Monday, 30 September 2013

Mass demonstration of support for Jonathan in Abuja

Mass demonstration of support for Jonathan in Abuja will provide backdrop for announcement of his candidacy in 2014/15 elections.
Months of political suspense over whether President Goodluck Jonathan how and when declare his intentions to run for a second term in 2015 are coming to an end. Although Jonathan is certain to announce he will run in 2014/15, the main question for the ruling People's Democratic Party is how much of an internal competition for the nomination will be allowed in the wake of the defection of seven PDP state governors this month.
Preparations are under way for a “five-million-man march” in Abuja on October 19, at which Jonathan is expected to celebrate his achievements since 2011 and announced, at last, that he is in the running again.
The National Solidarity March, as the event is called, will be coordinated by Chief Obi Aguocha, an Abia State lawmaker. Similar spectacles will follow in key commercial centres across the country
Jonathan may have taken onboard the advice of Anthony Anenih, the Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, who seemed to be losing patience with the ongoing party ructions and two weeks ago told Jonathan to declare his candidacy.
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Suriname: Presidential 'Crash Programme' creates 360 new classrooms

The government may be criticised for its spending policy, but at least its investments should cultivate goodwill amongst the Surinamese people. So far the presidential emergency 'Crash Programme' for the construction of new schools has provided 320 classrooms and, according to the Government, this should increase to 361 in the near future.
The power that President Desi Bouterse exerts through his committees and task forces has been criticised before. Political opponents argue that this form of policy is both "dictatorial and undemocratic". But it has also been demonstrated that these committees and task forces are an efficient way of delivering results. As an example the Presidential Task Force on Educational Innovation had to map the reasons for the disappointing exam results achieved by the various educational institutions. At very short notice it had advised on problems in 119 Surinamese schools and their results have been improved.
The programme involves both renovations and new construction projects. According to the government dozens of public facilities, restrooms, multimedia libraries, and ICT classrooms are being built. The total cost of the first phase of the project was around US$3.7 million.
The Task Force has not yet finished its work. The total Crash Programme budget is US$12.9 million. An inventory of the work that still has to be done has not yet been published.
For more news and expert analysis about Suriname, please see Suriname Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 16 September 2013

Algerian border controls to reduce petrol smuggling produce results

Algeria's black-marketeers and their clients in countries like Morocco and Tunisia had realised that there were considerable profits to be made from smuggling cheap Algerian petrol across rather porous land borders. By 2013, the impact of fuel smuggling was being felt, with Algeria's national consumption rocketing for no apparent reason. It was estimated that around 25% of subsidised Algerian hydro-carbons was being taken out of the country illegally, with the State losing around US$1.3 billion in revenue. In the course of summer 2013, the Algerian authorities reinforced border controls. On 8 September, Algeria's Minister of Energy Youcef Yousfi announced that the campaign was beginning to bear fruit. Fuel consumption was down.
In July 2012, consumption increased by 9%; a year later, for the same month, consumption was up by a mere 1.8%, attributable to increased summer traffic on the roads. The Moroccan State also suffered from loss of revenue due to declining fuel sales as well as the safety problem created by large amounts of petrol circulating in plastic barrels and other containers.
For more news and expert analysis about Morocco, please see Morocco Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Friday, 13 September 2013

Nigeria: Jonathan oscillates between compromise and vengeance

But the situation remains very much in flux. Since returning from a state trip to Kenya at the weekend, President Goodluck Jonathan has been in damage-control mode, racing through emergency meetings with friend and foe alike. He met former military leader Ibrahim Babangida and former PDP chairman Ahmadu Ali on 10 September, who could give him crucial support but they seem ambivalent towards Jonathan. Olusegun Obasanjo, who is also a key intermediary, was abroad in Belgium on 10-11 September. He seems to have numerous allies among the rebels.
Jonathan then held a closed meeting with members of the New PDP: Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Sule Lamido (Jigawa) and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto). While no conclusions emerged, there are concessions that Jonathan could make to pacify the rebels. Those would be, firstly, the removal of Bamanga Tukur from the PDP chairmanship; secondly, the reinstatement of Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi to the party and as chairman of the Nigeria Governors' Forum. The second concession is much more unlikely because of the high degree of personal animosity between Jonathan and Amaechi.
The New PDP, in fact, has already lifted Amaechi's suspension via the procedures of their own faction. Should the warring factions choose to reunite down the road, Jonathan and his supporters would be under pressure to accept this.
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 12 September 2013

