Nigerian indefinite border restrictions on official trade with Benin and Niger are another setback to the continent’s free trade efforts, as import bans drive up inflation and stimulate demand for smuggled fuel and rice. Publicly stated motivations for the trade restrictions backed by the IMF do not disclose murkier political and commercial intentions behind the border closures.
In a three-part analysis briefing series, EXXAfrica explores specific threats to the aviation sector in Africa. In part one, we examine how the risks of war and terrorism may manifest via an explosive device attack, assault on an airport, or shoulder to air missile attack.
As security conditions across the Sahel continue to rapidly deteriorate, regional and international states have renewed their efforts to support joint counter-terrorism operations. EXX Africa assesses the potential for these efforts to address the current crisis, and the possible outcome for the security outlook across the broader region, including the resurgence of the narcotics trade.
With 54 countries and a continental coastline of 30,500 km that spans the Mediterranean sea in the north, the Suez Canal and the Red Sea in the northeast, the Indian Ocean in the east, and the Atlantic Ocean in the west, Africa’s borders are both numerous and vulnerable. EXX Africa delves into the primary threat actors taking advantage of these vulnerabilities to further their own objectives across the continent. The report will be submitted the United Nations General Assembly this month and is pre-released to our clients ahead of the publication.
EXX Africa takes a closer look at the idiosyncrasies of some of the prominent internet shutdowns on the continent over the last year, exploring the causes and consequences of this repressive technological tactic.
The use of internet shutdowns by African governments to suppress popular dissent is becoming increasingly common. So far in 2019, there have already been reports of internet shutdowns in at least 12 countries. The states most affected usually have few internet providers, which makes it easier to implement a ban. Although such shutdowns may be contrary to local law, they are often detrimentally effective before they can be challenged in court. Furthermore, there is a lack of a binding international legal framework to hinder governments from acting with impunity.
These partial or near-total internet blackouts are most often implemented in anticipation, or in the wake, of anti-government protests, particularly around elections. However, governments also use targeted blocking of certain websites to restrict access to specific information during critical periods, such as national examinations. We explore some recent case studies from the past 12 months in this latest briefing. We also examine the impact such shutdowns have on commercial operations and the wider economy in African countries.
This briefing follows on from EXX Africa’s special report published at the beginning of the year and updates the key forecasts established in that report (See SPECIAL REPORT: THE COST OF INTERNET SHUTDOWNS IN AFRICA).
Sudan: Prolonged shutdowns to control unrest
Internet blackouts have become a staple during the past 12 months in Sudan, particularly from December to April as protesters took to the streets to oust former president Omar Al Bashir from power. During this period, the government intermittently blocked access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Whatsapp. However, it was the near-total shutdown instituted in June until July, following particularly violent unrest in the capital, which garnered the most attention (See SUDAN: HARD-LINE DARFURI MILITIA SEIZE CONTROL OF THE CAPITAL).
On 3 June, the Sudanese Transition Military Council ordered a partial internet shutdown amidst reported paramilitary attacks on pro-democracy demonstrators in Khartoum, during which an estimated 100 people were killed. To begin with, the ban targeted mobile networks before escalating to encompass fixed-line connections on 6 June. From 6 June to 9 July, a near-complete blackout was implemented, cutting the population off from the outside world. According to NetBlocks, a web freedom group, the internet disruptions under the rule of the Council were “more severe” than those imposed under Al Bashir at the time.
The Council’s actions contributed to significant condemnation from local and international watchdogs, in turn spurring social media campaigns. For example, throughout June, international social media campaigns, #BlueForSudan and #IAmTheSudanRevolution, were launched in an attempt to gain attention for the massacres and censorship being perpetrated in Sudan.
Locally, a lawyer, Abdel-Adheem Hassan, challenged the shutdown in court. On 23 June, Hassan was successful in ordering his telecoms operator, Zain Sudan, to restore connectivity. Yet, while his win was widely publicised and celebrated in the belief that the internet would be restored countrywide the next day, the operator only restored connection to his personal line.
