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There has been progress in the campaign against Boko Haram and President Muhammadu Buhari’s flagship fight against corruption. Higher oil prices will pump more cash into the economy, helping to ease extreme foreign exchange shortages that have hurt business. A $1bn Eurobond was nearly eight times oversubscribed, the Ministry of Finance said on 9 February. But pending a major fillip for the economy (including an eventual official devaluation of the naira), the outlook for Nigeria remains patchy, with investors holding back until they see clearer signs of the direction of business and politics.

Nigeria
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One region seems above all others to stubbornly buck the positive political and economic trends recorded over two decades by African Energy: it comprises the six Communauté Economique et Monétaire de l’Afrique Centrale (Cemac) countries and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Events in the last month, including a failed coup in Gabon and contested elections in DRC, underline Central Africa’s chronic crisis of leadership. Such political behaviours are increasingly seen as an anachronism in a world structured by social media, as well as by older social bonds and traditional patterns of coercion by elites.

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Multi-faceted crises in the six Communauté Economique et Monétaire de l’Afrique Centrale (Cemac) countries – Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Equatorial Guinea (EG), Gabon and Republic of Congo (RoC) – and their giant neighbour Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) make for uncomfortable reading. Acute political problems, and governance and financial shortfalls across the region provide one inescapable reason why the Inga dam and other plans for closer African integration fail to progress.

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The annual Africa Energy Forum (AEF) had something for all of its 2,000 delegates. It encouraged female entrepreneurs towards greater participation at all levels of the industry, heard the perennial calls for cost-reflective tariffs to help insolvent utilities balance their books and developers bring projects to fruition, and stimulated larger investors’ appetite for off-grid distributed solutions. The event, held in Copenhagen on 7-9 June, suggested chronic lack of access to sustainable energy could be overcome with the mobilisation of huge funding (much of which is available if conditions are right), innovative investment and technologies (both of which are emerging) and the enthusiastic participation of existing and new players.

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While the $2bn-plus ‘tuna bonds’ scandal rumbles on in international courts, Mozambique’s reputation has generally been boosted on President Filipe Nyusi’s watch. The authorities have coped relatively effectively with crises like Cyclone Idai and in ending armed conflict with Renamo, while the Rovuma Basin gas developments could transform the economy by the mid-2020s. An impressive upturn in internationally financed solar and other projects underlines Mozambique’s emergence as a hub in the global energy transition, aided by the hard work of committed local officials.

Mozambique
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The protracted resignation of Robert Mugabe was met with relief and elation in Zimbabwe, and much further afield by those who have seen one of Africa’s most promising countries driven into misery by the former guerrilla fighter’s capricious 37-year rule. Many Zimbabweans of all political tendencies celebrated the prospect that “it is our time now”, rather than facing the prospect that the 93-year-old president may force his wife Grace Mugabe on the country.

Zimbabwe
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the 31 December deal between opposition parties and Joseph Kabila Kabange, brokered by the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference and supported by the international community, should lead to elections by year-end and the president’s eventual departure. This would do much to clarify Democratic Republic of Congo’s future direction, from developing the Inga dam to establishing a path of improved governance and economic recovery (AE 325/22, 320/1).

DR Congo
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Nigeria has endured another long wait for President Muhammadu Buhari to announce his new government. Re-elected in February, Buhari finally swore in members of his new cabinet on 21 August. During the long interim, key officers of state have worked to steady the ship; Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor Godwin Emefiele has won praise for his stewardship of an under-pressure economy, while vice-president Yemi Osinbajo continues to reassure investors.

Nigeria
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Another close contest has seen National Democratic Congress (NDC) President John Dramani Mahama narrowly shading victory over New Patriotic Party (NPP) rival Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in an election that should cement Ghana’s reputation as one of Africa’s most vibrant and responsible democracies. But growing questions over big-ticket investment projects, and rising tensions between the parties over the direction of oil revenues, mean the outlook is less comfortable than it may seem.

Ghana
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Political decisions are likely to come thick and fast as a successor is chosen to Hailemariam Desalegn, who resigned on 15 February amid turbulent scenes across the country. The 180-member ruling council of the crisis-ridden Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), comprising 45 members from each of its four regional parties, has convened a three-day congress from 1 March to elect a new prime minister. Providing a degree of consensus can be maintained, this should be a set-piece event; the powerful EPRDF executive committee began deliberations on 26 February to hammer out a deal.

Ethiopia
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The party’s over in Juba following South Sudan’s independence day on 9 July, but the new, officially English-speaking state carved out of the Republic of Sudan remains under intense scrutiny, from international organisations and business groups, as well as from international oil companies which must come to terms with the region’s new political configuration (AE 213/1).

South Sudan
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It is easy to forget that Côte d’Ivoire remains classed as a ‘fragile state’, when viewed from Abidjan’s refurbished hotels and burgeoning malls, many developed by long-established Lebanese families who are trading up from their traditional supermarkets. The African Development Bank’s return after 11 years in Tunis exile is one factor pushing up real estate prices and school fees in wealthier neighbourhoods.

Côte d'Ivoire
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The conflict over the former Spanish Sahara is all too often forgotten. But there is a growing feeling in policy circles – shared by companies eager to exploit the territory’s hydrocarbons and mineral potential – that the Western Sahara standoff is overdue a promotion up the international policy agenda. Crisis in the Sahel, where French and African Union forces have confronted jihadist radicals in Mali, has added to pressures to revisit the intractable conflict, more than 40 years since the Polisario Front liberation movement was formed, 38 years since Morocco’s late King Hassan II organised his ‘Green March’ into the territory, and 22 years since a United Nations-sponsored ceasefire was declared.

Morocco
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The Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decision to award the 2011 Peace Prize to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, just four days before the first round of Liberia’s presidential elections, was a controversial one. In her first term, Johnson Sirleaf did a remarkable job of launching the revival of a country emerging from civil war and economic chaos, but her decision to seek a second term was controversial as she had pledged to serve just one term

Liberia
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It was a long trip for most to get to Tokyo, but transparency campaigners and governance gurus were all over the mid-October International Monetary Fund/World Bank Group annual meetings, advocating more rigorous legislation to be drafted by resource-rich but fragile states, and mobilising help for smaller states to implement expensive new laws such as the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (Fatca)