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  • Egypt & Ethiopia: resource tensions or complementarity?

    Author: Michael B. BISHKU.

    Egypt and Ethiopia are undeniably two important middle powers in northeastern Africa with distinct identities. They have a long history of interactions that have varied between cooperation and contention. Culturally, their respective populations share two religions – Coptic Christianity and Islam of the Sunni sect – while geographically, they share the resources of the Nile River Basin. These connections have facilitated mutually beneficial trade, but also have led to periodic confrontations or at the very least disputes.
    Fluctuating borders and control of trade routes and resources led to conflict during the nineteenth century. As independent African states during the first half of the twentieth century before the period of decolonization, Egypt and Ethiopia cooperated in the process of modernization in the latter country. Since then, while the Ethiopian church achieved autocephaly, the Cold War, the Arab-Israeli conflict, droughts and population growth have at times negatively affected bilateral relations. In recent years, the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and the lack of an agreement on a timetable for filling the dam’s reservoir and on water release in the event of droughts has created a potentially dangerous situation in northeastern Africa.

    Introduction.

    Egypt and Ethiopia are undeniably two important middle powers with distinct identities located in northeastern Africa within the Nile River Basin area. Egypt is the most populated Arab state with a population of over 104 million, composed of 90% Muslim (predominantly Sunni) and 10% Christian, with a majority of the latter being Coptic Orthodox. Ethiopia is a multiethnic, multilingual country with the second largest population in SubSaharan Africa after Nigeria at just under 118 million, composed of approximately 44% Ethiopian Orthodox (Coptic), 31% Sunni Muslim, and the remainder predominantly other Christian sects and traditional faiths (World Bank, 2021). Approximately 95% of Egypt’s population lives within 20 kilometres of the Nile River and its delta and only 2.8% of its land is arable (CIA, World Factbook, “Egypt,” 2022). In 2021, annual rainfall in Egypt was just over 21 millimetres (or 0.8 inches), the lowest in Africa (Trading Economics, 2022). Approximately 80% of Ethiopia’s population lives in rural areas and is concentrated in the northern and middle parts of the country, while 15.2% of the land is arable (CIA, World Factbook, “Ethiopia,” 2022). In 2021, annual rainfall in Ethiopia was 927 millimetres or 36.5 inches (Trading Economics, 2022). As can be seen, both countries have sizable rural populations, with Egypt’s being more concentrated and more dependent upon the Nile as a source of water, especially for agriculture and, in recent decades, as an important source of electrical power. It accounts for 90 per cent of Egypt’s water needs. However, at the same time, Ethiopia has had a history of recurring droughts. While sharing the Nile River Basin is a commonality of geography, one of a social nature is Coptic Christianity, which originated in Egypt and became the state church of Ethiopia under that country’s monarchy.
    The two countries have had a long history of interactions. In recent centuries, upon which this article will concentrate, that initially involved military conflicts as the respective territories under their rule, which fluctuated, bordered one another. Unlike many other territories in Africa, neither country became a European colony during the nineteenth century. However, both Egypt and Ethiopia did fall under the direct influence of European powers for periods of time. In the case of Egypt, which had become autonomous from the Ottoman Empire during the nineteenth century, Britain established a protectorate over that country, first informally and later formally from 1881-1922, and still had influence over certain issues in that country until 1936. In the case of Ethiopia, it was occupied by Italy, either in part or in full, from 1935-1941. Otherwise, Egypt and Ethiopia engaged in relations that have varied between cooperation and contention, given the nature of the world and regional politics at the time – including the Arab-Israeli conflict – and/or disputes over water usage in the Nile River Basin. Currently, the most important concern is how will the operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) located on the Blue Nile – where about 85 per cent of the waters of the Nile originate – which began generating electricity in 2022, affect water flow to downstream neighbors, Sudan and Egypt.

    Egyptian-Ethiopian relations: from earliest times to the present.

    According to Ethiopian church tradition, the Coptic sect of Christianity was brought to Ethiopia by two Syrian boys who became slaves in the court of the King of Axum, Ella Amida, at the end of the third century C.E. When Ella Amida’s son, Ezanas, who converted to Christianity, came to power early in the fourth century, one of the slaves, who had been freed by the King’s mother travelled to visit the Patriarch in Alexandria, upon which he was appointed Bishop of Axum to further his evangelism (Marcus, 1994, p. 7). Axum thus became politically and religiously linked to Byzantine Egypt until the Arab conquest of that country during the mid-seventh century; afterwards, despite generally cordial relations with Egypt, both Muslim civil and Coptic religious authorities refused to allow the Ethiopian church the right to appoint its own metropolitan (archbishop) and bishops (Marcus, 1994, pp. 13-14).

    The kingdom of Axum fell to the Zangwe dynasty in the tenth century, which subsequently in 1270 gave way to the last royal line of Ethiopia, the Solomonic dynasty under Emperor Yekuno Amlak from Shewa; in order to enhance legitimacy, he and his followers promoted a fictitious story about his descent from King Solomon and Makeda, the Queen of Sheba (known as Saba in Ethiopia). As Yekuno Amlak subsequently conquered Muslim-populated areas adjacent to Shewa, Mamluk authorities in Cairo refused to send a new bishop to Ethiopia (Marcus, 1994, p. 20). This form of leverage was possible until the Ethiopian Orthodox Church achieved autocephaly (their own patriarch) in 1959. Yet a successor of Yekuno Amlak, Amda Siyon, who quashed Muslim rebellions in Ethiopia and threatened to divert the waters of the Blue Nile in response to the persecution of Egyptian Copts, forced Mamluk authorities to restore a bishop to Ethiopia in 1337 (Marcus, 1994, pp. 21-22; Pankhurst, 1997, p. 40).

    As mentioned earlier, during the nineteenth century, Egypt, autonomous from the Ottoman Empire, and Ethiopia came into conflict over the possession of territories on their common border. From 1769 to 1855, known as “the time of the princes,” powerless Ethiopian emperors were dependent upon provincial warlords. The Egyptian governor Muhammad Ali invaded the interior of Sudan in the early 1820s in search of slaves and gold, having earlier established control over the Red Sea ports of Suakin in Sudan and Massawa in Eritrea. During the campaign, his troops were pushed into gold-bearing areas claimed by Ethiopia. However, with having to conduct simultaneous military operations in Greece and Arabia, the Egyptian presence in Sudan was somewhat overextended, and the border area in Mordechai Abir’s words, became “a vast no man’s land … between the most forward posts of the Egyptians and what Ethiopian lords considered to be their territories” (Abir, p. 447) Fighting along this frontier continued on and off, and in May 1842, Muhammad Ali told the French consul-general in Egypt that “hostilities between the population of Ethiopia and the Egyptians were never serious,” but that military actions in the area disturbed the caravan trade and Egypt wanted to protect it (Abir, p. 447). By the end of 1848, the Egyptians were unable to defend the Red Sea coast and evacuated Massawa and surrounding areas. Yet as for the “undefined and contested border” between the two countries, “Rebels, highwaymen and malcontents of different sorts were using each side against the other” (Abir, p. 460).

    The conflict would heat up again in the 1870s when Egypt was ruled by Khedive Ismail, Muhammad Ali’s grandson,
    and Ethiopia by Emperor Yohannes IV (reigned 1871- 1889). In 1865, Egypt regained control of Massawa, and seven years later occupied lands between Massawa and Sudan. In 1875, the Egyptians captured the important trading center at Harar and consolidated their control over the Somali coast. However, despite having good relations with King Menelik of Shewa – who would later be crowned Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia in 1889 – the Egyptians were defeated handily by Emperor Yohannes’ forces, four times larger in number, at Gura, located in present-day Eritrea southeast of Asmara, in March 1876 (Yohannes, 1991, pp. 37-38; Marcus, 1994, pp. 74-75). The Egyptians would hold on to parts of Eritrea into the early 1880s when they abandoned Sudan, which fell under the control of the Mahdi, and Italy invaded Eritrea. In 1899, Britain set up the Anglo-Egyptian condominium in Sudan, which despite its name, was essentially run by the British governors-general until Sudan was granted independence in 1956. In May 1902, an Anglo-Ethiopian treaty was signed – the negotiation over which Egypt was not a participant and a treaty was never ratified by either the British Parliament or Ethiopia’s Crown Council – demarcating the Sudanese-Egyptian border (Hanna, 2019, p. 2902). Also, Emperor Menelik II agreed not to construct or allow it to be constructed and works across the Blue Nile, Lake Tana or the Sabot [meaning the Sobat River, now located in South Sudan, but has tributaries originating in Ethiopia] which would arrest the flow of their waters into the Nile except in agreement with His Britannic Majesty’s Government and the Government of Sudan (Kendie, 1999, p. 146).

