Africa This Week 18922: Kenya’s Subsidy Removal, Egypt-Europe Interconnection Projects, Flutterwave eNaira Adoption, and more

Following the partial removal of subsidies that cushioned consumers from the global hike in oil prices, fuel prices have risen once again in Kenya. According to Kenya’s energy regulator,the subsidy was removed for super petrol but a smaller subsidy remained for diesel and kerosene. The new prices mean super petrol – mostly used by private motorists – will now cost about 179 shillings ($1.5) a litre, up from 1.3 dollars, while diesel, which is used by transporters and industries, will cost about 1.4 dollars in the capital, Nairobi. Kerosene, which is mainly used by low-income households for cooking and lighting, will cost about $1.25 a litre. In his inaugural speech on Tuesday, President William Ruto said fuel and food subsidies are “costly and ineffective” and that Kenya is “in a deep economic hole.” He also repeated his pledge to lower the cost of living as a priority upon taking office.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to meet with US President Joe Biden today in the United States, where aides say he’s expected to press for more negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. Since the outbreak of war between Ukraine and Russia, South Africa has maintained a neutral stance on the war, with Ramaphosa abstaining from a U.N. vote condemning Russia’s actions and calling for a mediated settlement. According to Naledi Pando, South Africa’s international relations minister, Ramaphosa would emphasize the need for dialogue during meetings with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. This also will be the country’s focus when it participates in the U.N. General Assembly next week.

Egypt and Europe have recently signed one of the most ambitious interconnection projects. According to reports, the interconnection project is an undersea cable that will carry 3,000 MW of RES electricity and connect northern Egypt directly to Attica in Greece. The project has been undertaken by the Copelouzos Group, whose management met last week with the Egyptian leadership to speed up the procedures. The so-called “GREGY interconnection” is a 3.5 billion euro project that has been categorized as a Project of Common Interest (PCI) by the European Union. It will carry clean electricity produced in Egypt (or other African countries) through solar or wind parks. In the past, Egypt has completed interconnections with Libya, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia and aspires to becoming a major energy hub for SE Europe too. The “GREGY interconnection” project is expected to be operational in 7 to 8 years.

In a new report released by the International Monetary Fund, the organization has called on governments in sub-Saharan Africa to be cautious about macroeconomic reforms as famine spreads in a region badly affected by the aftermath of COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine. According to the IMF, at least 123 million people, or about 12% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, “may be acutely food insecure, severely malnourished or unable to meet their basic food needs. Despite the fact that global warming is contributing to an increase in the number of hungry people, the IMF says some trade, regulatory, and market liberalization reforms are feasible. The IMF has renewed its commitment to supporting African countries in need of technical assistance and financial support for trade liberalization and import diversification.

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In Tunisia, following a general strike and arduous negotiations, the main labour union (UGTT) struck a pay deal on Thursday with the government in the capital city. The agreement calls for a 5% annual increase in public sector wages until 2025.Recall that the purchasing power of Tunisians has eroded since the beginning of the year amid rising prices, high unemployment and widespread poverty. But Noureddine Taboubi, the head of the UGTT, explained that the importance of the deal is to establish social peace and to ease the tense social climate in view of the very difficult social situation and the deterioration of purchasing power. The Tunisian General Labour Union leader confirmed the first hike would take effect next month. The state-run news agency TAP also reported the deal included a rise in the minimum wage.

Egypt has rejected reports by a rights group saying that the country’s authorities are stifling environmental activism as part of a broader crackdown on dissent. According to the report by Human Rights Watch, the Egyptian government’s restrictions amount to a violation of basic human rights and throw into question its ability to meet basic climate commitments. According to the reports, Egypt, which is the host of this year’s upcoming U.N.-led climate summit, which will take place in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh in November, has not addressed allegations of intimidation and obstruction faced by environmental workers and other activists. Rather, it responded to accounts that some local groups have faced difficulty in registering their non-governmental organizations due to strict laws on how NGOs should be established and registered. Egypt’s government has engaged in a widespread crackdown on dissent in recent years, detaining thousands, many without trial, according to rights groups. It was reported that under President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, authorities have also intimidated activists and new laws have practically barred many civil society organizations from operating.

The Angolan president, João Lourenço, has promised to prioritize social welfare and economic development during his swearing-in. Lourenço, who was recently elected for a second term in the recently concluded Angolan general elections, said he will continue to invest in human beings as the main agents of development, in their education, health care, and decent housing. He also promised to work on policies and good practices to promote and encourage the private sector of the economy to increase the supply of nationally produced goods and services. On the external front, João Lourenço also called on the Russian authorities to work towards creating a better environment and a new architecture of peace in Europe by ending the conflict between them and Ukraine through the use of dialogue and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. He said that international law must take precedence over military action.

Africa-focused fintech firm Flutterwave said on Wednesday that it has made a move that could help boost adoption of the digital currency by adding Nigeria’s eNaira as a payment option for merchants. As the first African nation to launch a digital currency, Nigeria is targeting 8 million users for the app launched in October. But adoption has been slow as lenders worry the app will compete with their online platforms and reduce fee revenue. The country aims to expand usage of its eNaira digital currency by attracting users without bank accounts after a first phase of adoption saw 850,000 downloads by bank customers. The west African country is battling to stabilise its weakening currency, curb rising inflation and boost growth after economic disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Egypt seeks further financial support and investment to cushion an economic shock caused by the war in Ukraine, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi began a two-day visit to Qatar on Tuesday, his first since Cairo and Doha restored relations last year following a regional diplomatic rift. The Egyptian presidency said Sisi would discuss bilateral and regional issues with Qatar’s ruler, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who visited Egypt in June. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain have boycotted Qatar since 2017 over allegations that it supported terrorism, an accusation that Qatar denies. An agreement to end the row was struck early last year, and Qatar and Egypt have moved quickly to rebuild relations. Egyptian diplomatic sources said Sisi will meet Qatari companies and the Egyptian-Qatari business council during his visit. Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia have also made recent investments in Egypt through their sovereign wealth funds.

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