Friday, 20 December 2013

Algeria: French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's visit

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, as reported last week (Algeria Politics & Security 13.12.13), arrived in Algiers on Sunday 15 December for a two-day official visit, the primary object of which was to boost bilateral economic co-operation and development between the two countries. Ayrault was accompanied by some nine ministers and about 40 business leaders.

The two premiers co-chaired the first meeting of the Algerian-French High-Level Intergovernmental Committee, which had been instigated during President Fran├žois Hollande 's highly successful visit to Algeria exactly one year ago.

In the course of these committee sessions the two sides signed nine bilateral co-operation agreements covering a range of fields, including energy, scientific research, mechanical co-operation, fishing, the pharmaceutical industry, construction and trade.

Ayrault said at a joint news conference with Sellal that bilateral relations allowed the two sides to build bridges of co-operation “for the sake of an ambitious partnership that matches the binds linking our countries and people”. He went on to say that France was keen on re-launching dialogue on many issues of mutual interest.

For his part, Sellal voiced relief for the French investment which is urgently needed. He said, “They [French investors] can be assured about our political will regarding the encouragement of partnership that will benefit the two parties.” Algeria, he said, “is not only a market for France but, above all, a partner.”

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Cameroon: New Boko Haram attacks

New Boko Haram attacks and the ongoing CAR crisis keep the government worried about mounting insecurity.
Interior Minister Rene Emmanuel Sadi summoned Cameroon's ten governors for a three-day conclave on security and safety that started on Tuesday 17 December amid growing insecurity in and around the country. It is the second conclave this year and comes on the heels of deadly attacks and kidnappings in eastern and northern Cameroon by rebels from war-torn CAR and Boko Haram insurgents from Nigeria.
After having kidnapped a French Catholic priest in November, three Boko Haram militants attacked and killed a man in the northern town of Kousserie on Saturday 14 December.
The incident comes after Defence Minister Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo'o took delivery of imported heavy munitions at Douala port on Saturday 7 December. He received more than 100 heavy mechanised machine guns in Douala after having acquired two combat helicopters in November, as if to show the government's readiness to counter any internal and/or foreign attack.
Cameroon has continued to strengthen its military personnel and arsenal since the beginning of 2013, and has made it publicly visible. This was especially after the Paris-based Jeune Afrique magazine reported earlier this year that the country's military was weakened by obsolete equipment and was contaminated by tribal fratricides within its various compartments.
The interior minister said that “Cameroon is being propelled by the head of state Paul Biya through a difficult battle to emergence. But without national order; without peace and serenity, these [economic] projects cannot be realised. This is the key context of this meeting.” He added that, apart from routine investigations by special security units, it was imperative for all the governors to pre-empt attacks and avoid being taken by surprise.
On the other hand, Minister of Trade Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana told the meeting that food and other basic commodities were in sufficient supply, because that could also trigger internal social strife which might spill over to give insurgents the opportunity to invade the country.
For more news and expert analysis about Cameroon, please see Cameroon Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Ghana: Fitch Ratings optimistic on Sub-Saharan Africa's growth

Fitch Ratings remains optimistic on Sub-Saharan Africa's growth, despite the risks that may occur from any tapering of quantitative easing by the US Federal Reserve.
Although the international ratings agencies have been pessimistic about Ghana – because of debt and deficit concerns – which have led to downgrades and/or Ghana's debt being placed on negative outlook, the most recent Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) release from the Fitch ratings agency, which downgraded Ghana's debt rating in October, is generally positive.
Among other things, Fitch expects overall SSA's GDP growth to increase during 2014 to around 5.1% for the year. Fitch, rather than touting the usual commodities story, notes the progress on Africa's public infrastructure and infrastructure spending and successful use of dollar Eurobond financing. On the downside, Fitch sees the tapering by the US Federal Reserve of its “quantitative easing” programme as presenting the biggest risk to Africa's economies.
On the ratings front, Fitch maintains a “stable” overall rating outlook for 2014, with more SSA countries (compared to one year ago) having (i) a positive ratings outlook and (ii) a stable ratings outlook, and fewer having (iii) a negative ratings outlook.
Ghana, according to Fitch, was one of the three out of 16 SSA countries that was downgraded; the others being South Africa and Zambia while only one country was upgraded. Unfortunately, Fitch highlights Ghana as the 2013-downgraded country in which fiscal deterioration is “most evident” because of its “double digit twin deficits”, increasing debts, and unlikely-to-be-attained “fiscal consolidation” targets. Ghana, according to some, not only faces high deficits and debt but is also rapidly becoming a worst-in-class performer on key economic metrics; a sobering thought for the new year.
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Saudi Arabia expels Yemeni workers

Saudi Arabia has been pushing through its campaign to reduce the number of illegal workers in the kingdom. Perhaps 150,000 Yemenis have been expelled or may be soon – with possibly a further 50,000 still to be processed. Riyadh has ignored complaints from Yemen – and the many other countries affected – and indeed the likely consequences for its own security in adding to the misery in Yemen by cutting off vital remittances. The problem for Yemen is that the measure is not aimed against Yemenis but a whole category of people of which Yemenis are the most numerous.
Exceptions are not being made.
Relations between the two countries have not been helped by the case of a Saudi woman who eloped to Yemen with a Yemeni man. This has become a cause celebre and the woman, after facing the possibility of imprisonment and deportation, has been granted political asylum.
The UN Children's Fund and Human Rights Watch got involved. The Saudis are not amused.They may not object to the outcome – it is the publicity they detest. There was shooting on the Yemeni-Saudi border involving those working on building the new security fence.
For more news and expert analysis about Yemen, please see Yemen Focus.

© 2013 Menas Associates