More blood flowed into the sands of the Sinai

More blood flowed into the sands of the Sinai as the army stepped up its campaign to eradicate the different jihadist groups that have established bases or a presence there.
Six soldiers were killed on 11 September in two car-bomb explosions near military units in Rafah in North Sinai Peninsula, close to the border with Gaza.
Ali Azzazi, head of criminal investigations in North Sinai, and the state-run Middle East News Agency (MENA) called the attacks suicide car bombings. MENA said at least 17 people, including seven civilians, were injured, adding that one of the blasts destroyed the main gate of the intelligence building and damaged outside walls.
The attacks demonstrate that jihadist groups are prepared to take the offensive themselves.
The latest military operation began two days after the Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim survived an assassination attempt in Cairo on 5 September. It was, however, 24 hours before news agencies received a statement purporting to come from an extremist group based in the peninsula which said that it had been behind the attempt on the minister.
A car bomb exploded near the minister's convoy as he was leaving home for work on 5 September in Nasr City. The suicide bomber and at least one passer-by were killed and more than a score injured. The minister was unscathed in his armoured limousine.
For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Cameroon: Former president Ahmadou Ahidjo's daughter joins the CPDM to contest a parliamentary seat

For the past two decades, the family of Cameroon's first post- independence president, Ahmadou Ahidjo, has openly resisted joining President Biya's side. He was the man who peacefully succeeded their father in 1982, but then countered him in the 1984 coup and later condemned him to death for treason.
Biya's administration has also been vacillating on the question of Ahidjo's mortal remains being returned from Senegal so he could have a funeral that was worthy of such a statesman. His widow, Germaine Ahidjo, has never succeeded in realising this dream for which she has pressed since her husband died.
Events that unfolded last weekend showed, however, that the Ahidjo family is either openly divided and has unavoidably succumbed to Biya's grisly longevity in power, or was seeking a new tactic to penetrate the inner circles of a dangerous “enemy”.
So, having concluded that Biya has built an insurmountable political fortress, similar to that initially erected by her own father, the former president's youngest daughter, Aminatou Ahidjo, officially aligned herself with the CPDM in a flamboyant fashion on Friday 6 September. Clad in traditional CPDM regalia she was received by the CPDM Secretary-General Jean Nkuete at the party hall's esplanade in Yaounde. The solemn ceremony showed Nkuete flanked by his deputy Grégoire Owona and the party's Communication Secretary Jacques Fame Ndongo alongside other top officials who had come to receive the august guest.
For more news and expert analysis about Cameroon, please see Cameroon Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Ghana: Electoral Commission accepts need for reforms and calls for recommendations

The Supreme Court verdict - although in theory bolstering the Electoral Commission's (EC) position given its dismissal of the six petitioner counts by varying margins against Mahama, the NDC and the EC - has not been seen as a ringing endorsement of the EC's competence or conduct or of Afari Gyan's leadership. Anticipating the inevitable it is therefore unsurprising that the EC has indeed issued a call to political parties and other observers and stakeholders for recommendations for electoral reforms (to be submitted by November), which it will consider along with criticisms made by Supreme Court justices. Notably, these recommendations are to made - according to the EC - within the existing framework and laws although it is unclear what these boundaries mean in practice.
Publicly, at least, the various parties including the NDC , NPP, People's National Convention (PNC), Convention People's Party (CPP) and the Progressive People's Party (PPP) - among the multitude of officially registered political parties of which only seven fielded candidates in 2012 - have generally welcomed the EC's suggestion but not without criticism.
For example, the NDC's deputy secretary general George Lawson observed that the EC has a tendency to "rubbish what we say" and not listen to suggestions from the Inter-party Advisory Committee (IPAC, whose influence and power has been relatively insignificant so far. He went on to say that the NDC will meet to decide on any reform suggestions. The NPP's communications director Nana Akomea questioning the date of the elections and the resultant time for second round run-offs should they be needed as well as the need for simplification of the controversial "pink sheets". Other parties cited a need for additional technology to reduce errors and even a more general "overhaul" of the electoral system.
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Friday, 6 September 2013