According to Human Rights Watch, the near-total blackout in Sudan resulted in “wide-ranging harm”. Notably, it prevented activists and residents from reporting critical information regarding paramilitary forces, who were responsible for the attacks in Khartoum and previously for violent campaigns in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile. Medical professionals further added that it made it difficult to organise ways to provide care.
The internet was only fully restored on 9 July after a further court challenge and a formal denouncement of the shutdown by the UN.
Chad: The longest night
Although Chad has a very low internet penetration rate – with only 6.5 percent of the population reported as having access to the internet as of 2017 – the country was recently subjected to the longest-running internet blackout on the continent. In March 2018, President Idriss Déby announced a partial internet block that affected major sites including WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook, as he prepared to amend the constitution to remain in office until 2033. Sixteen months later, the ban was lifted on 13 July 2019 (See CHAD: CREATING A DE FACTO MONARCHY AMID MULTIPLE CHALLENGES TO POLITICAL STABILITY).
According to the government, the ban was implemented for security concerns over terrorism threats. While this justification was challenged in local courts, all appeals were ultimately unsuccessful. The government only lifted the ban following a sustained international campaign, led by Internet without Borders, which included diplomatic pressure, protest action, as well as the sponsorship of VPN access for Chadians.
Long-term social media blackouts are common in Chad. Previously, in 2017, the government cut connections for ten months following controversial elections. These long periods of internet blackouts have severe economic consequences for the already impoverished country. According to the ‘Cost of Shutdown Tool’ by NetBlocks, the 2017 blackout cost the government an estimated USD 163 million. It is estimated that the most recent blackout cost upwards of USD 253 million.
Moreover, during the blackout, the country’s largest ISP, Millicom, a Swedish telecommunications company, was subject to substantial adverse media in Sweden regarding the company’s alleged failure to honour its UN commitments to protect free expression. In the early days of the blackout, the company claimed that the outage was due to technical problems before later admitting that the government had ordered the blackout. In June 2019, Millicom completed the sale of its operations in Chad to Maroc Telecom, a Moroccan telecommunication company. Although part of wider strategic disinvestment from Africa, Millicom’s withdrawal was likely impacted by the reputational damage it faced following the Chad blackout.
Mauritania: Internet shutdowns and propaganda campaigns
Mauritania held its presidential elections on 22 June. When violent protests broke out on 23 and 24 June in the capital Nouakchott, challenging the initial election results, the government moved to disrupt the internet before instituting a near-complete ban on both mobile data and fixed-line connections by 25 June. All of Mauritania’s consumer ISPs – Mauritel, Chinguitel, and Mattel – were impacted by the government’s decision.
By suppressing social and news media, the government was able to provide its own account of the protests through a false propaganda campaign. On 26 June, the state television broadcaster paraded a group of foreign nationals who alleged to take full responsibility for the protests. Only after the internet services were fully restored on 3 July did a more accurate picture of the post-election situation emerge.
Contrary to state propaganda, a number of Mauritanian political activists were reported to have been arrested for participating in the protests. Moreover, it was revealed that during the blackout, the state had detained two prominent journalists without charges. Lastly, once connectivity had resumed, delayed reports of civil unrest in the immediate aftermath of the elections from outlying rural areas began to emerge (See MAURITANIA: NATURAL GAS AND MINING BONANZA WILL MITIGATE INVESTMENT RISKS).
Ethiopia and Somalia: Shutdowns for exams
Internet shutdowns are not always instituted for political reasons. In Ethiopia and Somalia, they have also been implemented during national exams to prevent cheating. While internet access is occasionally restored in the evenings during these periods, the impact of such shutdowns is significant. According to Netblocks, a one-day shutdown of the internet costs Ethiopia at least USD 4.5 million and has a long-term impact on investor confidence in the host country.
The latter is particularly true in the case of Ethiopia as newly elected Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has sought to privatise the national telecommunications provider, Ethio Telecom. Nevertheless, while such government interference is likely to concern potential investors, the anticipated establishment of an independent regulator is expected to provide appropriate checks and balances (See
Countries to watch
Protests in Zimbabwe have also been met with internet shutdowns in recent months. In January 2019, for example, the government imposed a “total internet shutdown” amid violent protests against a dramatic fuel price increase. Access to the internet and social media apps like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp were intermittently blocked as the country’s largest telecom company, Econet, sent customers text messages relaying the government’s orders and calling the situation “beyond our reasonable control”. As the situation has continued to decline over the past few months, with reports of load shedding of up to 16 hours a day, food shortages, and the outlawing of anti-government protests, further unrest and associated internet clampdowns are expected.