    Meanwhile, Emperor Menelik II, who would rule Ethiopia until his death in 1913, instituted a process of modernizing
    his country. Infrastructure was either improved or built anew in Addis Ababa; schools (which employed Egyptian teachers), hospitals and a government press as well as a national postal system – which also offered telephone and telegraphic service – and a bank were established. In March 1905, the last institution, known as the Bank of Abyssinia, was created as an affiliate of the National Bank of Egypt (Marcus, 1994, p. 107). This financial institution,
    which issued bank notes and engaged in commercial banking was a fifty-year concession with shares in the operation owned by British, French and Italian groups, and conducted most transactions in Maria Theresa thalers, even though world banking was based on the gold standard. It began operations in Addis Ababa in February 1906. In 1930, Emperor Haile Selassie, who at one time was a member of the Board of Directors, nationalized the bank and provided adequate compensation to the shareholders. It was chartered as the Bank of Ethiopia in August 1931, with private shareholders participating in a joint-stock company, though operations were fully controlled by the Ethiopian government; however, the company was liquidated by the Italians in 1936 (Mauri, 2010, pp. 104-106, 108-110, and 114-115). When the Bank of Ethiopia was reopened in 1943, Egyptians were invited to provide technical assistance, in addition to Ethiopia’s Department of Mines, Coal, Customs, and Factory Management (Hanna, 2019, p. 2903). Besides the national bank, Menelik created a Ministry of Education with an Egyptian educator in charge until 1936 (Hanna, 2019, p. 2903).

    Luckily, Ethiopia avoided participation in the First World War as all its European colonial neighbors were members of the Entente, though Menelik’s grandson, Emperor Iyasu V (reigned 1913-1916) flirted with the Ottoman Empire, a member of the Central Powers (Bishku, 2022, p.3); he was replaced by Menelik’s daughter Zewditu (reigned 1916- 1930), who was succeeded by Haile Selassie, though the latter, as heir apparent, wielded a certain amount of power over Ethiopia’s internal administration and foreign policy during Zewditu’s reign. Egypt, however, was pulled into the war effort, being forced to provide labor and commodities for the British army; Britain’s policies provoked nationalist fervor throughout the country following the war and forced the British to concede Egypt’s independence in 1922 with four reservations: 1) the maintenance of security for Imperial communications; 2) influence in defense matters; 3) protection of foreign interests and minorities in Egypt; and 4) administration of Sudan. In 1936, Egypt gained the right to make treaties with foreign countries, while the British relinquished their reservations withdrawing their military forces to the Suez Canal and allowing Egypt some influence over Sudanese affairs. The following year, Egypt joined the League of Nations.

    Egypt and Ethiopia established formal diplomatic relations in 1927, with Egypt opening a consulate in Addis Ababa (Egypt, State Information Service, 2019). However, in 1924, one year after Ethiopia joined the League of Nations, an organization which Haile Selassie mistakenly believed would provide Ethiopia with adequate collective security, the heir apparent to the Ethiopian throne visited Egypt. His main goal was to meet with the Coptic patriarch and convince that official to have the current old bishop in Ethiopia (Matewos) be replaced with an Ethiopian upon his death – which happened in 1926 – and to allow his successors to appoint other bishops in Ethiopia, requests that were denied as was a demand to have the keys to the Jerusalem monastery of Deir alSultan at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Erlich, 2002, pp. 97-98); the first set of issues were eventually settled with autocephaly being granted in 1959, while the second issue, was decided by the Israeli government in favor of the Ethiopians in 1970 (“Deir es-Sultan Monastery’s,” 2018). Haile Selassie also visited the Delta Barrages, built during the mid-nineteenth century and repaired during the British occupation of Egypt to provide irrigation for agriculture (Erlich, 2002, p. 97).
    In 1929, Egypt and Britain signed an agreement stipulating that “no irrigation or power works or measures are to be constructed or taken on the River Nile or its tributaries, or on the lakes from which it flows in so far as all these are in Sudan or in countries under British administration, which would entail prejudice to the interests of Egypt.”
    As Ethiopia was never a British colony, once again restrictions did not apply to that country (Kendie, 1999, p. 147). Meanwhile, Egypt and Ethiopia engaged in trade with the former exporting food products, while importing coffee, fabrics and shoes (Hanna, 2019, p. 2903). In April 1935, just six months before Italy invaded Ethiopia, an Ethiopian delegation unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate a treaty of friendship with Egypt. The Italian legation in Cairo informed the Egyptian government that such would be regarded as “an unfriendly act towards Italy,” even though Egypt could not have taken such action until the signing of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of August 1936. Yet it was the Italian invasion of Ethiopia that influenced Egypt and Britain to arrive at that agreement. While some Egyptians volunteered to fight against the Italians or to serve in Red Crescent medical teams on the battlefield, there was also a small segment of ultranationalists who disliked Ethiopia due to their perception of its treatment of Muslims in that country and/or the fact that Italy might pose a useful threat to eliminate all British influence in Egypt (Arielli, 2013, pp. 54-58).
    In April 1942, Ethiopia demanded that Britain, which had established a military administration over Eritrea, turn over to its control of that territory based on historical and ethnic arguments and as a form of reparation for Italy’s aggression against Ethiopia. Egypt, for its part, submitted a memorandum to the victorious Allied countries in 1946 laying claim to Eritrea on historical and economic grounds, the latter due to the importance of the port of Massawa for the external trade of inland Sudan (Yohannes, 1991, pp. 73-76). In 1952, the United Nations under pressure from the United States, approved Eritrea being in a federation with pro-Western Ethiopia. Eritrea was to have autonomy on all matters except foreign affairs, defence and currency, but Ethiopia proceeded to weaken the territory’s status and character, including, in 1957, replacing Tigrinya and Arabic with Amharic as the official language. In 1962, Ethiopia annexed Eritrea, one year after conflict ensued with Egypt’s Arab nationalist President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who had overthrown the Egyptian monarchy ten years earlier, providing support to the Eritrean insurgents.
    The Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), established in July 1960, was dominated by Eritrean Muslims and had a military training base near Alexandria, Egypt (Erlich, 1994, pp. 130-133) until 1963 when the group moved to Syria. Beginning in 1962, Nasser concentrated on the war in Yemen against the royalist government there, the event which prompted Ethiopia to annex Eritrea (Erlich, 1994, p. 139). Also, the ELF base was closed so that Nasser could join host Haile Selassie in the opening ceremony for the Organization of African States’ (OAU) headquarters in Addis Ababa (Erlich, 2014, pp. 139-140). Yet the ELF’s inspiration had been formed when its leaders were in exile in Egypt as it “depicted the rebellion in Eritrea as part of a pan-Arab revolution and Ethiopia as a satellite of colonialism and Zionism.” Indeed, one of its founders, Ibrahim Sultan, stated the following at an Arab League summit in Cairo in 1964: “We the Eritreans are Arabs no less than the Palestinians. We fight against the Jews of Africa as personified by the emperor and his government – the offspring of Solomon, the Lion of Judah, just like the Palestinians fight against the Jews in Palestine” (Erlich, 2002, p. 147).
    Yet when the Ethiopian emperor visited Cairo in June 1959, Nasser praised Haile Selassie, revealing that he met the emperor in 1940 as an army officer stationed in Khartoum and had admired him since then, while Haile Selassie “was less gracious,” but as Haggai Erlich points out the visit “highlighted the contradiction between the two leaders’ rhetoric and mutual suspicion in which each held the other” (Erlich, 1994, p. 137). Indeed, the suspicions had merit as Egypt and Sudan signed an agreement on water usage of the Nile in November 1959 with a unified approach to any consent for its use by other upstream riparian states, much to the displeasure of Ethiopia and all the latter countries (Shapland, 1997, p. 74). Also, Ethiopia was developing an alliance with Israel, which, as part of the Arab-Israeli conflict, was in rivalry with Egypt for influence in Africa. Although Ethiopia had abstained in the 1947 United Nations vote to partition Palestine and did not grant de jure recognition to Israel until 1961, it became part of Israel’s secret Peripheral Alliance, in 1958, which also included Turkey and Iran and whose purpose in Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s words was: “to stand up steadfastly to Soviet expansion through Nasser” (“Ben-Gurion to Eisenhower,” 1958). Israel established an embassy in Addis Ababa in 1962 and assisted Ethiopia in intelligence and security matters, but Haile Selassie kept the relationship very low-key even after Nasser died in 1970, and never opened up an embassy in Israel until it broke off relations in October 1973. Yet as late as December 1972, Haile Selassie “expressed sympathy for Israel in private and shared his fears with the Israeli ambassador [Hanan Aynor] that the Arabs would penetrate Central Africa and turn Islam into a subversive movement” (Erlich, 2014, p. 237). Also, before Ethiopia broke relations with Israel, in July 1973, Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat, whom Haile Selassie had visited two years earlier and had built a trusting relationship with, tried unsuccessfully to get Syria and Libya to stop supporting the Eritreans while suggesting that Ethiopia should grant autonomy to Eritrea (Erlich, 2014, p. 250).
    With the overthrow of Haile Selassie in September 1974 by the military, whose leadership was known as the Derg, and the increasing radicalization of that group, geopolitics in the region substantially changed. Mengistu Haile Mariam became its undisputed leader by 1977 and subsequently developed close ties with the Soviet bloc. Meanwhile, the ELF was challenged and superseded by the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF), which eventually led Eritrea to independence in 1993, while eventually abandoning Marxism and Arab nationalism. Egypt, during Sadat’s tenure, unlike other Arab states, did not get involved in the Eritrean conflict.
    It did, however, develop an adversarial relationship with Mengistu’s regime in part by providing support to fellow Arab League member Somalia, which also developed close ties with the United States. During the Ogaden War of July 1977-March 1978 – which began with Mogadishu’s invasion of that Somali-populated province of Ethiopia, but ended with significant Soviet military assistance in the form of advisors and armaments as well as Cuban troops coordinating together with their Ethiopian counterparts to drive the Somalis back across the international border – Egypt sent Somalia, in the past well equipped by the Soviets, armaments worth US$30 million and expressed the concern that the Ethiopian revolution might spread to Sudan (Mekonnen, 2018, pp. 280-281). Mengistu accused Sadat of “fueling the invasion,” while Ethiopia’s government-controlled press compared the Egyptian leader to Khedive Ismail, who was defeated attempting to control the Nile Basin, as well as pointing out that Ethiopia could cut off the flow of the Blue Nile. (Erlich, 2002, pp. 166-167; Mekonnen, 2018, pp. 281-282). Following the war, in 1979, when Sadat proposed piping water from the Nile for irrigation in the northern Sinai, Mengistu threatened to retaliate by reducing the flow of
    the Blue Nile; Sadat responded by issuing the following warning: “If Ethiopia takes any action to block our right to the Nile water, there will be no alternative for us but to use force” (Swain, 1997, p. 687).


