Pulse #32 - Welcome back from the Pulse Team, and 2021's first edition of The Continent-wide insight
The Data Room
While the implementation of the Great Green Wall initiative (combatting desertification by growing an 8,000km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa) has created 350,000 jobs, generated $90mn in revenues and restored 18mn hectares of land, success varies across participating countries, a status report reveals. Ethiopia has achieved the highest success with 2mn hectares of land restored compared to Djibouti’s tail-ending performance of 130 hectares.
Numbers in the Spotlight
(USD22.1bn) is the value of intra-bloc trade that the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) expects to boost with its integrated digital payment system for cross-border transactions
(USD14.3bn) pledged by the African Development Bank, France and the World Bank for the implementation of the Great Green Wall initiative
(1.3bn) have been brought together by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), launched on 1. Jan 2021
(1.2mn) is the estimated volume of Nickel deposits in northwest Tanzania - the world's largest development-ready, high-grade nickel sulphide deposit
5,100 French troops
fighting Islamists in the Sahel region of Africa are being considered for withdrawal by President Macron
years since President Yoweri Museveni captured power in Uganda after waging a five-year guerrilla war against the then government
On The Continent This Week
Proportional representation in politics, business and community leadership
A week after presidential elections, Ugandans are gradually returning online following five days of internet blackout imposed by the state. Whilst long-serving president, Yoweri Museveni defied Covid-19 deterrence rules to organise a victory parade stretching hundreds of kilometers after being declared winner of the disputed election, his closest challenger, Bobi Wine continues to be surrounded by army and police while being held under house arrest from where he says he is “worried about my life and the life of my wife”. Bobi Wine, 38, plans to challenge the victory of Museveni, 76. With Bobi Wine and his National Unity Platform party securing landslide victories in his ancestral region of Buganda, and Museveni achieving a similar feat in Western Uganda where he hails from, the election has exposed ethnic fault lines. It remains to be seen if Museveni, who has been in power for 35 years, will preside over Uganda’s first peaceful transfer of power.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) launched on New Year’s day against a backdrop of border closures and travel restrictions due to lockdown measures aimed at stemming the spread of Covid-19. The largest free trade area in the world, AfCFTA aims to thread together 1.3bn people in a $3.4tn economic bloc. The bloc is expected to boost intra-continental trade and pull tens of millions out of poverty by 2035. However the recent launch was largely symbolic, as full implementation will take decades. Obstacles abound - poor infrastructure, insecurity, border bureaucracy, petty corruption and protectionist tendencies - will need to be overcome if the bloc is to flourish. Additionally, although the launch of the single passport - a crucial element to allow for the free movement of people and goods across the Continent - is expected to occur this year, continued lock-down travel restrictions may push this further away from its original July 2020 target date.
Essential infrastructure, personal living-space & utilities
In a rare legal victory for victims of negative externalities of mining, UK-based mining firm Vedanta Resources, and its Zambian subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines, have agreed to settle all claims brought against them by Zambian villagers concerning pollution by a copper mine. In the case filed in 2015 in UK courts, 2500 Zambian villagers, including children, sought damages, remediation and cessation to the alleged continual pollution that they say is gravely impacting their lives. Although the mining firms have not admitted liability, commentators say the outcome of the case “is likely to embolden more potential claimants to seek access to judicial remedies against multinational corporations in their home jurisdictions.” This case sets a costly precedent that could make it difficult for parent companies to claim immunity against subsidiaries’ liabilities. Multinationals, particularly in extractive industries, ought to develop robust rights and enforcement policies, to protect local communities in poorer countries.
High value skills development and talent repatriation
In light of worsening youth unemployment, Nigeria has launched what it calls the 'biggest job creation scheme' in its history. Under the scheme named the Special Public Works (SPW) programme, the government will finance 750,000 paid placements for young people. While the scheme will offer three-month job placements starting October, the 20,000 naira ($53) a month salary will be less than the minimum wage of 30,000 naira. Additionally, temporary jobs, while offering the much-needed cash support and experience, do little to dent long-term unemployment and poverty. Figures from Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics show 14mn youth aged under 24 years are unemployed.
Effective internal and regional security, and foreign policy
France is mulling troop cuts in Africa’s Sahel region, after President Emmanuel Macron announced he could “adjust” their operations following successes against Islamist militants and the arrival of more European forces. Whilst it is unclear when and in what numbers adjustment to French troops will be affected, any drastic tinkering could fuel militants and sink the region into deeper fragility. France maintains the largest Western force in the region with 5,100 of its troops battling militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State as part of Operation Barkhane supporting the armies of Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad. But with 51% of the French opposed to the Sahel intervention ahead of the 2022 presidential polls, withdrawal of some troops remains a matter of when not if.
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