Tunisia is scheduled to hold the first round of its presidential elections on 15 September 2019. The country has enjoyed relatively free access to the internet since widespread blackouts during the Arab Spring in 2011. After transitioning into a democracy, a key test for the budding democracy will be whether or not these elections are free and fair. Any internet shutdowns during the election season, which the government would likely justify by appealing to the threat of terrorism, will instead be an indication of the state’s democratic integrity.
Burundi is expected to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in May and June 2020. In 2015, as President Pierre Nkurunziza, sought to seek a third term ahead of the country’s elections, messaging services including Facebook, Whatsapp,Twitter, and Tango were shutdown. Actions by the government since then have further pointed to little tolerance for media freedom. In March 2019, for example, the government renewed its suspension of Voice of America and withdrew the BBC’s operating license. As such, it is highly likely that next year’s elections will be accompanied by an internet shutdown and near-total blackout.
Tanzania is expected to hold multiple elections in 2020, including presidential and parliamentary votes. With current President John Magufuli having cracked down on online media over the last year (See EXX Africa Special Report: The Cost of Internet Shutdowns in Africa) it is likely that he may move to control messaging ahead of and during the elections by implementing partial bans on the internet and removal of anti-government sites. Indeed, during an August 2017 meeting with leaders from China, the Tanzanian Deputy Communications Minister praised his counterpart for blocking social media platforms and replacing them with “homegrown sites that are safe, constructive and popular”.
Each case of those in power using internet blackouts to control information, and therefore people, has its particularities. However, one constant in all of these cases is the economic impact of the blackouts at both a macro- and micro-economic level. Decreased productivity, lack of email communication, disruption to online sales, decreased online advertising; these are a few examples of the consequences of internet shutdowns for commercial entities. At a national level, a recent Global Network Initiative report indicates that the loss of internet connectivity has a pronounced effect on a country’s daily GDP. The report estimates that an average high-connectivity country stands to lose at least 1.9 percent of its daily GDP for each day of a total internet shutdown. For an average medium-level connectivity country, the loss is estimated at one percent of daily GDP, and for an average low-connectivity country, the loss is estimated at 0.4 percent of daily GDP.
Activist groups like NetBlocks and Global Network Initiative are creating awareness of both the prevalence of internet shutdowns around the world and their associated economic impact. This awareness is vital for the media, NGOs, and international organisations to try to combat the increased use of shutdowns across the African continent. Indeed, internet access and the guarding against the abuse of it by those in power are fast becoming a key frontier for the protection of international human rights. However, the fight against the abuse of freedom of expression is expected to be prolonged in Africa, as more and more leaders are turning to this form of control to suppress dissent and manipulate access to information. In the interim, businesses and the wider economy are expected to bear the brunt of these decisions.
SEE COUNTRY OUTLOOK: ALL COUNTRIES
Over the past two years, there has been a dramatic escalation in violence across the Sahel, as both militancy-related violence and inter-communal ethnic conflicts have expanded and intensified. EXX Africa assesses the outlook for the current situation, and the likely implications on security for commercial operators in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger.
The Islamist insurgency in the Sahel has undergone a significant shift since 2016, with the past year recording the highest number of militancy-related violent incidents to date. Moreover, the intensification and expansion of regional militant activity has corresponded with an escalation of violent inter-communal ethnic conflicts, greatly complicating counter-insurgency efforts by both local and international security forces. EXX Africa has monitored such threat developments in a series of recent analysis briefings (See MALI: UNRELENTING SOUTHWARD EXPANSION OF ISLAMIST MILITANCY IN THE SAHEL).
Amidst the general intensification of violence across the region, the threat of terrorism and kidnapping posed to foreign nationals and international commercial interests in remote areas of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger has been elevated, with the mining sector in particular becoming increasingly vulnerable to attack.