    Sadat’s assassination facilitated better relations between the two countries. In 1983, Egypt’s ambassador to Ethiopia, Samir Ahmed, delivered a series of lectures at Addis Ababa University compiled in a book titled Egypt and Africa: on the Road to Cooperation, which in part emphasized: “the desire to put the historical thorny relations between Ethiopia and Egypt aside” (Mekonnen, 2018, pp. 287-288). Yet nothing was done to address matters concerning usage of the Nile River, and in 1988 Egypt blocked a loan from the African Development Bank that Ethiopia sought for the construction of the Tala Beles Project, which would take water from Lake Tana to the Beles River through a series of five dams to generate hydroelectric power and provide irrigation (Kendie, 1999, p. 158). Nevertheless, between 1981 and 1985, Egypt did propose scholarships to Ethiopians in the fields of agriculture, mass media, water engineering, nursing, maritime transit, industrial development and higher education as well as joint projects such as exhibitions and
    workshops and invitations for Ethiopian officials to visit Egypt, but all offers were turned down. In 1984, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who had been Sadat’s Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and felt that Egypt’s greatest security threat came from the south, met with Mengistu twice as did Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ismat Abdel-Maguid once, thus facilitating a visit to Mengistu in Ethiopia by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (1981-2011) in July 1985; the two leaders got along well on a personal level (Erlich, 2002, p. 170). A few months before, a trade agreement was signed providing for Ethiopia to export agricultural products to Egypt, while Egypt would export processed industrial goods to Ethiopia, but no action was taken on implementation (Yihun, 2014, p. 77). Mubarak participated in the OAU summit in Addis Ababa in July 1986, and when there invited Mengistu to visit Egypt, while Egyptian Foreign Ministry officials apologized for Sadat’s supplying Somalia with weapons in the Ogaden War (Yihun, 2014, p. 78). Mengistu made an official visit to Egypt in April 1987, mostly because he was dissatisfied with financial assistance from the Soviet Union (Erlich, 2002, p. 176); during his time in Cairo, it was agreed to establish a Joint Ministerial Economic Commission, but the famine of 1983-1985 and a radical policy of resettlement in the countryside had alienated much of the population, while Mengistu was unable to defeat militarily the Tigrayans, who dominated the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), and the Eritreans of the EPLF; Mengistu’s days in power were numbered. By July 1993, with Mengistu gone from the scene having fled into exile in Zimbabwe in 1991, Mubarak and Ethiopia’s then-President (later prime minister from 1995 until his death in 2012) Meles Zenawi, who had been the leader of the victorious EPRDF, signed a treaty in which for the first time Egypt acknowledged Ethiopia’s right to share in the Nile Basin’s water, while both countries committed not to engage in any activity which might harm the interests of the other country. However, three years later, Ethiopia built two dams on the Blue Nile without consulting Egypt, while in 1997, Egypt began plans on the New Valley Project, a system of canals from Lake Nasser, created with the construction of the Aswan High Dam (1960-1970), to irrigate the Western Desert, without informing countries upriver (Lawson, 2016, p. 97-98). Writing in the mid-1990s, one knowledgeable observer noted “Given that Ethiopia is projected to have more people to feed by 2025 than Egypt, [this happened earlier than predicted] the Government is obviously going to maintain the nation’s sovereign right to develop all resources within its borders (Swain, 1997, p. 689). Yet in February 1999, in Dar-es-Salaam, representatives from nine countries – Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – agreed on the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), whose purpose was “to achieve sustainable socioeconomic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile basin water resources” (Tawfik, 2016, p.71).

    Negotiations subsequently commenced for a Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA), but disagreements developed between Egypt and Sudan on one side and the upstream states on the other side over the wording of one proposed Article concerning the issue of water security. Egypt opposed a decision by a two-thirds majority vote unless such included downstream states; when six of the seven upstream countries involved in the NBI (all except the DRC) signed the CFA by February 2011, Egypt and Sudan froze their participation in the NBI (Tawfik, 2016, pp. 72-73). By then, Egypt was in the midst of the Arab Spring that forced Mubarak to resign from the presidency. However, back
    in 2010, a high-level official close to Mubarak wrote in an email published by WikiLeaks: The only country that is not cooperating is Ethiopia. We are continuing … the diplomatic approach. Yes, we are discussing mlitary cooperation with Sudan. If it comes to a crisis, we will send a jet to bomb the [proposed] dam and come back in one day, simple as that. Or we can send our special forces into block/sabotage the dam (Abebe, 2014, p. 33).
    In April 2011, Ethiopia announced the beginning of construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which had been in the planning stages for some time, about 40 kilometers east of the Sudanese border. It is the largest dam in Africa and the tenth largest in the world. Negotiations took place periodically beginning in 2013 between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. Under Prime Ministers Hailemariam Desalegn (2012-2018) and Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia has claimed its “right to utilize one of its resources for national development under international law of equitable use of transboundary water bodies,” while Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has claimed its rights to water usage under previous international agreements (Maru, 2020). In 2015, the three countries signed a declaration of principles under which Egypt and Sudan agreed that Ethiopia had the right to develop GERD and that an agreement needed to be reached on a timetable for filling the dam’s reservoir and on water release in the event of droughts (Soliman, 2021; Mbaku, 2020); however, no such agreement was completed before the first filling of the dam’s reservoir in 2020 despite mediation attempts by the African Union and the United States.

    Conclusion.

    Egypt and Ethiopia have a long history of interactions that have varied between cooperation and contention. Culturally, their respective populations share two religions, Coptic Christianity and Islam of the Sunni sect, while geographically they share the resources of the Nile River Basin. These connections have facilitated mutually beneficial trade, but also have led to periodic confrontations or at the very least disputes. Fluctuating borders and control of trade routes and resources led to conflict during the nineteenth century. During the first half the twentieth century, Egypt and Ethiopia, two of only three independent African states – Liberia being the other one – despite periodic cooperation, still faced political pressure from the European powers. Since then, while the Ethiopian church achieved autocephaly, the Cold War, the Arab-Israeli conflict, droughts and population growth have at times negatively affected bilateral relations and there is currently a dangerous deadlock over usage of the Nile waters.

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  • Polls show Peter Obi winning Nigeria’s presidential elections

    Author: Kabir YUSUF.

    Labour Party’s Peter Obi is still projected to win Nigeria’s 2023 presidential election, according to a new poll commissioned by ANAP Foundation.

    The nationwide poll shows a significant lead taken by Mr Obi with Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) respectively trailing him.

    Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) emerged as a distant fourth behind Messrs Tinubu and Abubakar.

