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.
Ahead of another high-level meeting between rival eastern and western parties in Paris this month, the publication of a new roadmap by the western government indicates a fresh commitment to hold elections by March 2018; yet substantial obstacles remain for full implementation of the roadmap.
Egyptian incursions nominally in retaliation against the Islamic State are also in support of General Haftar’s militia, which continues its slow march towards the capital Tripoli, and aimed at rooting out Qatari affiliated militant groups that pose a threat to the UN-sponsored government.
The appointment of General Haftar as head of the Libyan armed forces is part of a recent agreement between the country’s rival governments in Tripoli and Tobruk that has increased the likelihood of a more lasting political settlement.
General Haftar is likely to stage an offensive on the west in the next few months, first targeting Misurata and seeking to take control of the oil terminals at Zawiya, before then moving on to Tripoli; yet his support base is still fragmented.
As the UN-brokered unity government faces collapse, eastern forces are expected to stage an offensive on Misurata and Zawiya, while intensifying divisions among Tripoli militias also expose the city to attacks from the east.
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.
Slow implementation of the UN-backed peace agreement and the establishment of a unity government will frustrate western plans to expand military operations against the Islamic State in Libya.
The rise of digital financial services in Africa will prove to be an exciting growth opportunity, although will be constrained to key consumer markets and face significant regulatory hurdles.
- 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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