Since 2016, the frequency, impact, and geographic spread of Islamist militancy-related violence in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso has increased dramatically. The formation of broad militant alliances, such as the Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) coalition, as well as the deepening of militant ties to organised crime networks, has facilitated a rapid expansion of the militant presence across the Sahel. As such, while Mali remains the focal point of the regional Islamist insurgency, militant groups are now also entrenched in the border areas between Mali, western Niger, and northern and eastern Burkina Faso, where they carry out frequent attacks on security forces and local communities.
Militant tactics have also adapted to regional counter-terrorism efforts, as the number and effectiveness of hit-and-run and roadside Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks has increased substantially in the past two years. In addition, militant groups have demonstrated a strong capability to carry out high-impact attacks in the region’s urban centres, despite the presence of multinational security forces. Since 2015, seven high-impact terrorist attacks have taken place in the capital cities of Mali and Burkina Faso.
Alongside this militant expansion, inter-communal ethnic tensions in the region have also spiked. Faced with a lack of reach into peripheral areas and an inability to push out insurgents, regional states chose to allow the formation of communal militias, such as the Dan Na Ambassagou organisation in Mali, which was established in 2016. In the past year, spurred on by regional militant groups, inter-communal tensions over land-rights and access to resources have erupted into large-scale violence, much of it perpetrated by these same militias. In the most significant incident to date, on 23 March 2019, at least 153 people were killed and 73 wounded in a massacre targeting the Fulani ethnic group in a village in central Mali. As a result, inter-communal violence in the region now accounts for more casualties than militant attacks (See MALI: FRUSTRATION MOUNTS AS SECURITY CRISIS SPINS OUT OF CONTROL).
Faltering counter-insurgency efforts
International and regional efforts to address the insurgency have thus far been unsuccessful in limiting the scale of the violence. While both the UN Multinational Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the French counter-terrorism mission, Operation Barkhane, remain ongoing, both are too limited in size and resources to cover the entirety of the affected region effectively.
As such, the primary responsibility for counter-terrorism operations in the region falls on national security forces, the majority of which are overstretched, under-trained, and ill equipped. In Mali, the security forces are completely reliant on external support from Barkhane and MINUSMA, and most units cannot operate independently. In Burkina Faso, the security apparatus, including the Special Forces and the intelligence services, was largely dismantled with the departure of former president Blaise Compaoré after a popular uprising in 2014. The G5 Sahel Joint Force, a regional counter-terrorism partnership between Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania, and Chad, has yet to become fully operational despite extensive international support, and remains hamstrung by a lack of training and equipment.
Impact on commercial operations
The vast majority of militancy-related attacks in the Sahel have either targeted local and international security forces or pastoral villages. Nonetheless, regional Islamist militant groups have both declared and repeatedly demonstrated their intent to target international commercial interests.
In May 2018, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) issued a statement explicitly threatening to conduct attacks on Western companies, particularly French entities, which operate in the area “from Mauritania to Libya”. This declaration did not signal a new threat, but rather highlighted an increasing effort by regional militant groups to connect foreign commercial operations to the Western military presence across the region.
In regional capitals, commercial activity has not been substantially disrupted by the militant threat. High-impact terrorist attacks have typically focused on areas popular with Western expatriates, such as hotels, beach resorts, and restaurants, as well as sites specifically connected to France. Commercial offices of Western companies have been unaffected, as militants continue to focus on those targets that offer the greatest opportunity to cause high numbers of casualties.
However, commercial operators in more remote areas face more significant challenges. Given the relative isolation of mineral deposits across the region and the limited security presence in these areas, the mining sector in particular has become increasingly vulnerable to direct attacks. Since September 2017, there have been at least nine recorded attacks on mining operations across the Sahel which have resulted in death, injury, or the destruction of property.
This vulnerability has been further underlined by the kidnappings of at least five foreign nationals employed in the mining sector during the same period. Most recently, on 14 January 2019, a Canadian national was kidnapped from a mining exploration site in northern Burkina Faso, near the country’s borders with Mali and Niger. Two days later, the victim’s body was found bearing multiple gunshot wounds.
