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Ethiopia – Grand Renaissance Dam

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As the government pushes forward with huge dam project, concerns resurface about the downstream impact.

The government of Ethiopia is currently constructing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which once completed will be the largest hydropower facility in Africa.

The huge project will contribute around 6000 MegaWatts (MW) of power, nearly triple the country’s current electricity generation capacity, and will also present an important source of economic revenue for the government.

The project is seen by Ethiopia as a strong symbol of unity, with the Ethiopian Herald claiming that it fills Ethiopians with hope, not just a development project but a symbol demonstrating the wish to overcome poverty.

Statistics from 2016 show that around 30% of Ethiopia’s population have access to electricity with more than 90% of households still relying on traditional fuels for cooking, leading to respiratory infections, which are the main cause of death in the country.

The Ethiopian government rationalises the project in these terms and the economic benefits are clear. Critical commentators, however, have pointed out that in areas in which 70% of the population rely on subsistence agriculture, standard of living needs to improve before Ethiopians will consume additional electricity. Unless the electricity is subsidised by the government.

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Grand Renaissance Dam – All Africa

The government also sees crucial revenue opportunities, particularly through electricity exports. Power purchase agreements have already been signed with Djibouti, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Tanzania.

But there are concerns about how this dam will affect downstream states, in particular Sudan and Egypt. Initially, Sudan was opposed to the construction of the dam, but has since agreed to purchase electricity upon its completion, and the respective countries have agreed to collaborate on a ‘free economic zone’.

In May 2017, the Middle East Monitor concluded that Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan had just finished their 14th round of unsuccessful discussions about how to manage the Nile River.

The Ethiopian government expects it will take y five or six years to fill the GERD reservoir. In contrast, Diaa Al-Din Al-Qousi from Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation said 12 to 18 years is needed to guarantee water security for Egypt.

The Geological Society of America said that the Nile’s fresh water flow to Egypt may be cut by as much as 25%, with the electricity generated by the Aswan High Dam in Egypt cut by a third. Egypt is already one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, reported the Institute of Security Studies.

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Nile Basin – Global Water Forum

Ethiopia insists that the project has been conducted with adequate transparency but since it was announced in 2011 Cairo has periodically demanded that construction cease, claiming it is protected by a 1959 treaty, that divides the river between Sudan and Egypt, but does not include Ethiopia.

Ethiopia, however, claims that it never signed the treaty and highlights that Egypt has not signed the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) of the Nile Basin States.

Analysts at the US-based consulting group Stratfor have said that Egypt’s reaction will be determined by its political leadership, but that a large-scale reduction in water from the Nile would be intolerable to any Egyptian government’, reported the Institute of Security Studies.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

WATER: Ethiopia
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 5, Pp. 21732B–21733C

WATER PROJECTS: Ethiopia – Kenya
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 2, Pp. 21624B–21625C

ETHIOPIA: Regional Powerhouse
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21411A–21412C

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today. 

Botswana – Masire Obituary

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The erstwhile premier is credited with bringing stability to the southern African nation. 

President of Botswana between 1980-1998, Katumile Masire was a cattle herder turned politician who led the country through turbulent economic, social and political times. He was heralded by many as a model leader on the continent.

In 1966 when Botswana – then Bechuanaland – became independent from the UK, it had just two miles of paved roads and a single public secondary school. Diamond discoveries changed this and Masire and his predecessor Seretse Khama used revenues to fund education, healthcare and infrastructure.

In 1989, he shared the Africa Prize for Leadership, awarded by the Hunger Project in recognition of the food distribution efforts that helped the country avoid starvation and famine.

Masire also managed to negotiate a delicate relationship with neighbouring South Africa, a major economic partner but the Botswanan government was opposed to apartheid policies. “He had to walk a line in a really rough neighbourhood,” said Chester Crocker, a former US Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs.

Botswana is in many respects remarkable when compared to other African nations, with a relatively robust democracy and limited, noticeable corruption. This has meant the tourism industry has bloomed, particularly wildlife tourism.

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Masire – Premium Times. 

Masire was born in Kanye in southern Botswana near the South African border in 1925. He was a herder before enrolling in a primary school at 13. After his parents died when he was in his early twenties, he became e a teacher to support his siblings.

He also worked as a journalist, served on tribal and regional councils, and was a founder and secretary-general of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), now the dominant political party in the country.

After leaving office, he advised other African leaders and chaired the International Panel of Eminent Personalities that investigated the Rwandan genocide of 1994. He made important contributions to peace efforts in DR Congo and helped to end Mozambique’s civil war.

