Africa This week:  IMF approves first review of Ghana’s loan program, enabling immediate disbursement of $600 million; Somalia rejects discussions with Ethiopia over port deal with Somaliland; UN report says between 10,000 and 15,000 people killed in ethnic violence by RSF and allied Arab militia in Sudan’s West Darfur; Indicted former Sierra Leone President Arrives in Nigeria For Medical Care; US Secretary of State to visit four African countries, and others

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Friday approved the first review of Ghana’s loan programme, enabling the immediate disbursement of approximately $600 million as part of a $3 billion bailout initiative. This decision follows Ghana’s successful restructuring of $5.4 billion in loans with official creditors, a crucial step in unlocking the second tranche of IMF funding. The IMF reported that all quantitative performance criteria for the first review, along with nearly all indicative targets and structural benchmarks, were met. The IMF praised Ghana’s reform efforts, noting improvements in growth, reduced inflation, and increased international reserves. The Fund forecasts 2.3% growth in Ghana’s economy for 2023 and 2.8% for 2024. In a joint briefing, the IMF Mission Chief for Ghana, Stéphane Roudet, announced that the tranche would be available to the central bank within hours.

Somalia on Thursday rejected discussions with Ethiopia over the latter’s agreement to lease a port in Somaliland, a breakaway region, leading to a diplomatic crisis. Ethiopia, under a memorandum of understanding signed on January 1, considered recognising Somaliland’s independence in exchange for access to the Red Sea through the port lease. Somaliland, which declared independence in 1991 without international recognition, has caused tensions with Somalia. The African Union called for restraint and dialogue amid threats of war by Somalia to prevent the deal. Somalia’s foreign affairs ministry insisted on Ethiopia retracting the agreement for any mediation. The proposed deal involves Ethiopia leasing 20 kilometres of coastland around the port of Berbera for 50 years. Regional heads of state from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) met in Entebbe, Uganda, seeking a peaceful resolution to the escalating situation.

A United Nations report on Friday reveals that between 10,000 and 15,000 people were killed in ethnic violence by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied Arab militia in El Geneina, a city in Sudan’s West Darfur region, last year. The report, presented to the U.N. Security Council, cites intelligence sources for the toll and contrasts it with the U.N.’s overall estimate of 12,000 deaths in Sudan since war erupted in April 2023 between the Sudanese army and the RSF. The report also deems “credible” accusations that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) provided military support to the RSF via Amdjarass in northern Chad. The UAE, denying such support, claimed humanitarian aid deliveries to Amdjarass and invited UN monitors to visit a field hospital there.

Sierra Leone’s former president, Ernest Bai Koroma, flew to Nigeria on a presidential plane on Friday, granted permission by a high court to travel abroad for medical reasons despite facing treason charges. Koroma, 70, was charged on Jan. 3 in connection with an alleged failed military coup in November. The court’s decision raised concerns about potential tensions in the aftermath of the 2023 elections, where President Julius Maada Bio secured a second term amid opposition rejection and international scrutiny. Koroma’s lawyers label the charges as politically motivated.

Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi took the oath for a second five-year term on Saturday amid a disputed election marked by opponents’ rejection due to widespread irregularities. Despite acknowledged issues, authorities dismissed claims of vote theft. The situation mirrors past electoral disputes in Africa’s second-largest country, sparking protests in eastern cities. Tshisekedi’s inauguration in Kinshasa featured supporters, officials, African leaders, and foreign envoys. In his speech, he addressed the nation’s desire for improved living conditions and economic opportunities, with around 62% living on less than a dollar a day. Tshisekedi pledged job creation, security apparatus restructuring, and diplomatic efforts to address the longstanding security crisis in the eastern provinces.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday granted Kenya a $941 million lending boost, providing immediate relief to the East African nation facing financial pressures. The disbursement, part of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) and Extended Credit Facility (ECF) programmes, includes $624.5 million, with an additional $60.2 million from the Resilience and Sustainability Facility (RSF) arrangement. The IMF’s total commitment to Kenya across these facilities now exceeds $4.4 billion. Despite challenges, Kenya’s growth remains resilient, and the funds aim to support macroeconomic stability. With acute liquidity challenges and uncertainty over accessing financial markets before a June Eurobond maturity, the IMF funds, alongside expected support from the World Bank and regional banks, will help Kenya meet foreign debt obligations without depleting hard currency reserves. The approval follows a staff-level agreement reached in November, with slight value adjustments due to currency fluctuations in the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights unit.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to visit four African countries—Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Angola—as the Biden administration seeks to address global challenges amid crises in Ukraine, the Middle East, and the Red Sea. The trip, starting on Sunday, will focus on regional security, conflict prevention, democracy promotion, and trade, emphasising Nigeria’s key role in West Africa’s security, particularly in combating Islamic extremist violence in the Sahel. Blinken’s visit follows concerns about U.S. relationships in Africa, given recent coups and unrest in Niger, Gabon, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The U.S.-China influence battle in Africa will likely feature prominently, especially in Angola, a target for significant Chinese investment. During the trip, Blinken will highlight partnerships on climate, economic investment, food, and health, which marks his third overseas mission in the new year. While in Ivory Coast, he may attend an Africa Cup of Nations soccer match.

The U.S. Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, is set to visit Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, and Sierra Leone from January 21–26. She will lead the U.S. Presidential Delegation to President-elect Joseph Boakai’s inauguration in Liberia, highlighting the U.S. commitment to the newly elected government and applauding Liberia’s peaceful and fair elections. The visit includes engagements with government officials, emerging leaders, the business community, and peacekeepers. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, a former Ambassador to Liberia, will deliver a keynote speech on democracy at the Liberia Chamber of Commerce, addressing threats to democracy across Africa.

The International Monetary Fund visited Cairo this week to discuss Egypt’s $3 billion IMF loan and reform programme. Led by IMF Egypt Mission Chief Vladkova Hollar, the team is focusing on the first and second reviews of Egypt’s reform programme, supported by the Extended Fund Facility. Discussions aim to address the economic challenges exacerbated by Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, impacting tourism, natural gas imports, and Red Sea shipping. IMF Chief Spokesperson Julie Kozack highlighted the need for additional financing to support Egypt’s programme’s success. The discussions also encompass potential disbursements and tighter fiscal and monetary policy considerations.

Writer and researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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