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West Africa inches closer to single currency, US Embassy accepts new Kenyan notes & Algerian army chief calls for elections: Africa This Week
  • Efforts to align at a ministerial level on a West African single currency form part of a wider push for stronger regional integration but the process of adoption is likely to drag considerably beyond the current envisaged timelines, given the tough convergency standards set and the need to secure political buy-in from heads of state. As such, the 2020 launch plan for a 15-state single currency looks unrealistic. Convergency requirements would see all member states achieve an inflation rate below 5% (inflation in Ghana and Nigeria has tended towards double digits), and a budget deficit-to-GDP ratio of 4% or lower. Yet public debt is on the rise and governments are continuing to plug spending gaps with debt so this convergency also seems unlikely. As a starter, a failure to adapt the convergency criteria could see the currency project flounder.
  • Several Francophone West African states already share the Euro-pegged CFA franc currency. This has helped them to ensure currency stability and manage inflation. However, critics point to the fact that these countries have not out-stripped growth in other neighboring states, and have also found that their exports are uncompetitive due to the inflated strength of their currency, while intra-regional trade between CFA franc using states has not picked up substantially, pointing to other systemic issues creating barriers to regional trade. In fact, the vast majority of trade tends to be outside of Africa due to import dependence and economic models oriented towards the export of raw materials. This will not change overnight. Nevertheless, the wider ambitions of the West African single currency and its ability to create a more harmonised and stronger trading bloc are gaining growing political backing since the concept was conceptualised almost two decades ago. While a regional Central Bank would gain greater monetary control than the pegged CFA franc zone provides, other countries like Nigeria and Ghana would be divesting sovereignty on their monetary levers to this regional body. And while this could help regularise and control certain monetary processes, reducing avenues for corruption, it remains to be seen if political leaders will all align behind this. Yet while 2020 may be aspirational and the future is by no means certain, efforts to regionally harmonise and integrate are likely to continue in the coming years.
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Sudan Rivals Agree To New Talks, Sierra Leone’s Fuel Crisis And The DRC Measles Epidemic: Africa This Week
  • Reports that Ethiopian mediation may have helped broker a new round of talks between protesters and the military junta in Sudan will do little to provide confidence that the country is emerging from its current political crisis. Armed militias linked to the ruling junta are exerting significant control on the streets and the recent escalation in violence is evidence of a concerted effort to clamp down on dissent. Military leaders have reportedly been emboldened by support received from Gulf states, while the junta leaders very much see themselves as the guarantors of law and order in a context of heightened uncertainty and unrest. As mentioned in our past updates, what started as an uprising to remove an authoritarian regime may see greater instability unfold as the military and its militia backers dig in, amid stiff opposition from other interest blocks and large parts of civil society.
  • The Guardian’s exposé on Russia’s move to increase its influence in Africa is borne out in recent diplomatic, security and commercial moves witnessed in some of its key focus countries such as Madagascar, CAR and South Africa. Russia remains a relatively small player on the continent (albeit with strong historical ties notably from the Cold War/liberation era). But after more than a decade of largely neglecting Africa, it will be interesting to see how growing Russian engagement re-shapes diplomatic and commercial competition on the continent, particularly with other new partners from the Gulf and Asia joining the behemoths of China, the EU, US and Japan in the drive to increase trade and investments on the continent. There have already been controversies around Russian lobbying for costly nuclear deals in South Africa, funding for political campaigns for commercial benefits in Madagascar, and alleged mercenary activity in conflict zones. However, there have also been more positive stories ranging from the development of bauxite investments in Guinea to support to peacekeeping efforts in CAR. Russia’s style of diplomacy, support and investment will inevitably raise eyebrows in Western quarters, and could certainly prove a disruptive and at times damaging influence. Tracking Russian engagement on the continent and ensuring it does not curtail efforts to drive transparency, good governance and development will no doubt be a growing focus for media, diplomatic and commercial actors.
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Sudan’s suspension from the Africa Union, Macky Sall’s pledge to unearth the truth and Africa’s New Trade area: Africa This Week

The African Union’s Peace and Security Council’s decision to eject Sudan from the continental union marks a decisive action following a crackdown by the Sudanese military against pro-democracy protesters which has resulted in dozens of deaths. However, the AU will need to join other international actors in applying further pressure on an entrenched Sudanese politico-military elite if it is to unlock the political crisis that Sudan finds itself in and pave the way for a swifter transition to elected rule. There remains a clear risk that the current vacuum could prompt a counter-coup and further clampdown or sow wider civil unrest as opposed political forces seek to wrest control of the situation. Although Eritrea has been designated to play a mediating role, the situation will remain highly uncertain in the short-term at least.

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