Masire stepped down in 1998 after overseeing a lengthy period of economic growth, largely oriented around effective management of diamond wealth. In retirement, Masire established the Sir Ketumile Masire Foundation, which aims to improve agriculture, governance and children’s health across the region.

He died on June 22nd 2017 aged 91.

(the Independent 27/6; BBC News 23/7)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

BOTSWANA: Spat Over Vice President
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 51, Issue. 11, Pp. 20344A–20344C

BOTSWANA: Khama Wins
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 51, Issue. 10, Pp. 20308C–20309B

Botswana: Inquiry into Opposition Leader’s Death
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 51, Issue. 8, Pp. 20242B

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.

Nigeria – Borrowing Limit

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Diversification efforts fail to bear fruit as the country can no longer afford to keep borrowing.

According to Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun, who was speaking during a quarterly business forum in Abuja on July 11th, the country can no longer afford to keep borrowing and must find alternative fundraising mechanisms.

Adeosun said that the country should seek to continue to diversify its economy to generate more revenue.

“We have got to get our budget bigger and to do that we cannot borrow anymore. We simply have to generate more revenue, we have to plug the leakages, we have to improve tax collection so that we can manage our borrowing,” she said.

“The problem is that we have been relying on oil and oil gave us a big budget size,” the minister added.

Nigeria has been in talks with the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB) for at least US$2bn in loans, with another $1.5bn proposed from international sources. President Muhammadu Buhari has also proposed borrowing of up to $30bn to finance major infrastructure projects across the country, although this continues to remain stalled.

The Naira (N) 7.44trn (about $24.39bn) 2017 budget has a deficit of N2.2trn, according to the Premium Times. Meanwhile, Nigeria’s external debt increased to $13.8bn in the first quarter of 2017 from $11.4bn in the fourth quarter of 2016, reported Vanguard.

The government had planned to borrow extensively from overseas to fund this record budget, aimed at enabling the country spend its way out of its first economic recession in around 25 years.

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Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun – Premium Times

However, some lawmakers, sceptical about the proposal, expressed fears that it might not be favourable in the long run, especially as the government presented no clear plans of how it will utilise the proposed loans.

When Buhari was elected in 2014 he was hailed as the saviour, a transformer of the economy, and the man to lead the country away from fossil fuel reliance and susceptibility to oil price volatility.

Since then little has changed and he has spent much of the past year being treated for a unspecified illness. According some commentators and analysts his financial and economic policies have been largely incoherent.

The push for economic diversification and boosts for manufacturing have not materialised. Many manufacturers were banned from receiving important foreign exchange and in 2016 the manufacturing sector shrank, reported the Financial Times.

However according to reports from BBC News, Buhari is now “recuperating fast” and will soon return to Nigeria from London, where he has been receiving treatment since May. His absence has led to speculation about whether he will be able to resume his position. In his place Buhari has given Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo full powers to act.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

NIGERIA: Emergency Aid Shortfall
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 5, Pp. 21707C–21709A

NIGERIA: Dim Light at End of Tunnel
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 4, Pp. 21675A–21676A

NIGERIA: Forex Boost
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 3, Pp. 21649A–21651C

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today. 

Kenya – University Strike

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Staff at universities across the country threaten to walk out again over long-running pay dispute. 

The Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU) and the Kenya Universities Staff Union (KUSU) on June 30th gave the government until midnight to fully implement the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which had been agreed in March 13th after teachers ended a 54-day strike.

UASU Secretary General Constantine Wasonga told the press that lecturers are yet to receive the pay they had been promised in March and are now owed a considerable amount in arrears.

“If the CBA is not implemented by close of business today all university lecturers and professors in all Kenyan public universities shall withhold their services effective from today and the strike shall continue until the registered 2013-2017 CBA is fully implemented,” Wasonga said.

“This will be the grandmother of all strikes. Lecturers are more energetic and determined than ever to fight for their dignity and constitutional rights,” Mr Wasonga continued.

At least 33 public universities and their constituent colleges across the country with more than 500,000 students will be affected should the lecturers and university staff carry out their threat.

In March this year, UASU and university councils agreed to sign the 2013-2017 CBA ending the 54-day strike that paralysed learning and research in public universities since January 19th.

The CBA stipulated that lecturers would get a 17.5% increase in basic salary and a 3.9% increase in house allowance, despite those such as the Maasai Mara University, which already had higher pay increments.

