Frustration with the government is intensifying due to socio-economic grievances and concerns over insecurity posed by Islamist militancy, raising the risk of strikes and protests over the next year.
From the Zimbabwe coup and Kenya’s disputed elections, to the political transition in Angola’s oil sector. In this open article, EXX Africa lists its top five risk forecasts that were proven accurate over the past year.
Over the past year, the value of EXX Africa’s analysis has been demonstrated by the accuracy of numerous risk forecasts. While we cannot always be correct in our assessments, we do strive to deliver accurate, decision-ready, and commercially relevant forecasts on African security, political, and economic risk. We have chosen the below five risk forecasts of 2017 that have added most value to our Members and of which we are particularly proud.
TOP FIVE ACCURATE RISK FORECASTS FOR 2017
1) ZIMBABWE COUP At the end of 2016, we adjusted our baseline scenario for Zimbabwe to assess that a military intervention would be likely in the one-year outlook. This was based on intelligence of factional rivalries in the Zimbabwean military and an assessment that a looming economic crisis would again lead to delayed payment of military salaries. In November 2017, long-time president Robert Mugabe resigned after a military intervention forced him to vacate his office. This forecast was near perfect in its accuracy, timing, and detail of the military intervention that ended Robert Mugabe’s rule in Zimbabwe. It is therefore our top forecast for 2017.
SEE COUNTRY OUTLOOK: ZIMBABWE
2) KENYA ELECTIONS From two years before the Kenyan elections of August 2017, we reported serious violations of electoral process and attempts to manipulate the outcome of the vote. Based on this analysis, we assessed that the elections would be open to judicial challenges and that the levels of associated political violence would be higher than in 2012, though lower than after the 2007 elections. EXX Africa was one of the few risk advisories that believed that the first round election had indeed been compromised. In September 2017, the Kenyan Supreme Court took the unprecedented step of nullifying the first round election and ordering a re-run. President Uhuru Kenyatta subsequently won a second term in a disputed vote in October 2017 that was marked by localised outbreaks of violent unrest and an opposition boycott. While we could not have anticipated the Supreme Court ruling on the elections, our analysis on the protracted Kenyan election season was accurate.
SEE COUNTRY OUTLOOK: KENYA
3) ANGOLA & SONANGOL Former defence minister João Lourenço had always been shortlisted by us as one of the most likely successors to replace long-time President José Eduardo dos Santos. Since 2016, we also assessed that the first major political battle after the transition would take place over the future of struggling state oil company Sonangol. Following his assumption of office, President Lourenço dismissed the entire Sonangol board, including chairperson Isabel dos Santos. Since then Angola’s new government has made drastic overtures to improve transparency and stimulate the oil-dependent economy as it prepares to reach out afresh to the IMF and overturn four generations of an opaque status quo. Our forecast on the political transition and the role of Sonangol was accurate, though we remain amazed at the speed of change in Angola.
SEE COUNTRY OUTLOOK: ANGOLA
4) COTE D’IVOIRE MUTINIES EXX Africa had forecast the risk of outbreaks of mutinies in Côte d’Ivoire almost a year before the first barracks uprising in January 2017. Our assessment was based on the political rivalry over the 2020 presidential succession that has been at the heart of frequent military unrest. The mutinies have had serious economic implications, including port and bank closures. Massive pay-outs to mutinying soldiers and striking public sector workers have also put the budget under pressure. Moreover, without effective security sector reform and as a result of falling revenues, the government will continue to face frequent outbreaks of military unrest that will trigger an increasingly hostile public reaction.
SEE COUNTRY OUTLOOK: COTE D’IVOIRE (IVORY COAST)
5) SOUTH AFRICA ANC CONGRESS We had long been sceptical of a clear two-horse race in the contest to succeed President Jacob Zuma as leader of the governing ANC party. Instead, our assessment was that a compromise leadership slate would be negotiated on the delegates’ floor of the ANC elective Congress in December 2017. While an outlier scenario identified by us in which a compromise candidate would emerge from the floor did not occur, a negotiated settlement was indeed reached between rival factions. New ANC leader and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s authority will be reined in by Zuma loyalists in the new party leadership. President Zuma still controls the ANC’s top decision-making body, as well as the security and intelligence services. Therefore, Zuma’s removal from the presidency is only likely in case of a negotiated settlement, which could come in early 2018, or at least before June 2018. Our analysis of the political transition is ongoing, but we rate our forecast of the initial steps in the transition as accurate.
SEE COUNTRY OUTLOOK: SOUTH AFRICA
The value of intelligence is in its factor of surprise!
