EXX Africa’s analysis series focussing on threats facing the aviation sector explores the incidence and impact of petty and grand corruption in some of Africa’s most important economic hubs.
In a three-part analysis briefing series, EXXAfrica is exploring specific threats to the aviation sector in Africa. In part two, we examine the threat posed by crime, whether by petty criminals or organised crime syndicates, and the impact this has on individuals and businesses.
Many sub-Saharan African countries have set ambitious targets around the incorporation of renewable energy in their power mix over the next decade. EXXAfrica’s latest briefing explores the opportunities and challenges for private investors in some of the continent’s most prominent economies.
It is estimated that over 640 million Africans still do not have access to electricity – representing a staggering 60 percent of the total population of the continent. While a hindrance to economic and social development, this gap also means that sub-Saharan Africa constitutes the world’s largest untapped market for electrification, and consequently represents a huge opportunity for renewable energy.
Our latest analysis briefing provides a bird’s eye view assessment of this opportunity in sub-Saharan Africa’s three largest economies – Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya – over the next decade and highlights promising shifts in some smaller economies as well.
While Nigeria is endowed with vast natural resources that could be harnessed for renewable power, this potential remains largely untapped. Of its installed capacity, between 80-85 percent of electricity generation comes from thermal power – mainly gas. According to the US Power Africa Programme, despite having over 12 MW of capacity, most days Nigeria only generates around 4 MW of power. Coupled with a rapidly expanding population, Nigeria has ever growing energy needs. In an attempt to turn this around and address massive electricity shortfalls in the country, the government has developed several plans to ensure growth in renewables over the next decade.
The Nigerian Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policy (NREEEP), approved in April 2015, commits Nigeria to achieving a greater share of its national electricity supply from renewable energy sources by 2030. To achieve this, the country’s Renewable Energy Master Plan (REMP) intends to increase the supply of renewable electricity to 23 percent in 2025, and 36 percent by 2030. Through this, renewable electricity would then account for 10 percent of Nigeria’s total energy consumption by 2025 before being expanded to around 20-30 percent by 2030. While Nigeria’s REMP provides for 20 percent by 2030, individual government ministries have promised 30 percent by 2030.
While hydropower is the main source of renewable energy generation in Nigeria today, given the risk of droughts, the country is looking to diversify its energy resource mix with a strong focus on solar. Over 2017 and 2018, for example, the country invested more than USD 20 billion in solar power projects to boost the capacity of its national grid and reduce reliance on it by building mini-grids in rural areas without access to electricity. To this end, a USD 350 million World Bank loan is being used to build 10,000 solar-powered mini-grids by 2023 in rural areas.
In addition, according to a ‘job census’ report by Power for All, a non-governmental organisation, growth in the renewable energy sector is already having a positive spinoff in terms of job creation where the sector’s workforce is now comparable with traditional power grids and utilities in Nigeria. The sector currently employs 4,000 informal jobs compared to 10,000 employed across the country’s traditional energy sectors. Most importantly, jobs in the renewable energy sector are expected to grow by 100 percent in the next four years in Nigeria.
Despite the vast potential for renewables in Nigeria, growth has been hindered by a lack of funding, prolonged discussions around tariffs in bilateral engagements with investors – as opposed to through open tenders – volatility of the local currency, the basing of tariffs in Naira as opposed to US dollars, and unresolved liquidity issues in the sector.
There are further concerns that the government will continue propping up the currency and maintain costly subsidies, both policies which foster massive fraud and embezzlement. As the budget deficit widens, debt servicing spikes, and some banks continue to struggle, there are growing concerns that Nigeria may be running into ‘bankruptcy’. EXXAfrica addressed such issues in various recent analysis briefings (See NIGERIA: WEAK TAX COLLECTIONS AND ASSET SEIZURES POSE RISK TO REPAYMENT OUTLOOK).
According to South Africa’s Ministry of Energy, around 91.2 percent of electricity generation comes from thermal power stations whilst around 8.8 percent comes from renewables. The release of the country’s long-awaited Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), approved and made public on 18 October 2019, has the potential to change this, however. The last such plan was the IRP 2010 promulgated in March 2011. The latest plan maps out the scale and pace of new electricity generation capacity to be commissioned until 2030 and has a strong focus on renewables.