Early February, the union rejected a Kenyan Shillings 10 billion offer by on grounds that it was inadequate and failed to harmonise salaries.

KUSU Secretary General Charles Mukhwaya said lecturers are extremely disappointed by the government for their failure to implement a CBA that they signed and registered in court, reported the Daily Nation.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

KENYA: Pre-Election Violence
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 5, Pp. 21436B–21437B

KENYA: Gender Quota
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 4, Pp. 21392A–21392C

KENYA: Land Clashes
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 3, Pp. 21366C–21368A

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today. 

Nile Basin – No Deal After Summit

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Discussions between Nile Basin countries fail to reach agreement as many leaders boycott talks.

The Nile Basin Summit from June 20-22nd was convened to provide an opportunity for the ten countries reliant on the River Nile to agree on the equitable use of the resource. Tensions around the vital water source have persisted for many decades.

Initial signs, however, were less promising as a number of leaders chose not to attend. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kirr notified the delegates that they would skip the event.

The summit brought together all countries along the River Nile and was attended by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, South Sudan Vice President Joseph Wani, Burundi’s 2nd Vice President Joseph Butore and Sudan’s Vice President Hasabo Mohammed Abdul Rahman.

The leaders of Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania also turned down invitations to attend at the last minute, although no clear reasons for the decision were given by the respective embassies.

It was clear during the meeting that an agreement on the equitable use of resources was proving difficult as stakeholders repeatedly walked out of meetings at the Speke Resort Munyonyo in Uganda.

Led by Sudan, water security experts walked out a meeting at 10pm on June 21st, while Ethiopia followed suit. In the large the summit was organised to nudge Egypt, the biggest beneficiary of the Nile basin, to join the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI).

However, Egyptian Minister for Irrigation and Water Resources Mohammed Abdel-Atti said that his country would only rejoin if some provisions in the draft Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) were changed.

Al-Sisi reportedly said that his country was suffering from a water deficit of 21.5 billion cubic metres per year. However, although Egypt hasn’t yet rejoined NBI, it will engage in development projects in the region.

Speaking to journalists, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said he and his colleagues discussed development issues. Despite only three heads of state being present, Museveni said they decided to meet as leaders to discuss the ‘strategic issues of the Nile.’ reported the Observer. 

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Nile Basin – Source: Africa Water.

According to Museveni, prosperity for the Nile Basin countries is the best way to protect the river and other vital water systems in Africa. He pointed out a number of key threats to water systems.

These threats included the growing population, lack of electricity supply, lack of industrialisation, over-reliance on primitive agriculture and the destruction of the environment on which the Nile depends.

He said that industrialising the Nile Basin would resolve the problems of the bulk of the population engaging in primitive agriculture, pushing many into the industry and service sectors. He added that this would reduce the strain on the environment through the invasion of wetlands and destruction of forests for agriculture, reported the Uganda Media Centre.

Of course this sort of solution is denounced by others who note how industrialisation will lead to further environmental degradation and pollution, and raise levels of inequality as groups are incorporated, often on adverse terms, as labourers in the service or manufacturing economy.

Further, a deal between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan signed in December 2015 whereby the three countries agreed to end tensions over River Nile water, is also facing an unclear future due to ongoing tensions between Egypt and Sudan.

The two downstream countries at the end of April agreed to de-escalate tensions and end counter-accusations as well as import bans and deportations had brought relations between the two countries to tipping point.

Meanwhile Ethiopia continued its quest to bring Nile Basin countries on its side as its Grand Renaissance Dam nearing completion.

With electricity as a bargaining chip observers say Ethiopia will have an edge over Egypt which claims the majority share of Nile waters, given to it by a colonial agreement put in place by the British, reported the East African.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin today:

Grand Renaissance Dam Project
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 52, Issue. 3, Pp. 20795A–20795B

POWER: Egypt – Ethiopia – Sudan
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 51, Issue. 8, Pp. 20543C–20545C

EGYPT – ETHIOPIA: Nile Dam Problems
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 50, Issue. 10, Pp. 20154B–20155B

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.

Uganda – Corrupt Payments

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Parliament orders the repayment of fees paid to 42 officials following a victory in landmark tax arbitration case. 

The Ugandan Parliament has ordered all 42 government officials who had received a payout to refund the Ugandan Shillings (UShs) 6 billion that they had shared as a reward by President Yoweri Museveni for winning a landmark arbitration tax dispute.

