In 2018, some of Africa’s recent growth champions like Ethiopia and Tanzania will pose significantly higher risk to investors, while the giants of Angola, Nigeria, and South Africa are set for a return to economic growth and investor confidence.
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!
Outbreaks of sectarian and inter-communal violence indicate that the conflict is again escalating, threatening IMF and donor relations, while posing increased security risks to UN, NGO, cargo, and aviation assets.
The dismissal of the country’s defence minister is an indication of the government’s inability to deal with the conflict or to push peace-building initiatives; meanwhile, CAR’s armed forces are being increasingly criticised for lack of partiality and general incompetence.
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.
The IMF’s rushed intervention to provide massive new credit facilities to Gabon, Cameroon, and Chad may not be sufficient to prevent a regional currency devaluation later this year, as CEMAC’s economies all struggle with political and economic crises that deteriorate the investment climate.
Recent confrontations in the southeast are aimed at filling a security vacuum as Ugandan and US forces withdraw and also indicate the inherent failings of a recently signed peace agreement between some of the main warring factions.
As the demobilisation process struggles to gain pace and international NGOs withdraw from the country, rival militant groups step up attacks in commercial mining areas and on UN peacekeepers, while committing increasingly brutal acts of ethnic violence, especially targeting Peul cattle herding groups.
Intensifying and widening violence indicates that anti-Balaka and former Séléka fighters will refuse to join the demobilisation process without a political agreement, while the groups are collaborating in some regions to control and extort lucrative mining, cattle herding, and cargo revenues.
Hard-line Séléka groups threaten to capture and sack the country’s second city Bambari in the upcoming dry season to force the government to accept its demands of amnesty and inclusion of its leaders into the cabinet.
- EXX Africa director Robert Besseling moderated a panel on Africa’s commodity rollercoaster at GTR Commodities in Geneva hosted by Global Trade Review (GTR)
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