    Conducted in early December, the results showed 23 per cent of voters willing to vote for Mr Obi if the presidential election were to be conducted today; and 13 per cent proposing to vote for Mr Tinubu who fell in second place.

    Mr Abubakar came third with 10 per cent and Mr Kwankwaso was a distant fourth with only 2 per cent of voters proposing to vote for him.

    “Mr Peter Obi’s 10 per cent point lead at this stage is significant, but not sufficient to separate him from a leading pack of candidates scoring 13 per cent, 10 per cent and 2 per cent,” said Atedo Peterside, the president and founder of ANAP foundation.

    “Undecided voters and those who prefer not to reveal their preferred candidate add up to a whopping 29 per cent and 23 per cent respectively. The gender split of undecided voters shows that 38 per cent of women are undecided versus 21 per cent of male voters.”

    The percentage of registered voters or voters with their permanent voter’s card as of December is 90 per cent in the North East; 89 per cent in the South West and 88 per cent in the South-South. The lowest voter registration percentages were recorded in the North Central with 87 per cent; North West with 86; and the South East with 84 per cent, the report said.

    “The percentage of voters refusing to disclose the name of their preferred candidate has increased sharply from 15 per cent to 23 per cent making it difficult for us to ascertain if any of the candidates has picked up significant momentum between September and December 2023,” Mr Peterside said in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES.

    The foundation had commissioned a poll in September that tipped Mr Obi to win the election with Mr Tinubu and Mr Abubakar finishing second and third position respectively.

    When asked if religion would affect the choice of respondents, data gathered showed that 15 per cent of the respondents replied in the affirmative to religion influencing their choice of candidates but 81 per cent, on the other hand, responded that their choices were not being influenced by religion, the report added.

    On ethnicity, 10 per cent of the respondents noted that ethnicity informed their choice of candidates while 86 per cent said their choices were not influenced by ethnicity.
    The top five reasons why voters are more inclined to vote in the forthcoming election are the need to tackle insecurity (35 per cent), Economy (26 per cent), Unemployment (10 per cent), Poverty alleviation (7 per cent), and Education (6 per cent).

    Overall, 71 per cent of the respondents believed the presidential candidates should compulsorily participate in a televised debate and/or town hall meeting, with the debates/town hall meetings spanning across topics like their manifestos, competence checks, and personality recognition amongst others.

    The percentage of respondents willing to vote in the upcoming election varies by age bracket. For instance, 73 per cent of persons between the age of 18 – 25 intended to vote in February while 82 per cent of registered voters aged 26-35 said they are going to vote.

    About 85 per cent of voters aged 36-45 are ready to vote and 86 per cent of registered voters aged 46-60 are also going to vote. About 82 per cent of registered voters aged 61+ responded that they would vote in the upcoming elections.

    The age groups that expressed the greatest willingness to vote were those between 36-45 and 46-60 years.
    On average, the poll shows that 8 in 10 registered voters are certain that they would be voting in the next presidential election.

    “If they stay committed then we could witness a huge turnout in the February Presidential 2023 elections,” Mr Peterside said.

    “While this Poll result shows some significant trends, it is key to note that the battle ahead lies in the hands of the undecided/swing voters as they would ultimately decide which candidate takes the lead to emerge as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the 2023 presidential elections.”

    Methodology.

    The researchers said the survey was polled “from 1,000 respondents; after which Anap Foundation conducted similar polls with a 2,000 and 3,000 respondents sample size, the difference in the results was not significant.”

    The high percentage of voters (38 per cent) who refused to disclose their preferred candidate in the South West Zone is worrisome. For other zones, those who refused to disclose their preferred candidate ranged from 14-23% per cent,” the group said.

    “Historically, an exceedingly high percentage of voters refusing to disclose their preferred candidate is usually associated with perceptions/fears (real or imagined) of possible voter intimidation within a geographical area.”

    Anap foundation added: “Our December 2022 Polls are inconclusive in terms of establishing a clear winner as the undecided voters, combined with the voters who refused to disclose their preferences, are enough to turn the tables.”

    “However, Anap Foundation has concluded that the trends are clear enough to establish the front-runners and so our subsequent polls will continue to concentrate on the 4 leading candidates only.”

  • What can Africa expect from Davos? Optimism in turbulent times

    Author: Masahudu ANKIILU

    When the great and good of global finance, industry and politics gather in the Swiss mountains for the World Economic Forum in January, the ghosts of 2022, one of the most turbulent years in history will barely have been extinguished.

    When they last met in May for the first in-person Davos since the pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was top of mind, not least because of a stirring presentation from President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

    It was clear, even then, that the invasion, which led to stiff sanctions on Russia and concomitant shocks to Europe’s energy supplies, presaged an extremely difficult year, even as the world was grappling with the aftershocks of the pandemic and the supply chain disruptions it had occasioned.

    The result, among other things, was record-high inflation around the world, aggressive monetary tightening by central banks in response and for many emerging markets, including many in Africa, increasing debt vulnerabilities.

    The theme for this year’s gathering, “Cooperation in a Fragmented World”, reflects the challenges highlighted in 2022, as global tensions rose and fears of economic and political bifurcation heightened. While Davos is essentially a private gathering, its influence on policy cannot be denied, owing at least in part to the increasing power of corporate entities and their ability to shape the economic narrative of countries they choose to invest or withdraw from.

    This is why leaders of countries go to Davos, and have done since they were first invited in 1974, three years after German engineer and economist Klaus Schwab first convened the meetings – because the discussions there matter. On their plate this year will be issues of inflation, growth, debt, climate, food and energy security, investment and, of course, the changing political conditions under which businesses big and small must operate in across the world.

    Analysts expect the global economic picture to be only slightly better in 2023, with pronounced risks from a recession in Europe and China’s rocky departure from its zero Covid policy. Overall, however, the global economy is expected to grow by about 1.8%, according to Goldman Sachs. Estimates published by the Economist Intelligence Unit peg growth in Africa at 3.2% in 2023, although there will be lingering risks of debt distress, high cost of capital and challenging conditions for especially commodity dependent economies.

    These and other critical matters will be on the minds of the African contingent at Davos this year. Chido Munyati, head of regional agenda for Africa and a global leadership fellow at the World Economic Forum expects strong representation from the continent at the annual event. About 10 heads of state are expected, he says, from all the regions of the continent.

    Making business part of the solution.

    This is reflective of a more muscular presence on the multilateral stage for Africa. The past year has seen an acceleration of calls for restructuring of the international political and financial architecture to give the continent a stronger voice. At the US-Africa Leaders Summit in December, President Joe Biden gave fresh impetus to this push when he openly backed the call for Africa to be granted a permanent, additional seat at the G20.

    Munyati is, however, quick to clarify that Davos is an opportunity for the public sector to engage with the private sector and African countries attending must be focused on partnerships with the private sector. Political solutions can be canvassed in other fora but at Davos “it’s really about how business can be a part of that solution,” he says. And with over 1,500 private sector leaders present, there really can be no better place to build these partnerships.

    At last year’s meeting, for example, Namibia took the opportunity to launch its green hydrogen offerings to an expectant community of investors. Energy is one of such areas of cooperation that Munyati expects leaders from the continent to address.

    “For example, with the energy transition, the reality is that 600m people in Africa do not have access to electricity and this is in the context of Africa having the fastest growing population, and so the question is how will the region attain the cheap affordable and modern energy solutions needed to meet this challenge?” he muses.

    The spectre of debt.

    Generally, Africa’s concerns will mirror those of the rest of the world. Chief among them will be how to return to growth. The combined effects of the pandemic and the war have compromised Africa’s efforts at economic growth. Prior to 2020, the fastest growing economies were in Africa. The twin shocks have exposed the vulnerabilities of African economies, including dependence on commodities for revenue, lack of local production and risky debt profiles.

    “More than one in five countries are spending 20% or more of their foreign-exchange income on external debt servicing and this burden is much larger for a handful of highly leveraged states. Debt distress is not consistent across the region but is definitely an issue that policymakers are worried about,” Munyati points out.

    Ghana, for example, faces a debt crisis so severe that it has already defaulted on its debts and has announced a debt exchange programme in an attempt at restructure its debts ahead of an International Monetary Fund programme that it expects to enter. Along with its regional counterpart Nigeria, Ghana has faced repeated credit downgrades from ratings agencies and is effectively no longer able to raise money on the international capital markets.

    AfCFTA to boost trade and investment.

    Despite these grim tidings, Munyati believes Africa still has a lot of potential and has the capacity to reverse the trends. He is most optimistic about the potential of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to transform commerce on the continent and create the fifth largest economy in the world if properly implemented.