The IRP provides for 14,400 MW of new generation to come from wind, 6,000 MW from solar photovoltaic (PV), 3,000 MW from gas, 2,500 MW from hydro, 2,088 MW from storage and 1,500 MW from coal. Given the long lead times, preparation will start now for new nuclear builds that will come online after 2030. South Africa’s only nuclear power station, Koeberg, is coming to the end of its life by 2024. The government is in talks with the state utility, Eskom, to refurbish the station and extend its life until 2044. Thereafter, modular nuclear power station stations will be built to replace the decommissioning of coal-fired plants.
As demonstrated, there is a strong focus on renewables in the plan with 48 percent of new energy capacity to come from wind, 20 percent from solar, 10 percent from gas, and eight percent from hydro. Moreover, the private sector is expected to largely fill this gap, as there will be no more complex and expensive baseload infrastructure projects that the country previously pursued. Indeed, upon the launch of the plan, Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe confirmed this when he noted that government urgently needed another 4,000 MW installed as quickly as possible. It is expected that there will be at least two IPP rounds within the next two years.
In addition to presenting an opportunity to IPPs, the growth in renewables also has the potential to help kick-start manufacturing in this regard as well. Equipment manufacturers of wind and other renewable energy inputs have said that these projects would go a long way to establishing South Africa as a manufacturing base for components, boosting exports to the rest of Africa.
One of the main criticisms of the IRP is that it repeats the past mistake made of assuming a demand for electricity that is far too high. In 2016, the difference between actual electricity sent out compared to the expected amount to be sent out was 18 percent. The median forecast for such growth is based on an average GDP growth rate of 4.26 percent by 2030, whilst the low forecast is based on 1.33 percent.
Many do not believe this will materialise. Not only is this likely to impact electricity tariffs and Eskom’s ability to service its debt, but it may mean that the IRP will have to be updated in a few years should demand growth prove to be lower. Such revisions are likely to impact policy certainty and investor confidence. EXXAfrica has covered the isusue of enery sector reform in various recent briefings and a new report on renewables in the power mix is upcoming in coming weeks (See SOUTH AFRICA: PRESIDENT FACES CRUCIAL DECISION ON ESKOM REFORM IN POLICY ADDRESS).
Kenya leads in exploiting renewable energy sources in Africa as these sources already contribute significantly to the overall energy mix in the country. The country currently has an energy mix consisting of around 85 percent of renewables, for example, largely driven by geothermal and hydro. The next ten years promises to provide even more opportunity in this regard.
Kenya has a stated goal of 100 percent renewable energy generation by 2030 to be complemented by a diverse technology mix. Although hydropower contributes significantly to energy production at the moment, given the risk of unreliability during periods of drought, the government is looking to enhance solar, wind, thermal, and geothermal generation in its long-term plans.
One of the ways in which the government is ensuring this is by entering into major public-private partnerships. This was demonstrated as recently as August 2019 when the Kenyan Investment Authority and Meru County Government entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with global renewable energy developers to build Africa’s first large scale hybrid wind, solar PV, and battery storage project – the Meru County Energy Park. The park will provide up to 80 MW of renewable energy, consisting of up to 20 wind turbines and more than 40,000 solar panels.
Electricity generation from wind specifically is also expected to attract significant investment over the next decade. In March 2019, for example, the largest wind power plant in Africa – the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project (LTWP) – became fully operational. Further wind energy investments from the private sector are expected to be facilitated by the country’s Feed in Tariff (FiT) policy and its Least Cost Power Development Plan. In this regard, Kenya’s power industry generation and transmission system planning is undertaken on the basis of a 20 year rolling Least Cost Power Development Plan (LCPDP), which is updated every year. Wind has been prioritised in this.
The growth in renewables is also expected to have a significant impact on the job market, as witnessed in Nigeria. According to Power for All, decentralised renewable energy companies in Kenya account for 10,000 jobs – only 1,000 fewer than the national utility. Moreover, renewable energy jobs are expected to grow by 70 percent in Kenya over the next four years.
Following a review of Purchase Power Agreements by a taskforce in 2016, a number of key recommendations were made to improve the market. Chief among these was the reduction in the tariffs under the FiT policy to help manage costs and keep in line with the LCPDP. Policy certainty around mini-grids was also called for, as was improved access to finance and land.
