Africa This Week: Gabon pays first installment of debt-for-nature fund; Malawi secures $178 million from the IMF; UK Supreme Court ruled against sending asylum seekers to Rwanda; Zimbabwe declared state of emergency in its capital after cholera outbreak; South Africa’s ruling party supports parliamentary motion to close Israel embassy in Pretoria, and other
Gabon’s new rulers on Friday paid $1.1 million to a conservation fund as part of a $500 million debt swap that was agreed just before they seized power in August. The deal, the first of its kind in Africa, aims to protect Gabon’s marine biodiversity and leatherback turtles. The Nature Conservancy, a U.S. organisation that helped design the deal, said it had held talks with the junta and received assurances that the country’s environmental commitments would be upheld.
Malawi on Wednesday secured a loan of about $178 million from the IMF, with an immediate disbursement of about $35 million, to help its economy recover from foreign-currency shortages and inflation. The loan, approved by the IMF’s executive board on Wednesday, is part of a four-year Extended Credit Facility. Malawi also expects to receive more financial support from the World Bank and other development partners following its currency devaluation by about 30% earlier this month. President Lazarus Chakwera said the foreign investment will boost the country’s foreign exchange reserves and provide macroeconomic stability.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced on Tuesday that it will resume food aid to people across Ethiopia next month after suspending it earlier this year due to theft and diversion. The resumption follows diplomatic efforts and reforms by the Ethiopian government and humanitarian partners to improve the delivery and accountability of food assistance. The food aid will benefit millions of Ethiopians who are facing hunger and malnutrition due to the war in Tigray and the drought in the Horn of Africa.
On Wednesday, the UK Supreme Court ruled that the government’s plan to send asylum seekers who arrived in Britain without permission to Rwanda was unlawful, as it would expose them to the risk of being returned to their countries of origin, where they could face persecution. The ruling is a major blow to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who had made the scheme the centrepiece of his immigration policy ahead of an election next year. Sunak said he would work on a new treaty with Rwanda or change the UK laws and international treaties to stop the influx of migrants crossing the Channel from Europe. The scheme, which was initiated by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, had faced criticism from opposition parties, human rights groups, and the UN refugee agency.
Senegal’s Supreme Court on Friday annulled a lower court’s decision that reinstated opposition leader Ousmane Sonko’s eligibility to run for president in 2024. The court said the case would be sent back to the Dakar High Court for a retrial. Sonko, the mayor of Ziguinchor and a vocal critic of President Macky Sall, was convicted in June of morally corrupting a young person and sentenced to two years in prison. He was also arrested in July on charges of inciting insurrection, terrorism, and endangering state security. Sonko has denied the charges and accused the government of trying to eliminate him from the political scene. His lawyers said they were disappointed by the Supreme Court’s ruling and feared it would affect Sonko’s chances of obtaining sponsorships for his candidature.
Zimbabwe on Friday declared a state of emergency in its capital, Harare, where a cholera outbreak has killed at least 12 people and infected more than 7,000 nationwide. The disease, which is caused by a bacterium that spreads through contaminated food or water, has affected all provinces of the country since February. Zimbabwe is facing a resurgence of cholera, which has also affected many other countries around the world since 2021.
Madagascar’s first round of the presidential election on Thursday was marked by a low turnout and a boycott by 10 opposition candidates, who accused the incumbent Andry Rajoelina of rigging the vote. According to the country’s election management body (Céni), only 39 percent of the 11 million registered voters cast their ballots, while independent observers estimated the turnout at around 20 percent. The opposition candidates, who had called for a postponement of the election, praised the people’s maturity for staying away from the polls. Rajoelina, however, expressed confidence in his re-election, despite weeks of protests by civil society groups, unions, students, and religious leaders. The provisional results are expected to be announced by Nov. 25, and a runoff is scheduled for Dec. 20 if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the votes.
South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), said on Thursday it would support a parliamentary motion to close the Israeli embassy in Pretoria in protest at the ongoing war in Gaza. The motion, proposed by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a radical left-wing opposition party, also calls for the suspension of all diplomatic relations with Israel until it agrees to a ceasefire and UN-mediated talks. The ANC said it could not stand idly by in the face of the “genocidal actions” of Israel, which it compared to the apartheid regime it fought against. The war between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that controls Gaza, was sparked by a Hamas attack on Israeli soil on October 7. Israel has vowed to “annihilate” Hamas and has bombarded the densely populated enclave with airstrikes and artillery.
Gabon’s military junta, which seized power in August after President Ali Bongo won a disputed third term, on Monday announced an “indicative” transition roadmap that envisages holding elections in August 2025. The junta also said it would present a new constitution by October 2024 and hold a referendum on it by the end of that year. The dates are subject to possible revision after a national dialogue involving government officials, civil society groups, and others. The coup in Gabon was the eighth in West and Central Africa since 2020, as some countries in the region have faced political unrest and jihadist violence. The junta’s plan has been met with scepticism by some opposition and civil society leaders, who have demanded a shorter and more inclusive transition.
Nigeria and Saudi Arabia this week agreed to a series of investment and cooperation deals following a bilateral meeting between Nigerian President Bola Tinubu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh. The deals include a pledge by the Saudi government to invest in the revamp of Nigeria’s four state refineries, which have been operating below capacity for years, and to provide foreign exchange support to Nigeria, which has been facing currency shortages and inflation. The two countries also signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the oil and gas industry and vowed to work together to combat Islamist insurgents and other security challenges in Nigeria.