    Launched in 2020, the agreement will see the removal of trade and tariff barriers between countries on the continent, facilitating seamless trade, harmonising regulations and standards and creating one of the largest single markets in the world. While it is yet to be fully implemented, six countries – Cameroon, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ghana, Egypt and Mauritius – have already issued certificates of trade to local companies, allowing trade to begin under its terms. Since then, ceramic tiles, cashew and palm oil have been shipped from Ghana to Kenya and Cameroon, while car batteries, tea and coffee have been sent to Ghana from Kenya.

    Analysts expect that free trade in Africa will offer a tremendous boost to the continent, turbocharge investment and create jobs and wealth for citizens, particularly the youth. Munyati shares this optimism.

    “The free trade area provides a framework for attracting investments into critical sectors, such as health, education and infrastructure by connecting and deepening regional value chains as countries start to trade optimally amongst each other. The Forum, in collaboration with the AfCFTA Secretariat, are presenting this opportunity to global business as a new era for global business and investment in Africa. If effectively implemented, the AfCFTA has the potential to become the fifth largest economy in the world with a GDP of $3.4 trillion,” he explains.

    So convinced is the Forum that in May, 2022, it launched the “Friends of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area” initiative to support the project. “One of the first pieces of collaboration that we are delivering is the first ever report by global business on the opportunities presented by the AfCFTA,” says Munyati.

    The free trade area, he is convinced, will lift several other economic initiatives on the continent along with it. Among these are digital trade, infrastructure, health and the green energy transition, which he believes will all come under the agenda of a thriving AfCTFA.

    Digital transformation.

    The Forum also sees digital transformation as key to the future of Africa and is thus supporting efforts to boost technology and innovation on the continent. Currently, it has two centres in Africa – one in South Africa and the other in Rwanda – to pursue the agenda of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).

    They are part of a network of 16 centres across the world and benefit from the expertise and experience of the sister centres. The two centres focus on the different aspects of innovation but are united by a common focus on inclusive technology governance and adoption.

    In Rwanda, for example, the centre has had remarkable success with chatbots for the medical sector, helping speed up pulmonary diagnosis. Munyanti says this is an example of the model they are pursuing at the Forum. The AI-enabled triage service in Rwanda is an example of how public private-partnership are supporting and accelerating responsible technological innovation in the region, he explains.

    Access to energy.

    Of course, none of this will be possible without a remarkable expansion in access to energy on the continent. Currently only about 40% of Africa has access to electricity and the International Energy Agency says the continent needs to increase energy production by at least 30% by 2030.

    Luckily, the continent also has vast reserves of renewable energy resources and is shaping up to be a potentially important player in the global energy transition, as evidenced by the strong pitch Namibia made at the 2022 annual meeting. Questions, however, continue to linger about the role that hydrocarbons, which have been critical to nearly every growth story in modern history, can and must play.

    While African leaders address these questions on the policy level, the World Economic Forum offers an opportunity for them to engage with business leaders and build partnerships to transition to new energy forms without compromising growth objectives.

    Building partnerships.

    Africa’s embrace of Davos and its drive to have its voice heard in other multilateral deliberations is a signifier of its growing confidence and recognition by the rest of the world that despite its problems, Africa can no longer be ignored.

    While the challenges of the past years will continue to weigh on it in the coming months and years, the continent can perhaps use this year’s gathering to signal its embrace of challenges, highlight its potential and seek out meaningful partnerships that can facilitate its ambitions.

    Munyati clearly agrees. “Evidently, there are areas where it is difficult to advance multilateral cooperation but there are challenges where most people or most countries do agree on priorities, systemic challenges around climate energy for example. These are areas where a multistakeholder approach can advance positive change,” he says.

    As the continent with the fastest growing population, with estimates showing that one in four people in the world will be living in sub-Saharan Africa by 2050, it will need to build the partnerships needed to provide jobs, and improve quality of life and fast. And some of those partnerships may well be born on a snow-capped Swiss mountain.

  • Algeria – “The New Republic” has brought neither freedom nor development!

    Author : Tin Hinane EL-KADI.

    Over three years after the start of the popular uprising that came to be known as the Hirak, the regime’s counter-revolutionary plan appears to have gained the upper hand. The Algerian regime, or Le Pouvoir (the power) -an opaque network of primarily military but also political and economic elites -has once again proven its tenacity. Despite millions of Algerians decrying its rule and a deteriorating economic situation, the regime has astutely leveraged manoeuvres to maintain its grip on power. Yet, the emerging political reality is wobbly and fierce contestation both from within and outside the system persists, making the country virtually ungovernable.

    Rebuilding a Fragile Civilian Facade.

    Holding snap elections to reshape institutions from the presidency to local councils has been the cornerstone of the regime’s restoration strategy. According to the official narrative, this process would sanitize institutions from corruption and mismanagement and usher in a “new Algeria” healed from the wounds of the past. The first step in the regime’s roadmap consisted of organizing the much-contested presidential elections of December 2019, which brought to power Abdelmadjid Tebboun, Algeria’s former Prime Minister and protégé of the army’s late chief of staff, general Ahmed Gaid Saleh. The elections recorded the lowest turnout in Algeria’s independent history for a presidential election, with just 39% of the electoral body participating.[1]

    This was followed by the revision of the Constitution, an initiative hailed by Le Pouvoir and its supporters as one that would meet the Hirak’s democratic aspirations. Yet ,according to several constitutionalists, the new text further entrenched the President’s power, giving him control over the judiciary and the legislative. Only 13.7% out of the country’s 24.47 million registered voters, voted in favour of the new constitution.[2]

    With very few prerogatives attributed to the Parliament and a repressive context, Algerians also overwhelmingly shunned the ballots in the June 2021 legislative elections. Turnout was just 30.2 per cent, the lowest in 20 years for legislative elections.[3] Major opposition parties had refused to participate, including the Rally for Culture and Democracy (Rassemblement pour la culture et la démocratie, RCD), the Workers’ Party (Parti des travailleurs, PT), and the Socialist Forces Front (Front des forces socialistes, FFS).

    The long-time incumbent, the National Liberation Front (Front de liberation national, FLN), which played a significant role during Bouteflika’s two decades in power, won the most seats with 105 of the 407 seats, followed by independent candidates with 78 seats. Later, independent candidates would vow allegiance to president Tebboune. Algeria’s largest Islamist party, the Movement of Society for Peace (Hamas, MSP), came third with 64 seats, while the pro-system Democratic National Rally (Rassemblement national démocratique, RND) ranked as the country’s fourth biggest political force. The municipal and provincial council elections in November 2021 marked the last episode in a series of widely boycotted elections.

    The regime’s propaganda, portraying its roadmap as the only path forward for change, has failed to convince Algerians who have expressed their rejection by a massive boycott of four consecutive elections. These elections were seen by many as nothing more than cosmetic reforms aimed at extending the life of an autocratic political system. In a context marked by an abysmal lack of state-citizen trust and the absence of accountability mechanisms, the boycott became a powerful act of defiance for Algerians.

    Nonetheless, the embarrassing turnout did not stop the regime from holding all planned polls. Authoritarian regimes organize elections for a myriad of reasons, including the need to feed clientelist networks, rally new supporters, showcase the opposition’s weakness and maintain a form of institutional legality internationally. In this sense, elections are more about putting on a show that helps strengthen the system than enacting mechanisms for representation and accountability.

    That being said, against the backdrop of a shrinking social base, repression has become one of the rare cards available to the regime. The Hirak’s weekly demonstrations, which were brought to a halt after the Covid-19 pandemic, resumed weekly in February 2021 for its second anniversary, until they were violently banned by security forces ahead of the legislative elections. In May 2021, a law was passed officially criminalizing the Hirak, accusing it of being infiltrated by terrorist organizations, such as the Islamist-leaning Rachad organization and its leaders and the Mouvement for the Autonomy of Kabylie (Le movement pour l’autonomie de la Kabylie, MAK).[4] Several pro-Hirak activists, journalists and social media influencers were jailed or persecuted for alleged affiliations to these organizations. With all the fanfare over the army’s success in crushing terrorist groups during the civil war, the regime brought out the terrorist threat from the drawers two decades later to ensure its survival.

    At the same time, the few existing spaces of freedom have been disappearing. Authorities intensified censorship on the independent press using a variety of means, from banning newspapers and imprisoning journalists to blocking all potential financial streams. In April 2022, “Liberté,” one of Algeria’s leading independent media, printed its last issue three decades after its launch.[5] Opposition parties and organizations also faced a repressive crackdown. In January 2022, the Algerian Council of State ordered the suspension of the Socialist Workers’ Party (Parti socialiste des travailleurs, PST), forcing it to cease all its activities.[6]

    Earlier, authorities dissolved the Youth Action Rally (Rassemblement actions jeunesse, RAJ), a well-known civil society organization.[7] Furthermore, Fethi Gheras, the leader of the Democratic and Social Movement (MDS), was jailed for nine months for his political stance.[8] To be able to retain power, the regime has arguably restricted political and press freedoms to pre-1988 levels when Algeria had a single-party system.