Frequency and impact of attacks to continue
The current trajectory of the militant threat is likely to be sustained in the coming year. The intensification of inter-communal ethnic conflicts has greatly complicated efforts by regional and international authorities to conduct counterinsurgency operations and has led to a diversion of resources intended to deal with militancy. Moreover, while the development of local security forces has been prioritised, international efforts to do so continue to bear mixed results, and progress has been slow and uneven.
The longevity of the international commitment to this effort also remains uncertain, as internal debates in Washington over the past year have left significant questions over the future of US support for security capacity building in the region. As such, in the coming year it is unlikely that the G5 Sahel Joint Force or national security forces will reach a point where they can reverse the current situation.
Increasing regional expenditures on security also threatens to undermine government capabilities to address the social and governance-related issues that have contributed to the spread of militancy in the region. Militant groups in the Sahel have developed a keen awareness of where local dynamics and gaps in security and governance can be exploited to their advantage and have repeatedly done so through providing limited services and security to marginalised communities. With the ongoing escalation in inter-communal violence and resultant population displacement, the trend of militant expansion to new areas of operation is therefore likely to continue.
Greater responsibility on businesses for security
The continued deterioration of the region-wide security situation will present a growing number of challenges to foreign commercial operators in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. While commercial mining operations in south-western Mali have been largely sheltered from the insurgency up until this point, a significant number of mines in Burkina Faso and Niger are situated in vulnerable areas and have become increasingly exposed to militancy, as well as opportunistic violence by criminal armed groups.
Beyond the threat posed to mining facilities themselves, overland travel by commercial operators in remote areas is also likely to become increasingly difficult. In addition to the threat of kidnapping, the employment of indiscriminate roadside IEDs and mines has been reported in close proximity to commercial sites. For instance, on 14 August 2018 five people were killed when a police convoy came under heavy fire after striking a mine upon returning from the Boungou mining complex in eastern Burkina Faso.
Both local and international security forces are likely to remain overstretched in the foreseeable future and will therefore be largely limited to adopting a reactive posture to the militant threat to commercial sites. For instance, in response to the 3 October 2018 militant attack on the Inata gold mine in northern Burkina Faso, French armed forces from Barkhane intervened by deploying air assets to track down the perpetrators. While such responses may provide a limited deterrent, regional militant groups have proven extremely adaptable and are likely to quickly development counter-tactics to evade detection following attacks.
As such, in Burkina Faso, the government has stated that security measures at mines must be improved and has proposed the building of barracks and deployment of military personnel to commercial sites. However, it is unclear when these measures will be implemented, and to what extent they will be effective in countering the threat. Militant groups across the region have demonstrated their willingness and capability to target well-manned and equipped military and police outposts, often for the purpose of acquiring vehicles, weapons and ammunition. In order to continue operating effectively, commercial entities in the region will have to take much greater responsibility for their own security and adapt to the changing situation.
SEE COUNTRY OUTLOOK: MALI, NIGER, BURKINA-FASO
A lack of demand for intra-regional formal trade in West Africa may prove the most serious challenge for the single currency’s eventual launch and success. Unlike the Eurozone in the 1990s, West African economies are geared towards exporting to western or Asian markets, rather than its neighbours. Few West African countries are likely to meet all currency convergence criteria over the next year, while most CFA countries will be reluctant to replace their stable monetary regime with the messy managed float of the Nigerian naira.
Sandwiched between insurgencies in Nigeria to the east, and Burkina Faso and Mali to the West, Niger sits in a dangerous neighbourhood. EXX Africa’s latest analysis briefing explores how these threats have evolved since 2018 and the outlook for the year ahead.
Transport logistics are a vital and promising sector for business in Africa. However, traversing land, sea, and air routes across the continent comes with a plethora of political and security risks. EXX Africa explores the key concerns in this regard, their manifestation, impact, and outlook.
Doing business in Africa is beset with a number of political and security risks. Recent research by Aon reveals that 70 percent of countries in sub Saharan African are currently at risk from strikes, riots, and other types of civil unrest while 25 percent are at risk from sabotage and terrorism. Although government assets are most frequently targeted during such events, these risks ultimately affect the viability and profitability of private entities and investments as well.