The tax dispute related to British-based oil firms Heritage Oil and Gas and Tullow Oil. In July 2010 Heritage Oil and Gas sold its assets in Uganda to Tullow Oil for US$1.5bn, with the Ugandan Revenue Authority (URA) issuing a tax bill of $434m.

In May 2011, Heritage Oil and Gas initiated arbitration proceedings against the Ugandan Government for the release of $405m held by the URA following the scale of interests in oil blocks 1 and 3A in July 2010.

The case against Heritage Oil and Gas was decided in Uganda’s favour and therefore upheld URA’s assessment of $434m as Capital Gains Tax, reported Uganda-based, the Independent.

The payment to the 42 officials was a reward for their purported role in the arbitration case.

Most of the beneficiaries who received between UShs50m and UShs200m had also profited from a UShs56bn money pot which was passed by Parliament across seven financial years to facilitate Uganda’s legal team to prosecute the tax case against the two British oil firms.

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President Yoweri Museveni – CC 2012.

However, some senior officials who took a share snubbed the Parliament’s directive for a refund. They stated that they cannot refund the money since President Museveni supported the payment.

Solicitor General Francis Atoke, who pocketed UShs234m, said, “why should I (refund the money)? The money was paid to us, we did not ask for it even when we handled the case. It was the principal (Museveni) who gave us (the money) and we used it, so refund what? There is nothing to refund.”

While the parliament committee’s report does not explicitly name the officials, it accuses URA Commissioner General Doris Akol of violating the URA Act and Public Finance Management Act when she authorised withdrawal of UShs6b from URA account, reported the Monitor.

The notable beneficiaries of the so-called presidential handshake also include Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) Executive Director Allen Kagina and Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Executive Director Jennifer Musisi among others, reported the Observer

Uganda continues to suffer from widespread corruption, which hinders business and investment in the country. There have been numerous reports of bribes and under the table payments within high level government circles.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: Uganda
Economic, Financial & Technical Series.
Vol. 54, Issue. 2, Pp. 21618B–21619B 

UGANDA: Drought Hits Hard
Economic, Financial & Technical Series.
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21533A–21534A

UGANDA: Kasese Inaction Criticised
Political, Social & Cultural Series.
Vol. 54, Issue. 5, Pp. 21445A–21446C

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Zambia – Opposition MPs Suspended

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As the leader of the opposition remains in jail the government suspends over forty opposition MPS. 

On June 12th the Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Matibini suspended 48 United Party for National Development (UPND) MPs for 30 days. The MPs had boycotted President Edgar Lungu‘s address to the National Assembly.

They refused to attend address in March as they argued Mr Lungu was not the legitimate winner of the election in 2016.

“Let me inform you that your conduct of boycotting the President’s address as a way of protest was unjustified and unbefitting the conduct of an MP. The President is the Head of State and Government, and you took oaths of allegiance,” Matibini said.

As they were suspended the Times of Zambia reported that the UPND MPs were directed to immediately leave the House, described as a ‘walk of shame’ as Patriotic Front MPs burst into laughter.

This is the latest in recent targeting of opposition members. At the end of May imprisoned opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema returned to court facing charges of treason.

Hichilema and five others were arrested on April 11th following an incident in which the convoy he was travelling in refused to give way to the presidential motorcade. He is accused of endangering the President’s life, although his lawyers argue the charges are politically motivated.

Legal gymnastics have kept Hichilema in prison and he has been moved from one Magistrate to another. Betty Malupenga is the third magistrate handling the case, reported Zambia Reports.

UPND_campaign_rallyUPND Campaign Rally 2016 – CC

Since losing elections in January 2015 Hichilema had, according to Zambia Reports, endeavoured to ‘carry himself like a man with official state power’. He repeatedly picked fights with President Lungu and other government members, labelled the judiciary corrupt and scolded the police as incompetent. Although commentators say that this is his right as a political person.

Speaker Matibini warned Hichilema and other leaders of political parties and the general public, that their comments relating to matters of the House should be made within the confines of the law. He said if they continued to do so, they risked being liable to be prosecuted, reported the Times of Zambia.

The Zambian government has also faced criticism from the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops over the handling of the case against Hichilema, who warned that country is slipping towards ‘dictatorship’, reported BBC News

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

ZAMBIA: Hakainde Hichilema Arrested
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 4, Pp. 21396C–21397A

ZAMBIA: Re-Election Bid?
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 1, Pp. 21287C–21288C

ZAMBIA: Information Minister Dismissed
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 11, Pp. 21209C–21210A

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.