    People attend a demonstration in Paris on July 5, 2020 in support of Algeria’s Hirak key protest movement as Algeria celebrates today the anniversary of its 1962 independence from France. (Photo by FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP)

    A Deteriorating Socioeconomic Environment.

    Mounting repression took place in the context of rapidly deteriorating socioeconomic conditions. The Covid-19 pandemic hit the Algerian economy hard, with lockdown measures and the fall in hydrocarbon prices resulting in a contraction of real GDP growth estimated at around 5.5% in 2020.[9] Even though the economy experienced some recent recovery, at the start of 2022, GDP had remained below its pre-pandemic level. Foreign reserves – estimated at 200 billion USD before the 2014 drop in oil prices – dwindled to 41.5 billion in March 2022.

    If high unemployment rates are a long-standing issue in the country, the pandemic further aggravated the issue with the temporary or permanent loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. These jobs are mainly in sectors, such as services and construction —largely concentrated in the informal economy. Algerians also witnessed soaring prices, making inflation the big economic theme of the past few months. The Bank of Algeria announced in December 2021 that national inflation rates had reached 9.2%,[10] but many experts have expressed scepticism towards this number, claiming that it is an underestimation. The decrease in the dinar’s value, the government’s excessive use of quantitative easing, shortages of supply and increased domestic demand all contributed to rising living costs. Moreover, long periods of drought negatively impacted agricultural production, leading the price of basic foodstuff to reach new heights.

    In light of the growing poverty and political repression, many Algerians have been taking the potentially deadly journey of crossing the Mediterranean. The summer of 2021 has been the darkest summer for Algerian Harragas. According to data from Spanish authorities, 9,664 Algerians reached the Spanish coast between January and October 2021.[11] That is 20% more than in 2020, notes the same source. While some manage to reach Europe safely, many lose their lives on the journey. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) indicated that at least 309 Algerian migrants, including 13 children, lost their lives in the Mediterranean in 2021.[12]

    The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the consequent increase in hydrocarbon prices is, however, good news in the short term for Algeria, as hydrocarbons represent 95% of the country’s exports. Algeria’s external and fiscal balances are improving with the Saharan Blend selling at over 100 USD and soaring gas prices. The upsurge in OPEC+ quotas, and new contracts to reduce dependency on Russian energy, such as the one signed with Italy,[13] will also boost hydrocarbon investments. Yet, long years without major investments in the sector and the suspension of the Maghreb-Europe Gas Pipeline, following tensions with Morocco, limits the potential gains Algeria could enjoy from the ongoing hike in energy prices.

    Turning our sight to the non-hydrocarbon sector, the outlook is grimmer. Algeria’s economy remains stubbornly dependent on oil and gas. The private sector, which can drive diversification efforts and create some of the jobs needed for the millions of unemployed Algerians, has been further muted since the Hirak. The spectacular rise and fall of notorious oligarchs during the Bouteflika era and the unfolding of numerous corruption scandals that led to the imprisonment of dozens of businessmen, politicians and bureaucrats have instilled a climate of terror in business circles.

    In its new reconfiguration, the regime instrumentalized its anti-corruption campaign to jail pro-Hirak business leaders with no proven records of corruption or misconduct. As a result, large private investments, both domestic and foreign, have virtually frozen in what capital holders see as a highly uncertain environment. Urgent reforms are needed to regain investors’ trust and unlock growth, including authorizing hundreds of pending loans, reducing bureaucratic hurdles, and adopting a set of industrial policies that incentivize investment in high value-added sectors. Yet, Algiers’ emerging power configuration seems to lack the necessary cohesion, capacity and will to push for meaningful economic reforms.

    Institutional Deadlock.

    The roadmap imposed by the regime against the will of the Hirak has resulted in weak institutions and wobbly consecutive governments, unable to put the country on a reform path. The apparent power competition between various clans within the system further weakens decision-making mechanisms and state capacity. In this sense, the post-Hirak political settlement resembles what Mushtaq Khan describes as a weak settlement, that is, a situation in which power is dispersed between competing factions, while only a narrow social base backs the faction in power. In this context, ruling elites do not have incentives to engage in meaningful reforms and build institutions for broad-based development.

    The regime’s survival in this type of settlement is contingent on several factors, rendering ambitious policy endeavours risky. Even when such policies are adopted, implementation capacity is weak. Several decisions taken by Tebboune and his ministers end up being mere declarations of intent without any notable follow-ups on the ground. The gap between the regime and the people, combined with the seemingly endless power struggles within the regime itself, have left Algeria trapped in a precarious “No freedoms-No development” status quo.

    Acknowledging the institutional paralysis in which the country finds itself, in May 2022 Tebboune launched an initiative for dialogue with political parties and national figures. This presidential endeavour officially aims to rally political forces in the country and appease the general climate. So far, opposition parties have refused to join the initiative amidst continuous arrests of Hirak activists and restrictions on basic freedoms. While it is too soon at the time of writing to assess the merits of this initiative, no comprehensive political pact could emerge within the current liberticide environment. Ultimately, the crucial economic, social and political change Algeria needs calls for the dissolution of flimsy new institutions and the creation of ones based on popular legitimacy, that is, building a genuinely democratic system that would redraw the rules of the game to redistribute political power from the military institution to the people.

    Bibliography:

    [1] “Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared winner of Algeria election.” Financial Times, 13/12/19. http://www.ft.com/content/d3a4f292-1da3-11ea-97df-cc63de1d73f4

    [2] “Le Conseil constitutionnel proclame les résultats définitifs et officiels du scrutin.” APS, 12/11/20 http://www.aps.dz/algerie/112733-le-conseil-constitutionnel-proclame-les-resultats-definitifs-et-officiels-du-scrutin

    [3]“Législatives en Algérie : les électeurs boudent une nouvelle fois les urnes.” France 24, 13/06/21. http://www.france24.com/fr/afrique/20210613-l%C3%A9gislatives-en-alg%C3%A9rie-les-%C3%A9lecteurs-boudent-une-nouvelle-fois-les-urnes

    [4] “L’Algérie classe comme « organisations terroristes » deux mouvements basés à l’étranger.” Arabnews, 19/05/21 http://www.arabnews.fr/node/94951/monde-arabe

    [5] “Médias: Liberté s’éteint, Rebrab s’explique.” 24hdz 14/04/22 http://www.24hdz.com/medias-liberte-seteint-rebrab-sexplique/.

    [6] “Les activités du PST gelées et son siège fermé.” Liberté, 20/01/22. http://www.liberte-algerie.com/actualite/les-activites-du-pst-gelees-et-son-siege-ferme-371962

    [7] “Algérie : une ONG-phare du mouvement prodémocratie dissoute par la justice.” Le Monde, 13/10/21 http://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2021/10/13/algerie-une-ong-phare-du-mouvement-prodemocratie-dissoute-par-la-justice_6098203_3212.html

    [8] “Fethi Gharas enfin libre ! retour sur un procès émouvant.” Radio M, 22/03/22 https://radio-m.net/fethi-gheras-enfin-libre-retour-sur-un-proces-emouvant/

    [9] The World Bank, “Algeria’s Economic Situation overview.” http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/algeria/overview#1

    [10] “Very sharp rise in inflation and fall of the Algerian dinar.” Pipanews, 23/12/21 https://pipanews.com/very-sharp-rise-in-inflation-and-fall-of-the-algerian-dinar/

    [11] “I live on crumbs: why older Algerians are risking the small boats to Spain.” The Guardian, 29/04/22 http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2022/apr/29/algerian-migrants-europe-boats-spain-mediterranean

    [12]“The number of Algerian harraga arriving in Spain in 2021.” Pipanews, 28/10/21 https://pipanews.com/the-number-of-algerian-harraga-arriving-in-spain-in-2021/

    [13] “Italy signs deal with Algeria to increase gas imports.” Aljazeera, 11/04/22 https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/4/11/italy-signs-deal-with-algeria-to-increase-gas-imports

  • African Fintech will continue its boom in 2023

    Author: Bode Adewumi

    The African Financial Technology (Fintech) ecosystem continues to expand despite global economic challenges.

    As an investment segment, the Fintech industry made up more than 25 percent of all venture capital rounds in the last few years, with South Africa joining other regional leaders such as Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco and Kenya.

    Out of the nine notable tech unicorns in Africa, seven are fintech companies.

    A recent study by Mastercard noted that African Fintech startups increased in number from 311 in 2019 to 564 by 2021.

    The study also noted that of the $2.7 billion in venture capital funding that was deployed in Africa in 2021, 61 percent of that was in Fintech startups.