Recent cancellations of high-profile hydropower dam projects have also called into question the viability of some projects, the risk of contract frustration, and the persistent threat of corruption affecting large projects. In July 2019, Kenyan Finance Minister Henry Rotich was arrested on suspicion of financial misconduct related to the construction of two dams overseen by Italian construction company CMC Di Ravenna. The case is highly politically motivated and the projects concerned have since been cancelled (See KENYA: FINANCE MINISTRY FALLS AT THE HEART OF POLITICAL POWER STRUGGLE).
Beyond these three large economies, Ghana and Ethiopia have been identified as having significant renewable energy potential as well.
Looking at Ghana, in February 2019, its Energy Commission lodged its own REMP, setting out the blueprint for power production until 2030. Under the plan, Ghana aims to increase installed renewable capacity – which, under the classification, excludes hydropower projects greater than 100 MW – from 2015 levels of 42.5 MW to 1,364 MW by 2030. To achieve this, the government plans to enact tax reductions; exemptions on import duties and value-added tax through to 2025 on materials, components, machinery and equipment that cannot be sourced domestically; and, import duty exemptions on plant parts for electricity generation from renewables.
Looking at Ethiopia, despite its large energy potential, the country is experiencing energy shortages as it struggles to serve a population of over 100 million people and meet growing electricity demand, forecasted to grow by approximately 30 percent per year. Its Growth and Transformation Plans I and II seek to rectify this, outlining multi-year plans to transform the country into a middle-income country by 2025 and to starkly increase electricity generation, particularly through hydropower – which accounts for 70 percent of current power generation – but also through solar power and wind. Numerous tenders have already been released to help reach this target, with the latest tender call for the provision of mini-grids in 25 rural towns being made in mid-October 2019.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s smaller economies also present significant opportunities for investors. The five countries with the highest renewable energy investment as a percentage of GDP globally, for example, are all emerging or developing economies. From sub-Saharan Africa, Rwanda and Guinea-Bissau make this list. Other smaller economies have also set renewable energy targets, demonstrating a commitment to the development of this sector. This includes Cape Verde, Djibouti, and Swaziland.
From the continent’s largest economies to its smallest, it is clear that there is a focus on the development of renewable energy in sub-Saharan Africa. Growth of this sector promises to not only plug the gap with regard to electricity generation, particularly in light of a growing population, but to help the continent achieve its climate goals.
While the opportunities and indeed the challenges differ from market to market – as a result of local political, socio-economic and security challenges – investors should nevertheless recall some of the more generalised risks that they may face when investing in this sector in sub-Sahara Africa.
These may include:
– A weak or underdeveloped regulatory environment;
– Shifting energy policies under new regimes;
– The creditworthiness of state-owned utility companies;
– Corruption and/or political pressure;
– Lack of financing for projects; and,
– Contestation over land.
SEE COUNTRY OUTLOOK: NIGERIA, SOUTH-AFRICA, KENYA, GHANA, ETHIOPIA
EXXAfrica unpacks the data and trends behind the main insurance policies available to commercial entities in South Africa, debunking popular opinions around strikes and terrorism in particular.
Media reporting and click-bait headlines largely drive popular opinions around the primary security threats facing commercial entities in South Africa. In particular, significant attention is often given to the incidence and impact of strikes, riots, and civil commotion, and more recently, terrorism. Our latest analysis briefing delves into these threats, providing an historical overview of each peril along with a current assessment of the available data to forecast each threat.
Industrial action becomes less frequent but more severe
Strikes or industrial action in South Africa have gained infamy, primarily as a result of major incidents such as the 2010 public and private sector strike that caused 20,674,737 working days to be lost in one year. The year 2010 was characterised by a number of work stoppages in both the public and private sectors. Six country work stoppages across sectors contributed to the high number of workdays lost according to the Department of Labour.
Instances of violence also became more frequent and strikes were more protracted. In 2012, the Marikana ‘Massacre’ involved the deaths of 34 mineworkers. In 2014, a platinum strike involved 70,000 mineworkers and lasted five months. The effectiveness of such incidents and the seeming strike culture in the country is largely as a result of the historical (political) strength of trade unions and the rights afforded to them in the Constitution.
