The anniversary of last year’s disputed elections has triggered fresh anti-government protests in the capital and other urban centres, yet co-option of the fractious political opposition and a heavy-handed security crackdown will mitigate the probability of a return to broader violent unrest.
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.
The government has successfully side-lined the main opposition from a new unity government and has strengthened its hand ahead of the July legislative elections, while boosting its credibility in negotiations with the IMF on an urgently needed new programme.
Government officials in the declining oil producer are tensely negotiating an urgently needed IMF programme to resolve Gabon’s mounting domestic arrears and to cut its ballooning budget deficit ahead of legislative elections in July to avoid fresh outbreaks of socio-economic and political unrest.
While the government attempts to divide and co-opt the opposition coalition, it faces more serious threats from public and private sector strikes as it faces mounting pressure to back down on spending cuts and plans to reform the oil sector.
As oil majors withdraw and the government restructures its hold over the oil sector, the economy is set to decline rapidly, raising state non-payment risk and the threat of public and private sector industrial action, as well as anti-government protests.
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.
In the absence of a real political platform of change, opposition supporters have ceased on hate speech, xenophobia, and ethnic animosity, yet riots will remain localised and are unlikely to pose a threat to stability.
The presidential election on 27 August will be closely contested between a unified opposition and the incumbent who will leverage state resources to secure a second term, raising risk of violent protests.
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