    The study found that the sub-Saharan Africa region had one of the highest year-on-year growth rates globally, with Fintech startups recording 894 percent year-on-year growth in funding in 2021.

    With the right targeted solutions, the potential for rapid growth is significant.

    In the last few years, the region also saw the majority of Fintech investment capital coming from various offshore money markets, including west-coast United States, the United Kingdom and China.

    African Fintech startups are also able to do more with dollar-based capital raises if they have locally-based operations.

    Mobile money and third-party payment systems in particular are segment leaders in the African Fintech space with more than half of the world’s mobile money customers now based in Africa.

    A low proportion of Africa’s population currently has adequate access to financial products and the potential for digital deployment of solutions took off alongside the rise in mobile and internet access.

    For example, due to a lack of interconnectedness in the cross-border banking infrastructure and a huge migrant labour workforce, there was a clear need for ways to transmit money across regions safely.

    Servicing the underbanked and migrant workforce has also created opportunities for innovative financial solutions in Africa and user markets are huge.

    Kenya’s Fintech industry was originally focused on mobile money transfer services and has ridden the wave of exponential market adoption since 2007.

    Building on technology akin to GSM text messaging, major players in the market were able to expand its offering to users who did not have internet or data connection, but had access to cellular phone towers and basic mobile devices.

    In that same period, financial inclusion went from 26 percent in 2006 to 83 percent of the total population today. That activity created a market that many other Fintech entrants were able to diversify within and as a result, a large portion of GDP flowed through such services.

    This makes the regulators similarly Fintech-friendly and interested in being cooperative towards innovation.

    Three of the largest African unicorns come from Nigeria and the country is dominant in Africa in respect of Fintech venture capital investments.

    The Mastercard study found that Nigeria’s Fintechs accounted for a third of all venture capital funding deployed into Fintech in 2021. Nigeria has also benefited from a highly entrepreneurial technology sector and deep issues in respect of financial inclusion.

    About 38 million adults in Nigeria are completely financially excluded, particularly when it comes to credit access.

    This created the perfect conditions for dynamic Fintechs to emerge with a massive potential market if successful.

    Senegal’s Wave, the first unicorn from the Francophone African region, recently saw a $200 million capital raise in a Series A round of fundraising. This was the largest Series A to come out of that region to-date.

    Examples such as this demonstrate that there are still a lot more African regions yet to take off in the African Fintech push.

    South Africa benefits from a robust financial and banking industry, but one that has been slow in terms of adoption of new technologies and modernising of legacy banking tech.

    This has led to the country seeing additional trends in open banking Fintechs that are operating on top of current bank infrastructure but providing more nimble payment channels. There have been several recent regulatory developments as the country prepares to fully adopt Fintech and its various sub-segments.

    South Africa also has specific compliance and due diligence issues that must be addressed before and during Fintech transactions.

  • Smart Agriculture Technologies in Sub-Saharan Africa – A Review

    Authors:Richard Kombat 1,2,* , Paolo Sarfatti 1 and Oluwole Abiodun Fatunbi 1

    1 Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, No. 9 Flower Avenue New Achimota Mile 7,Accra PMB CT 173, Ghana; psarfatti@icloud.com (P.S.); ofatunbi@faraafrica.org (O.A.F.)2 Faculty of Agriculture, University for Development Studies, Tamale P.O. Box TL 1882, Ghana* Correspondence: rkombat@faraafrica.org; Tel.: +233-203-835775.

    Abstract:

    Climate change is a major constraint to the progress of Africa’s agriculture, food, andnutrition security; its effect is tied to geographical position and driven by the limited adaptivecapacity of the agricultural households. The most vulnerable stakeholder group are the smallholderfarming households with limited resources and knowledge of adaptation and mitigation techniques.Sub-Saharan Africa owns more than 60% of the world’s arable land with over 85% of the farmersbeing smallholder farmers, who are predisposed to various risks. This paper analyzes the adoptionof climate-smart agriculture (CSA) processes and technologies by smallholder farming households inSub-Saharan Africa. The study used mixed methods and an integrative literature review. This reviewindicated that the knowledge of CSA technologies by smallholder farmers in Africa is increasing and,thus, concerted efforts to continuously generate CSA technology would contribute to the desiredpositive outcome. To accelerate the pace of adoption and use of the technologies, the linkage offarmers, researchers, and extension practitioners is needed. Measures should also be put in place toensure that CSA actions are implemented using bottom-up approaches.

    Keywords: smallholder farming household; climate-smart agriculture; technologies; adaptation;food security; Sub-Saharan Africa; biennial climate-smart agricultural stakeholders conference; SDGs.

  • Economy in Africa in 2023: Things to watch out for

    Abstract:

    African economies will face turbulent times in 2023 as a range of internal and external shocks undermine the region’s growth prospects and threaten stability, but most of the region will weather the storm and continue to grow.

    Resource-intensive economies and major commodity exporters will face challenging market conditions amid a global economic slowdown, but the outlook is far from gloomy as export prices remain reasonably high and competition remains intense for Africa’s resources.

    Domestic price pressures will remain elevated—although inflation will ease back from the highs of 2022—and monetary policy will tighten across much of Africa, while the cost of international capital will rise substantially for some economies.

    Major concerns surround the heavy burden of debt servicing, instability created by election cycles, geopolitics and war, as well as the lingering threat of food insecurity caused by conflict and adverse weather conditions.

    Keyword: Africa, 2023, economy, digital, conflict.

  • Africa, persistent political and economic volatility in 2023

    Author: Dr Alex Vines OBE.

    (This article was first published in The Mail & Guardian).

    Africa’s economy was recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2022 when a range of internal and external shocks struck such as adverse weather conditions, a devastating locust invasion, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine – all of which worsened already rapidly-rising rates of inflation and borrowing costs.

    Although the direct trade and financial linkages of Africa with Russia and Ukraine are small, the war has damaged the continent’s economies through higher commodity prices, higher food, fuel, and headline inflation.

    The main impact is on the increasing likelihood of civil strife because of food and energy-fuelled inflation amid an environment of heightened political instability.

    Key African economies such as South Africa and Nigeria were already stuck with low growth and many African governments have seen their debt burdens increase – some such as Ethiopia and Ghana now have dollar debt trading at distressed levels – and more countries will follow in 2023.

    On average the public sector debt-to-GDP ratio of African countries stood at above 60 per cent in 2022. The era of Chinese state-backed big loans and mega-projects which started 20 years ago in Angola after the end of its civil war may be coming to an end but Chinese private sector investments on the continent will continue through its Belt and Road Initiative and dual circulation model of development.

    Great and middle powers building influence

    Geopolitical competition in Africa has intensified in 2022, particularly among great powers such as China, Russia, the US, and the EU but also by middle powers such as Turkey, Japan, and the Gulf states.

    The sixth AU-EU summit held in Brussels in February 2022 agreed on the principles for a new partnership, although the Russian invasion of Ukraine which followed disrupted these ambitions. Japan’s pledge of $30 billion in aid for Africa at TICAD 8 in August 2022 was clearly made due to the $40 billion pledged at the China–Africa summit in November 2021.

    The US also launched a new strategy to strengthen its partnership and held a second US-Africa Leaders’ summit in Washington in December, the first since 2014. Russia’s ambition has been curtailed by its invasion of Ukraine, postponing its second summit with African states to 2023.

    The imposition of international sanctions complicated its trade and investments, and military support such as that provided by Russian paramilitary group Wagner focused on Mali, Libya and the Central African Republic (CAR) has been curtailed.

    The strategic importance of Africa has resulted in all the UN P5 members calling on the G20 to make the African Union (AU) its 21st member in 2023 under India’s presidency.

    International competition to secure Africa’s critical and strategic minerals and energy products intensified in 2022 and, in the energy sector, European countries are seeking to diversify away from Russian oil and gas with alternative supplies, such as those from Africa.

    Western mining companies and commodity traders are also increasingly seeking alternative supplies from Africa. Decarbonization is becoming a driver of resource nationalism and geopolitical competition in certain African mining markets, home to large deposits of critical ‘transition minerals’ such as copper, cobalt, graphite, lithium, or nickel.

    COP27 was hosted in Egypt in November and gave African leaders an opportunity to shape climate discussions by pushing priority areas such as loss and damage, stranded assets, access to climate finance, adaptation, and desertification. Climate adaptation in Africa is a key condition to preserving economic growth and maintaining social cohesion.

    The Horn of Africa, particularly Somalia, is suffering from one of the worst droughts in memory. The geopolitical and geoeconomic ramifications of the war in Ukraine has directly impacted the African continent by contributing to food and cooking oil inflation and humanitarian aid delivery.