The latest Emerging Markets Logistics Index, which ranks 50 emerging economies across the world, places these concerns in the transport logistics sector. Agility Logistics produces this index. Rankings are pulled from data from institutions such as the IMF, the OECD, the World Bank, the UN, and the WEF, among others, and is supported by a survey of trade and logistics industry professionals. Findings from the 2018 Index reveal that many of the top supply chain risks in sub Saharan Africa relate to political and economic concerns, with industry professionals citing corruption (23 percent), government instability (18.3 percent), terrorism (9 percent), and piracy (4.1 percent) as major risks. In North Africa, terrorism (43.8 percent) and government instability (19.9 percent) together represent almost two thirds of the primary concerns.
A similar long-term study by Willis Towers Watson echoes these findings. Its 2016 Transportation Risk Index, compiled from data and insights derived from 350 interviews with executives in the sector, noted that the number one long-term (up to ten years) megatrend for logistics across the continent concerned geopolitical instability and regulatory uncertainty.
Such political and security risks tend to affect transport logistics across the continent in three ways: border closures or delays, the targeting of state assets, or the targeting of private assets. We explore each of these manifestations, identifying their major trends, impact and outlook below.
Border closures and delays
Government and geopolitical instability frequently result in the planned or unexpected closure of land, sea and air routes, affecting the movement of goods and services. Such closures most often arise as a result of a change in government – whether by democratic or undemocratic means – or as a result of bilateral tensions between neighbours.
Election periods pose one of the primary threats in this regard. Even votes deemed free and fair, and organised by democratically elected governments can cause disruption. During the General Elections in Nigeria in February 2019, for example, the government announced the closure of all borders and implemented various restrictions on vehicular movements for the voting weekend. A similar elections-related border closure took place in December 2018 when the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) closed its borders with its nine neighbours as it held its long-awaited polls.
Unexpected changes of power, such as via an insurrection, coup, revolution or rebellion, further results in risks to the logistics sector and induces high levels of uncertainty. During the successful removal of President Omar Al-Bashir in Sudan in April 2011, following weeks of anti-government protests, the transitional military council closed the country’s airspace for 24 hours as well as all border crossings until further notice.
Unsuccessful attempts at regime change can also result in panic, as witnessed in January 2019 when Gabon suddenly closed its border with Cameroon following an attempted coup against President Ali Bongo. All cross-border trade ground to a halt forcing local businesses to divert their goods to Equatorial Guinea.
Poor bilateral relations can further limit the flow of goods and services. While there are some known long-standing tensions between neighbours that have resulted in border closures, such as between Morocco and Algeria (ongoing for 25 years) and Ethiopia and Eritrea (borders have closed again despite a peace deal in July 2018), emergent socio-political developments can cause abrupt stoppages to cross-border commerce as well. In February 2019, Rwanda unilaterally decided to close its busiest border with Uganda over mutual allegations of threats to national security. The decision not only affected bilateral trade but impacted trade to Burundi, the DRC and Zambia as well. One month later, borders were again closed in Southern Africa, this time between South Africa and Mozambique following xenophobic attacks in Kwa-Zulu Natal province. During this incident, a crowd of around 200-300 Mozambicans barricaded the N4 and began targeting trucks with South African license plates.
Targeting of state assets
Beyond broader political threats and the closure of borders, the logistics sector is often impacted by security-related incidents in which non-state actors target key state infrastructure assets. Such incidents may emerge during acts of militancy, labour unrest or sabotage.
The strategic importance of a country’s infrastructure – particularly its ports – often renders these assets prime targets for militant attacks and activity. This has been demonstrated repeatedly in conflict zones over the past 12 months, with attacks reported against sea and air ports in Somaliland (Bosaso Port), Somalia (Mogadishu International Airport), Libya (Ras Lanuf and Es Sider Ports, and Mitiga International Airport), Niger (Diffa Airport), and Mali (Sevare Airport). Militants may even attempt to seize such assets for political leverage. In March 2019 in the Central African Republic, a local rebel group stationed at the border post with Cameroon blocked cargo to impede commercial traffic in an attempt to force the government to include them in the newly formed government.