Egypt: Media closures

The authorities have moved against the television channels it deems to be supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. A court in Cairo ordered the closure of four television stations, including the Brotherhood's Ahrar 25 TV, Al-Jazeera's Egyptian affiliate Mubasher Misr, Al-Quds, and Al-Yarmouk saying they were operating illegally.
Three journalists from Al-Jazeera English were deported.
From the outset of the revolt by young Arabs against their rulers in 2011, Al-Jazeera has provided the most comprehensive coverage of this widespread popular movement. Their Qatari owners firmly took the side of the street, to the dismay of ruling families and entrenched regimes across the region. They further have supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in the Gaza strip - and that support has now cost them access in Cairo.
The first step towards the proscribing of the Brotherhood as an organisation came when the State Commissioners Authority, a body that advises the government on legal issues, recommended its dissolution. It also called for the group's national headquarters in Moqattam to be closed. The recommendations were made in accordance with Law 84 of 2002, which prohibits non-government organisations and institutions from forming paramilitary groups. This particular charge came after an attack on the party's headquarters -which the interior ministry had warned it would not protect - and the actions of pro-Morsi supporters to protect themselves.
The State Commissioners Authority can only advise the government but it is likely that a similar measure will be invoked to ban the Brotherhood.
For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Omar Khadrawi was dismissed from his post

This week the Deputy Interior Minister with responsibility for Security Affairs, Omar Khadrawi, was dismissed from his post. It is not known why the official, who has had a relatively high profile, was forced to quit but it is reported that he was keen to leave and that he had, in fact, tendered his resignation back in June. According to some reports Prime Minister Zidan is considering appointing him as Libya's ambassador to Pakistan.

Regardless of the reasons behind his dismissal, Khadrawi's departure leaves the Interior Ministry another person down. The ministry still has no minister following the resignation of Mohamed Sheikh in the middle of August.
Despite the importance of the post, as yet there has been no confirmation of when a new appointment will be made, although it is believed that a number of names have been nominated for the job. It was reported this week that the post is to go to someone named Al-Mehdi Al-Harati, but these reports were denied by the ministry, which claimed it had no knowledge of any such appointment.
Meanwhile, the Interior Affairs Committee in the Congress declared that the head of the Security Committee in the ruling body, Khalid Al-Sayah, has been nominated to the post and he is widely believed to be the most likely choice for the post.
For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Ghana: Markets react positively to verdict

As one might expect the Supreme Court verdict in favour of the NDC and Mahama was positively received by the financial markets, which had been perturbed by the uncertainty created by the impending decision, the risk of unrest, the impact of a full or partial election re-run, and the partial paralysis of Ghana's political system due to this uncertainty.

