency has failed to address the issue of the high rate of exploitation faced by consumers. The electricity is being claimed to have been generated, yet, Nigerians still run on generators. There are still shady dealings that make reluctant to come into Nigeria to invest in this area. The bills for electricity in the country is throat cutting; the exploitation experienced by consumers is high. These are the issues needed to be addressed in the power sector, hence, no achievement can be said to be earned. Electricity is a social welfare affair, so, if consumers cannot enjoy the service, it can’t be termed successful. Yet, I would say the progress is appreciable but we can do better.

ALSO READ: The Effect of Wage Increase on Inflation

The presidency also went ahead to list their achievements in investing in people. Any form of achievement engaged in should be result oriented and specific returns should be expected. Under the Social Investment Programme (SIP), government said 200,000 N-Power beneficiaries are currently participating and receiving NGN30,000 in monthly stipends. The report also said another 300,000 new enrollment are being processed, to take the number to 500,000 this year.

The N-Power has absolved many youths in the country, but not all those absolved are working, especially those ‘teaching’ in schools; they just receive payment. Of a truth, the government pay the seemingly unemployed youths but at the long run, no impact on the economic growth. What is the usefulness of a programme if there is no impact on the economy.


They talk about school feeding with such sense of satisfaction. But feeding few children in the large country
once in a day, with some teachers unpaid is an improper arrangement. Such programmes should be done in a balanced economy as it is merely an avenue for expenses. The chefs are ‘employed’ but they are still sucking from the same exhausted purse. This is not the kind of employment that drives an economy; it is like placing the cart before the horse. Meanwhile, some of these children have parents who are not being paid; what will they eat after school?

The questions the presidency should look into before counting their unhatched chicks are: what have the programmes and plans translated into the economy? What are the feedback from such programmes? Are they worth spending millions on? If the answers to these questions are not on the positive, it is sad to note that the country is recording a cyclical success; a success that is aimed at ‘proving they are working’. Success should be upward, something projected into the future and bringing returns into the economy.

APRECON
Follow us on twitter @aprecon

Copyright 2017. All Right Reserved. PRIVACY POLICY

Powered by APRECON