    Thoughout 2022 the AU was undergoing intensive reform and it struggled to respond to the growing number of security crises across the continent. Hotspots in 2023 will be in the western Sahel and Lake Chad Basin, eastern DRC, and northern Mozambique, all of them crossing state borders.

    In Mozambique, a 2019 peace deal assisted by the United Nations (UN) will see the last ex-guerrillas from Renamo demobilized in 2023 to reintegrate into civilian life – some having been recruited in 1978.

    In eastern Congo, M23 – one of around 120 armed groups – resumed its conflict against the central government. After lying dormant for several years, it took up arms again in 2021 and has been leading an offensive in eastern DRC against the Congolese army.

    According to the UN, Rwanda has been supporting M23, and Kenya’s parliament approved in November the deployment of about 900 soldiers to the DRC as part of a joint military force from the East African Community (EAC) bloc – DRC joined the EAC in March.

    In the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia saw an uneasy ceasefire agreed between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

    Islamist militant groups in Africa further expanded their territorial reach in 2022, particularly in the western Sahel where al-Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates are competing for influence and continued to make inroads.

    The drawdown and exit of western forces from Mali, both the French Operation Barkane and international contributions for the UN’s MINUSMA mission there, adds new dimensions to regional security challenges.

    Mali’s decision in May to withdraw from the G5 Sahel has also eroded the regional security architecture. Jihadist activity may spread further into coastal states which has resulted in international partners such as France and the UK redesigning their security assistance strategies for the region.

    Coups on the increase again

    Since 2020, there have been successful military coups in Burkina Faso (twice), Chad, Guinea, Mali (twice), and Sudan, and failed ones in the CAR, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Niger, and possibly Gambia and São Tomé and Príncipe.

    Three national elections illustrate the state of African democracy in 2022. In Angola’s August elections, the ruling MPLA lost its absolute majority with the opposition UNITA winning the majority in Luanda for the first time.

    In Kenya, also in August, William Ruto prevailed to become president ahead of an incumbent-backed coalition led by longstanding political challenger Raila Odinga. Meanwhile in Equatorial Guinea’s elections in November, Africa’s longest serving president Teodoro Obiang extended his 43-year mandate with 94.7 per cent of the vote on a turnout of 97 per cent.

    There will be elections in 17 African states during 2023 for either head of state or government, or national legislature. Elections and their results in Madagascar, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe could prove to be flashpoints.

    Although fragile, the African Development Bank forecasts an economic recovery particularly in East Africa, due to the rebound of service and industrial activities, increased public spending, reopening of travel and trade due to uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, recovery of the tourism sector, and deepening regional ties.

  • The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child: Simple Copy or Contextualized Supplement to the Convention on the Rights of the Child?

    Author:

    Thierno Souleymane BARRY

    L.DD., Laval University – Sherbrooke University, Canada, Professor, Général Lansana Conté de Sonfonia University-Conakry, Conakry, Guinea.

    Abstract:

    The Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted in 1989 devotes all States community’s attention to children; thus, translating the rights of the Child into legal terms. And since the Child occupies an important place in the cultural context of a given region, the rights should reflect this assertion. In Africa, an African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child has come to meet this requirement. This article examines whether or not the African Charter is a mere copy of the Convention. In addition to being a continuation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child constitutes an adapted instrument, an adequate response for the effective protection of the rights of the Child. The article attempts to demonstrate the originality of the African framework to protect children’s rights and possible improvements to make the framework more effective.

    Keywords:

    Rights of the Child, Convention on the Rights of the Child, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, Universality, African Context.

    Bibliography:

    Geraldine Van Bueren, The International Law on the Rights of the Child, (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1998).
    Danwood Chirwa, ‘The Merits and Demerits of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child’, The International Journal of Children’s Rights 10(2002): 157-77.
    Habib Gherari, ‘La Charte Africaine Des Droits Et Du Bien-Être De L’enfant’, Études internationales 22(1991): 735-51.
    François Bugnion, ‘Les Enfants Soldats, Le Droit International Humanitaire et la Charte Africaine des Droits et du Bien-Entre de L’enfant’, African Journal of International and Comparative Law 12, no. 2 (2002): 262-75.
    Ibid.
    Carmen Lavallée, ‘La Convention Internationale Relative Aux Droits De L’enfant Et Son Application Au Canada’, Revue internationale de droit comparé 48(1996): 605-30.
    Joe Oloka-Onyango, ‘Beyond the Rhetoric: Reinvigorating the Struggle for Economic and Social Rights in Africa’, California Western International Law Journal 26, no. 1 (1995).
    Danwood Chirwa, ‘The Merits and Demerits of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child’, The International Journal of Children’s Rights 10(2002): 157-77.
    Thierno Souleymane Barry, ‘La Protection des Droits de l’Enfant Face au Travail : La Nécessité d’un Changement de Perspective par l’Extension du Concept de Travail Décent et l’Application de l’Approche Basée sur les Droits de la Personne’, (Canada: Laval University, 2015).
    Guillemette Meunier, L’application de la Convention des Nations Unies Relative Aux Droits De L’enfant dans le Droit Interne des États Parties, (2002).
    Mutoy Mubiala, Le Système Régional Africain De Protection Des Droits De L’homme, (2005).
    Nicolas Argenti and Alex De Waal, Young Africa: Realizing the Rights of Children and Youth, (African Research and Publications World Press, 2002).
    Pierre Erny, L’enfant Dans La Pensée Traditionnelle De L’afrique Noire, (1968).
    Dominique Youf, Penser Les Droits De L’enfant, (2002).
    Moussa Thioye, ‘Part Respective De La Tradition Et De La Modernité dans les Droits de la Famille des Pays d’Afrique Noire Francophone’, Revue internationale de droit comparé 57(2005): 345-97.
    A. Bame Nsamenang, Cultures of Human Development and Education: Challenge to Growing up African, (New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2004).
    Savitri Goonesekere, ‘Human Rights as a Foundation for Family Law Reform’, The International Journal of Children’s Rights 8(2000): 83-99.
    Mamadou M. Dieng, ‘Les Difficultés D’application Des Conventions En Matière De Droits De L’homme En Afrique: Le Cas De La Convention Sur Les Droits De L’enfant Au Bénin. ‘, Actualité et Droit International (2001).
    Natasha Parassram Concepcion, ‘The Convention on the Rights of the Child after Ten Years: Success or Failure?’, Human Rights Brief 7, no. 1 (2000).
    Remy Bernard Ngombe, ‘Les Normes Juridiques Internationales Relatives à la Protection des Droits de la Femme et de l’Enfant en Afrique: Le Cas du Sénégal.’, (Normandie University, 2019).

  • Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights: Action plan & recommendations for human rights-sensitive and ethical artificial intelligence.

    Author:

    Mounir BENSALAH

    Abstract:

    More than 10 years ago, the issue of the impact of social media sites on major events in the world, particularly in the Arabic-speaking region, was raised in what was dubbed the “Arab Spring.” Several studies have defended distinct suggestions on whether or not to have such an impact, and the role of the media in shortcuts about “social network revolutions” (Bensalah, Réseaux socations et révolutions arabes?, 2012).
    Today, artificial intelligence has become an increasingly important place in human life in terms of technological developments and the resulting studies, research and inventions. Artificial intelligence has certainly brought solutions to facilitate life in an increasingly interdependent world, contributed to the development of services in various fields and contributed significantly to the improvement of benefits for humanity and in the areas of health, education, culture, finance, transport, communications, etc. However, it also raised serious issues affecting human rights and freedoms, including those relating to the exercise of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, opinion, rights to information, privacy, security, health and employment, as well as problems of incitement to hatred or violence and discrimination. These problems are expected to increase with accelerated technological development, particularly through the spread of connected objects (Internet of Things or Internets), ‘virtual reality’ or ‘augmented reality’ and the popularization of the fifth generation 5G.
    Certainly, several national laws and regulations, as well as several international texts, govern some of the above-mentioned risk aspects. However, these regulations generally do not take into account the artificial intelligence environment or its evolution over the past 20 years. We have adopted a human rights-based approach to studying the interaction of artificial intelligence with rights and freedoms. In this study, we propose general principles for guiding artificial intelligence for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
    In this study, we addressed topics relating to human rights violations in the artificial intelligence environment. Indeed, the risks of profiling, discrimination, invasion of privacy, interference in the exercise of freedoms, addiction or extremism, violation of the security of individuals or the integrity of data systems, especially personal, barriers to participation in public life, etc., are present and verifiable. In particular, we recommend that public authorities appoint an institution to provide national leadership in artificial intelligence in general and that human rights be addressed in all dimensions of artificial intelligence. We also
    recommend, inter alia, that this institution develop a code of ethics on artificial intelligence, taking into account the principles and recommendations of this study.

    Keywords:

    Ethics, Human Rights, Artificial Intelligence.

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