The role that South African labour unions played in the dismantling of Apartheid is well known. As a result of this, trade unions continue to enjoy a privileged position in politics. For example, unions have a voice in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC), which is a statutory body that brings together government, business, and labour unions to find consensus on policies and legislation.
According to the Department of Labour, there are over 180 registered trade unions, representing over three million workers that constitute around 25 percent of the formal workforce in the country. The Constitution further affords these unions the right to call strikes, during which their workers are protected from being dismissed – allowing for extended actions.
However, while South Africa has garnered much international attention for industrial action, studies conducted in the first half of the decade show the nature of strikes in the country is not dissimilar from other emerging economies – such as Brazil and India – and occasionally even developed economies, such as the US. More recently, research conducted by the Mandela Initiative in 2017 shows that the frequency of strikes has actually decreased since 2000 – as demonstrated in ‘Figure 1’.
The Department of Labour attributes this drop to the improvement in labour relations via various legislation. A drop in unionisation rates over the past 20 years has also likely driven this decrease. Unionisation of the workforce peaked in 1997 at 45.2 percent of total employment. At 25 percent today, South Africa is now more on par with developed economies, such as Canada and the UK.
On the other hand, while the frequency of strikes has decreased, research shows that when industrial action does occur, it does so more intensely with a higher number of workdays lost per incident – demonstrated in ‘Figure 2’. This finding is supported by data released by the South African Special Risk Insurance Association (SASRIA). According to its 2018 Integrated Report, in the financial year that ended 31 March 2018, it paid net insurance claims of ZAR 663 million (around USD 45 million) – a 15.5 percent increase on the previous year with a marked increase in claims severity.
Looking more closely at which sectors are most affected in this regard, SASRIA notes that its biggest claims come from strikes and protests relating to service delivery. In terms of strikes, the mining, manufacturing, transport, wholesale or retail trade, construction, and agricultural sectors generally have the highest share of striking workers on average – driving up this impact.
Service delivery protests buck the trend
Data around service delivery protests suggest that such incidents do not just high impact, as indicated by SASRIA above, but are actually occurring more frequently – bucking the industrial action trend. In this regard, SASRIA notes that between 2010 and June 2018, South Africa experienced 1,330 violent service delivery protests spurred on by service delivery failures, corruption, and growing youth unemployment. This situation worsened in 2019 where according to research conducted by Municipal IQ; by June 2019 alone, South Africa had already recorded 140 service delivery protests countrywide, compared to 137 in 2016 and 82 in 2011.
Virtually all of these incidents, according to SASRIA, were exacerbated by criminal elements driving up the propensity for violence, as shown in the recent xenophobic attacks in the country (See SPECIAL REPORT: SOUTH AFRICA ANTI-IMMIGRANT VIOLENCE TRIGGERS AFRICAN RETALIATION). Such service delivery protests predominantly occur in Gauteng and the Western Cape provinces – the two major commercial hubs in the country.
An established history of terrorism
While South Africa has garnered significant global attention for strikes, riots and civil commotion, little focus has been given to the terrorism threat within the country. Despite this, there is a long and dynamic history of such a threat in even post-Apartheid South Africa.
Looking firstly at the domestic threat, ie a homegrown threat, it is worthwhile recalling that South Africa was the site of Islamist bomb attacks in and around Cape Town as recently as the 1990s and 2000s. These incidents carried out by a group known as the People against Gangersterism and Drugs (PAGAD), included targeted attacks against Planet Hollywood at the V&A Waterfront in 1998, a Wynberg synagogue in 1998, and a bagel shop in Seapoint in 2000, among others.
South Africa also has a history of right-wing radicalisation movements, particularly among the Afrikaner community. Attacks in post-Apartheid have been attributed to a group known as the Boeremag in particular and have included a series of nine bomb attacks that exploded over two days in a Johannesburg based township in 2002 and a foiled plot to stage bomb attacks in townships on the eve of the Football World Cup in 2010.
As both PAGAD and Afrikaner radical movements have diminished in South Africa over recent years, the focus has now shifted to the transnational terrorism treat. In this regard, it is well known that South Africa is used as a transit point for global terrorist groups. Various leaks by Al Jazeera in 2015, for example, pointed to this specifically noting that Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda use the country to run training camps and as a ‘cool off’ location. South Africa’s porous borders go a long way to facilitating this (See THREATS TO AFRICAN BORDERS).