The economic importance of logistical infrastructure further incentivises established worker unions to target such assets during labour disputes and negotiations. In this instance however, disruptive events are not limited to conflict zones but can be found across all countries, including the major economies. In a 2019 survey on supply chain risk management in South Africa, all 20 participants identified socio economic factors, such as labour unrest, as a key source of vulnerability. South Africa has also been impacted by frequent incidents of sabotage within the logistics sector, with arson and derailment attacks having recently been carried out against both its passenger and cargo rail services.
Targeting of private entities
Political and security risks may also affect private commercial entities and their assets directly as well. One of the primary security threats in this regard is posed by piracy. While this threat is location and sector specific, its impact is significant – particularly considering that 90 percent of African imports and exports are moved by sea. According to the 2018 Oceans Beyond Piracy report, in East Africa alone, the annual cost of maritime piracy was estimated at USD 1.4 billion in 2017 (down from USD 7 billion in 2010) while in West Africa it was estimated at USD 818 million (up from USD 719.6 million in 2015).
Most concerning, according to the latest statistics released by the International Maritime Bureau, the threat from piracy is increasing in West Africa. Since 2014, there have been approximately 250 actual and attempted attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, with a 70 percent increase in incidents being reported between 2017 and 2018 alone. This surge is expected to result in associated rises in the cost of maritime business, particularly with regard to insurance. In 2017, the total costs of additional premiums incurred by ships transiting the Gulf was calculated at USD 18.5 million. Moreover, it was estimated that 35 percent of all ships now take out Kidnap & Ransom insurance, totalling USD 20.7 million.
Companies operating in the transport logistics sector are also frequently targeted by corrupt individuals. The sector remains particularly vulnerable to corruption given its close engagement with customs officials who are often underpaid and look to increase their wages through opportunistic facilitation payments. Extensive red tape and delays further amplifies this risk: according to the African Development Bank, the average customs transaction across the continent could involve 30-40 different parties. In addition to increasing commercial operating costs and affecting intraregional and international trade, such corruption at ports of entry and exit frequently facilities a range of illicit activities as well, such as the smuggling of people and goods, and tax evasion.
Despite these challenges, there remain sound opportunities for transport logistics in Africa. Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Mozambique, and Angola all featured within the Emerging Markets Top 50 Logistics Index last year.
Looking more closely at the data, Egypt and Ethiopia were identified as having made significant strides in the logistics sector. The improvement in business conditions in Egypt, including the reduction in business costs associated with crime, violence and terrorism, has been identified as one of the primary reasons for it jumping six places in the index last year – the most of any country. Similarly, Ethiopia’s goal to become a low-cost manufacturing and textiles hub along with the opening of Africa’s largest cargo terminal in Addis Ababa has attracted much attention. However, ongoing security concerns, especially the threats posed from ethnic conflicts and terrorism along border areas with Somalia and Kenya, were identified as setbacks.
In another promising development, South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, and Kenya were identified within the pool of countries that have the most potential to grow as logistics markets within the next five years. However, sub Saharan Africa’s two largest economies – South Africa and Nigeria – each fell down the index, with Nigeria falling seven spots. Both countries were nevertheless identified as turning a corner, particularly with regard to corruption and political instability and uncertainty in 2019.
As demonstrated above, supply chain risks vary wildly from country to country across Africa. From isolated events that cause single points of impact (such as a militant attack), to ongoing events that generate a localised yet sustained impact (such as strikes), to all-encompassing events (such as a coup), companies in the transport logistics sector are advised to stay abreast of political and security dynamics to navigate and forecast their threat environment. In addition, transport logistics should consider using political risk insurance to insulate their operations against disruption.
SEE COUNTRY OUTLOOK: ALL COUNTRIES
Mali’s government and military hierarchy has been reshuffled in an indication that the state is losing complete control over swathes of the country to Islamist militants and anti-jihadist militias. Similar trends are visible across the Sahel, especially in Burkina Faso and Niger, posing an ever-greater threat of southward expansion of terrorism in West Africa.
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