Overblown conspiracy theories aside, the August terrorist attack in Ouagadougou was most likely a case of a mistaken target; yet the subsequent fall-out may contain the first signs of a turf war between Islamic State affiliates and al-Qaeda linked groups.
The dynamism of the Islamist militant landscape in Burkina Faso suggests that multiple groups are acquiring the capability to strike high-profile targets in the country’s cities, although the most recent attack is more likely to have been carried out by al-Qaeda affiliates.
A trade dispute with South Africa over US chicken imports last year and an ongoing disagreement between the US and East African countries over used clothing imports indicate that some African countries are increasingly willing to forego privileged US market access, while the US government may move to repeal multilateral trade terms in favour of bilateral deals with selected African countries.
A French initiative to launch the G-5 Sahel combat force to counter West African Islamist militancy will require further funding and logistical support if it is to stand any chance of success to combat insurgencies and drug trafficking in border regions.
A new domestic Burkinabe Islamist militant group seems to be preparing to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State, despite its roots in the al-Qaeda network in West Africa; yet there are currently no indications that the group has the capability to stage high-profile attacks on international assets.
A home-grown radical Islamist insurgency with ties to al-Qaeda linked groups in Mali is increasingly affecting security around Djibo in northern Burkina Faso, yet still lacks the capability to stage more high-profile attacks on foreign assets in the capital.
Military restructuring and creating new command chains in the army will become increasingly urgent as Burkina Faso seeks to tackle the growing threat of Islamist militancy, especially along porous borders with Mali.
EXX Africa sources in Burkina Faso are reporting increasingly frequent incursions by Islamist militants from neighbouring Mali along the countries’ porous borders. This comes as militant groups in the Sahel are merging to stage more frequent and intense attacks on the security forces of regional governments (See MALI JIHADIST GROUPS UNITE UNDER ONE BANNER). In the latest incident, on 5 March, militants attacked a Malian military post at Boulkessi near the border with Burkina Faso in another indication of militants’ steady southward expansion.
Burkina Faso’s involvement in security operations against Islamist militants in northern Mali has raised the country’s terrorism risk. There have been several indicators that the threat of Islamist militancy was increasing in Burkina Faso, as French troops have sought to drive militant groups out of northern Mali and driven these southwards. Al-Qaeda affiliated groups have increasingly staged kidnap for ransom attacks along Burkina Faso’s border areas and become more involved in the regional ivory trade to replenish funds. Meanwhile, such groups have recruited and radicalised a growing number of politically and economically side-lined youths, who are willing to stage increasingly daring attacks.
The attacks in Burkina Faso indicate the breakdown of a previous relationship between Islamist militant groups in the Sahel and former president Blaise Compaoré who was ousted in 2014. Under Compaoré, the threat of militant attacks was mitigated by various agreements in which the government had pledged not to attack militant groups along Burkina Faso’s porous northern borders. The removal of Compaoré’s chief security adviser, General Gilbert Diendéré, after the latter staged an unsuccessful coup attempt in September 2016 led by the presidential guard, was also an indicator that relations with regional militant groups would deteriorate. EXX Africa sources report that under current President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré such relations have not been upheld.
Risk implications: In order to assert his authority, President Kaboré reshuffled his government in February. New Defence Minister Jean-Claude Bouda is loyal to the president, as well as the two other key figures in Burkina Faso’s tripartite power structure, the Speaker of the National Assembly Salif Diallo and Minister for Security Simon Compaoré. Bouda, who is an economist with little military experience, will become instrumental to restructure the armed forces and to ensure loyalty from many officers who are still under the influence of ousted president Blaise Compaoré. The restructuring of the armed forces will be critical to improve their responsiveness to the growing threat posed by Islamist militancy.
Because of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA)’s operations and France’s counter-terrorism operations in northern Mali, kidnap risk from Islamist groups al-Qaeda affiliated groups are elevated in northern Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso is active in the fight against terrorist networks in West Africa, so is likely to be targeted by Islamist groups over its perceived collaboration with Western countries. France has reportedly stationed Special Forces at its Burkinabe base. Since mid-2012, French military aircraft, surveillance drones, and supplies have also been accumulating at Ouagadougou Airport. Heavy arms have also been stockpiled at Camp Kamboisne, near Ouagadougou.
SEE COUNTRY REPORT: BURKINA FASO
While it is still too early to assess the longer term implications of a Trump presidency on Africa, trade agreements such as AGOA and security cooperation are unlikely to be significantly affected, yet various indicators point to risk of even slower African economic growth due to a stronger dollar and pledges to cut US foreign aid commitments.
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