Beyond being a transit point, threats have been made against the country itself. Both Al Shabaab and Boko Haram made calls for attacks against South Africa during the outbreak of xenophobic violence in April 2015, for example. Al Shabaab specifically mentioned conducting revenge attacks in the metropolitan centre of Durban. New episodes of xenophobic violence as recently as this year will likely continue to drive intent by these groups to target the country, although the capability will be lacking (See THE THREAT OF ISLAMIST TERRORISM IN SOUTH AFRICA).
Islamic State: Foreign fighters and self radicalised individuals
More recently, the transnational terrorism threat has shifted to the Islamic State (IS) militant group. This focus has in part been driven by the estimated 128 South Africans who moved to the group’s self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria during the height of its operations and the subsequent return of around 75 such members by 2018. However, research has shown that the majority of these individuals indicated a willingness to be interviewed by the State Security Agency upon their return. Such willingness demonstrates a noteworthy trend of individuals trying to distance themselves from the group, lessening the threat posed by these returning foreign fighters (See
However, it is important to recall that these individuals reportedly came from “multiple educational backgrounds” suggesting that they were likely self-radicalised as opposed to being part of a direct recruitment campaign, although there has been some evidence of this in Gauteng Province. The prevalence of access to online IS-related websites and social media in South Africa, as well as dire socio-economic environmental conditions further help create an environment for self-radicalisation in the country. As evidence of this, a series of firebomb attacks at Woolworths stores and a mosque attack over 2018 and 2019 were linked to 12 self-radicalised men accused of being aligned with IS.
South Africa’s current involvement in the fight against militant organisations allegedly aligned with IS in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique has further sparked debate that it may become the target of retaliatory attacks. However, it is our assessment that while this may drive intent by the IS, this threat is most likely to manifest in these conflict areas, targeting the South African Defence Force specifically.
Having reviewed the data around strikes, riots, civil commotion and terrorism in South Africa, it is clear that the threats posed are more nuanced than often presented in the media.
Firstly, it appears that the most prominent civil disturbance threat is posed by service delivery protests by aggrieved communities in major urban centres, as opposed to strikes. This is likely to remain the status quo given the various economic challenges facing the country, particularly the high unemployment rate – officially estimated at 29 percent, and unofficially at 38.5 percent. While these protests predominantly occur in informal settlements, they have the potential to impact commercial operations and indeed the wider economy, as evidenced by SASRIA’s findings in 2018.
Secondly, it is important to reflect on same of the gains when comes to industrial action. The dramatic drop in the incidence of strikes over the last two decades is noteworthy although it is clear that further work needs to be done to contain the severity of strikes when they do occur. However, given that violence is often driven by the infiltration of criminal elements during such incidents, reversing this trend cannot be achieved through legislation or the Department of Labour alone, particularly in light of the high violent crime rate in the country.
Finally, while South Africa has not been the site of major terrorist attacks witnessed in even Western states, the country nevertheless has a history of such incidents. As terrorist groups rise and fall, the current threat is driven predominantly by self-radicalised individuals inspired by global groups, such as Islamic State, as opposed to foreign fighters or established militant organisations in the region.
SEE COUNTRY OUTLOOK: SOUTH-AFRICA
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.
A shock to global oil prices leaves many African markets unprepared for more expensive import bills, while some crude producers may struggle to reap the benefits of higher oil export revenues. EXX Africa assesses the risk outlook for Africa’s largest oil producers and the continent’s main fuel importers.
The latest outbreak of anti-immigrant violence in South Africa has been unusual only because of its timing coinciding with a major investment conference and the potential political motivations behind the attacks on foreigners. EXX Africa investigates the political and economic drivers of such violence, as well as the commercial impact of retaliatory action against South African interests elsewhere in Africa.
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
Just weeks away from publishing its much-anticipated master plan for the struggling power sector, the government is considering prescribing financial assets and forcing pension funds and banks to invest in state utilities’ debt as an alternative to seeking IMF support. However, the government’s intention to renew nuclear power capability may be more considered and economically prudent than previous nuclear procurement plans.
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