In financial terms as the confidence of investors in Ghana increases, yields - or the implied market-demanded effective interest rates on outstanding bonds, given bonds' market price - on Ghana's cedi denominated bonds have indeed been falling. Rates on the planned September auctions of around 600 million cedis worth of bonds have perhaps fallen by between 2%-4% to as low as 17% - a rate not to be confused with the much lower rates and yields on the dollar denominated Ghana Eurobond.
Cedi depreciation may well also be slowed as investors stop the shift to dollar-denominated assets due to electoral uncertainty - with Elvis Darku of Nigeria's Access Bank projecting a slight cedi appreciation versus the dollar by the end of the year. This is even if other analysts remain pessimistic and unlikely to shift from predictions of further cedi decline, even with the recent influx of Eurobond dollars and expected receipt of Cocobod financing dollars through the agreed US$1.2 billion syndicated financing facility which should both increase dollar supply and thus reduce its relative price compared to the cedi.
On the inflation front, despite double-digit inflation and the impact of cedi depreciation on inflation due to relatively more expensive (in cedis) imports, the most recent release from the state Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) indicates that July producer price inflation has fallen by 0.5% in month-on-month terms and by 2% points on a year on year basis, to 5% for July 2013 compared to July 2012 (whereas the June producer price level was 7% higher than that in June 2012).
Although this may seem like positive news, further detail revealed by GSS statistician Dr Philomena Nyarko indicates that while manufacturing inflation rose from 10.6% to 10.9% (year-on-year), mining and quarrying inflation fell significantly into the sub-zero zone partly due to lower gold prices - a factor which (broader implications for Ghana's economy aside) is unlikely to cause sustained inflation relief.
For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Nigeria: Bank governor Sanusi keeps tight grip on money supply

Security risks, corruption and unemployment do not seem to have dented foreign optimism about Nigeria's economy. The country's US$1 billion Eurobond was four times oversubscribed at its launch in July and the capital markets continue to attract interest.

Central Bank of Nigeria governor Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi's decision to maintain a tight monetary policy rate in spite of the prevailing favourable economic indices was designed to keep the Nigerian economy attractive as a destination for portfolio investors and raise the volume of foreign exchange.
But some analysts think that the hot money being pumped in through portfolio investments could do more harm than good if a stronger regulatory structure is not imposed on fund managers.
Even Kingsley Moghalu, the CBN Deputy Governor for Financial Stability, seemed to agree. "The monetary policy rate at this point in time is reasonably high," he recently said.
Tope Fasua, the chief executive officer of Global Analytics Consulting Limited in Abuja, thinks the reliance on foreign funds is a possible risk - the money could flee as quickly as it is now pouring in.
"In 2008/9 we had a crash in our stock market of about 70%, from which the market is still recovering," Fasua told Nigeria Politics & Security. "A lot of the market recovery is actually from foreign portfolio investment, which may also disappear in a jiffy" if conditions turn sour.
A lot of the monies playing in that market are from foreign portfolio managers.
The influx of foreign portfolio investments increases the reserves level and strengthens the naira, which means the central bank has to intervene in the market less often, Fasua said. Meanwhile, many Nigerian investors are watching the market from the sidelines, having been burnt in the past.
"When these investors are leaving they will demand foreign currency," said Fasua. "There is a huge risk that the naira will fall if these guys, for any reason, decided to exit their investments en masse, and we would be in a much worse shape than ever. The reserves we have accumulated may therefore be a mirage."
For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

Monday, 2 September 2013

Morocco's banks get good ratings from Fitch's

Four of Morocco's leading financial institutions received good marks in August evaluations published by Fitch ratings agency. Two of the largest banks, both of which have the support of their French mother banks, namely the Société Générale du Maroc (SGMA) and the BMCI (BNP-Paribas group) were rated AAA/stable perspectives for the long term, while AttijariWafa Bank (AWB) was rated AA-/stable perspectives. The SGMA's credit subsidiary Eqdom was rated AA/stable perspectives.

AttijariWafa Bank is a major player in the Moroccan banking sector with 28% market share. With no outside shareholder, AWB's rating of AA- reflects a more exposed position than those of SGMA and BMCI. AWB is active across Francophone Africa: 6% of its loans are in Tunisia, a country passing through a period of instability, to say the least, while another 12% of loans are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Fitch's considers that an increased volume of loans in the latter region constitutes a risk.

Although the AWB performs well in the Moroccan market, increased competition and a rise in interest rates could affect performance. Any lowering of Morocco's sovereign rating, currently at BBB-/stable, or a reduction in liquidities could lead to a downgrading of AWB's rating. Given the bank's short-term finance needs, its available liquidities (MAD19.6 billion / US$2.3 billion) are moderate.

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

© 2013 Menas Associates