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President Paul Biya has not survived in power for over 37 years by showing great sensitivity to local or international criticism, let alone by accommodating outright opposition. Like other leaders and sympathetic opinion-formers across Central Africa and beyond, he has rationalised authoritarian tendencies and crony relations by insisting on his regime’s essential role in ensuring stability. While governance shortfalls may define the daily lives of Cameroon’s multi-ethnic population, a nation created first by German colonisation and then by division between the British and French empires has traditionally avoided identity-based conflict.

Cameroon
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Has Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar overreached in his high-risk military advance on Tripoli? The dominant view is that he has erred politically by throwing everything into an all-or-nothing play for domination, and militarily by underestimating the difficulty of conquering the capital and the cohesiveness of local militias. The alternative view is that while military options remain open to him, there is no reason to compromise, especially with the militias who increasingly dominate and control the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). He may still have some advantage to gain.

Libya
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The standoff between Sudan’s diffuse opposition movement and the military junta that replaced President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir in mid-April has deepened as both sides – each in their own way deeply divided – dig in. This could pose major problems for Africa and a creaking international order.While US national security adviser John Bolton was quick to condemn violence against peaceful demonstrators, Washington, former colonial power Britain, and other European states are not expected to play a defining role.

Sudan
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As the economic powerhouse of southern Africa, with a legacy burnished by its emergence two decades ago from apartheid, South Africa is expected to take a leading role in the continent’s politics. Through players such as African Union secretary-general Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the expansion of its corporate presence north of the Limpopo, SA is doing just that. Its ambitions are huge: for example, taking a lead in developing the Inga hydroelectric resource in Democratic Republic of Congo. But concerns that high political ambitions are often tainted by low economic motivations have become pervasive during Jacob Zuma’s presidency, emerging again in Central African Republic.

Central African Republic | South Africa
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The UK-Africa Investment Summit, which brought an impressive number of heads of state and government to London on 20-21 January, was a ceremony to mark UK ambitions to create a ‘Global Britain’ following Brexit and still be seen as a major player in Africa. It was cast in the mould of similar events hosted by France, the United States (during Barack Obama’s presidency), Japan, Germany and Russia, as well as the triennial Sino-African summits that underline China’s African business dominance.

Free

The confirmation by Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s 30 July election victory was above board brushed aside opposition MDC Alliance complaints, along with growing international scepticism about the hotly disputed poll. Violent scenes in Harare following the results’ announcement raised concerns that the new administration may yet have more in common with the dark years of Robert Mugabe’s rule than with Mnangagwa’s loudly proclaimed “open for business” policy. Mnangagwa was sworn in on 26 August but has yet to appoint his cabinet or a vice-president.

Free

Brave efforts are being made to continue with business as usual in the Sahel, despite an apparently never-ending security crisis, which has been further aggravated by a split in the western-backed G5 Sahel (G5S) alliance of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, as the military-led regime in Bamako seeks to distance itself from France and its allies.

Mauritania | Niger | Chad | Burkina Faso | Senegal | Mali
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Prizes and league tables should often be treated with great caution (as underlined by Nobel laureate Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s war in Tigray), but credit should be given when it is due and, in that context, Uganda’s fourth consecutive first place in the African Development Bank (AfDB)’s Electricity Regulatory Index should be acknowledged as a triumph for the rule of law and sound management.

Uganda
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Personalities remain a key factor in shaping a continent trying to emerge from lost decades of ‘big man’ politics. While the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) made much of efforts to create a post-conflict ‘developmental state’ in the last two decades, modern Ethiopia was fashioned in the image of the late Meles Zenawi, who harnessed an intolerant, Tigrayan-dominated political system to a rigid but fast-growing (if unbalanced) economy.

Ethiopia | Eritrea
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Morocco’s readmission to the African Union in January 2017 was widely welcomed, ending a boycott called by the late King Hassan II in 1984 after the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) was admitted as a full member of the then Organisation of African Unity. Morocco sees its future security and prosperity in an energetic drive to build business, political and cultural relations across Africa and King Mohammed VI received a standing ovation when he addressed the 2017 African Union summit.

Morocco
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Industry scepticism about the project’s economics notwithstanding, on 23 January, President Uhuru Kenyatta shook hands with Total executive committee member Momar Nguer to confirm the French major’s commitment to investing in the Lokichar-Lamu oil pipeline. These things matter in East African oil and geostrategic manoeuvring; Uganda’s export pipeline was planned to pass through Lokichar until Total backed a rival route to Tanzania, but having since bought Maersk Oil, it needs an export route in Kenya too.

Kenya
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It may be symbolic that, beyond the state-run grid, Tanzania provides an enticing opportunity for innovative investors to build businesses in marginalised communities with aspirations to move beyond energy poverty. Tanzania has been a pioneer in the sub-Saharan off-grid revolution, where mini-grid operator Jumeme and other innovators have been able to build their businesses. Germany’s Redavia last year began operating its first two mini-grids, supported by InfraCo Africa.

Tanzania
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As his presidency passes its second anniversary, Muhammadu Buhari is back in a London clinic, being treated for cancer. His absences, about which few facts filter officially, are causing jitters. The president had been expected to deliver a major anniversary speech on 29 May but remained abroad. Chief of army staff General Tukur Buratai’s 16 May warning that “some individuals have been approaching some officers and soldiers for undisclosed political reasons” added to the febrile atmosphere.

Nigeria
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Another year and thoughts turn to the potentials – be they 39GW, 44GW or 50GW – of the Congo River’s Inga hydroelectric resource, or of oil plays in the Albertine Graben, where Tullow Oil’s Ugandan field on the other side of the lacustrine border will come on stream this year

DR Congo
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The proliferation of coups d’état across West Africa and the wider region over the past 18 months points to the return of chronic instability to one of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable (not least to climate change) regions. Many parts of the post-colonial continent, and especially its emerging West African nations, were defined by the speedy demise of civilian government as military rulers took over in the 1960s.