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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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With further progress in its electricity privatisation, increased food production due to investment in agriculture, and capital markets responding favourably to banks and bonds, it is easy to be drawn into the bubble of optimism that has built up around the Nigerian economy and its prospects. Away from the conflict zones of the north and Niger Delta, real progress has been made, but for every bit of positive newsflow there is a reality check, such as a new report from the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) which examines illegal oil exports – a still little understood cog in the machine of money and power-broking that defines public life in Nigeria.

Nigeria
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The much-anticipated partial float of the naira, introduced from 20 June, reflected a concession by President Muhammadu Buhari, who had resisted devaluation as he did during his first stint as president in the 1980s. Buhari was forced by deteriorating economic conditions and declining confidence to listen to markets. African Energy hears that concerns over the naira and other issues have led to the World Bank Group, a key guarantor of the liberalised generation and distribution system, making quiet threats to stop guarantees.

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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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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 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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The AAA-rated African Development Bank (AfDB) is the continent’s biggest financial institution, with a well-defined role that is growing as it leverages its capital and know-how to support essential public and private sector projects and support economies mired in the coronavirus pandemic. The re-election of AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina is an important development that should end a period of corrosive doubt about the bank’s governance, while promoting the bank’s multiple positive roles.

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President Muhammadu Buhari finally responded to popular concerns over security by replacing his military top team on 26 January. With the economy hobbled by low oil prices and coronavirus, he has allowed a little more economic flexibility, although it remains to be seen whether his costly defence of the naira’s inflated value will be replaced by the foreign exchange market unification favoured by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Nigeria
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Politics runs through even the most technical questions in a Republic of South Africa (RSA) ruled for nearly three decades by the African National Congress (ANC). Power struggles and influence-broking within the party have a direct impact on the implementation of policy. Along with data and project updates, African Energy’s new 160-page South Africa Power Report 2021/22 highlights the need for President Cyril Ramaphosa to implement reforms to the electricity supply industry (ESI) and other key sectors, in the face of opposition from deeply-rooted ideological and factional rivals.

South Africa
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US President Donald Trump is committed to delivering his campaign promises to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and stop funding for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Speaking at a press briefing in London on 30 January, Myron Ebell, who oversaw the Environmental Protection Agency transition team but has returned to his role as a director at the Center for Energy and Environment, said Trump was aiming to leverage US coal and shale resources to achieve “global dominance” in energy supply.

United States
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Events in South Africa, whose sovereign debt has been reduced to junk status by President Jacob Zuma’s crony capitalist rule, are another reminder that when power is exerted abusively shortfalls in governance can be highly damaging for the wider economy. This is also apparent in Democratic Republic of Congo’s minerals and Nigeria’s oil kleptocracies, which are both under renewed scrutiny, with international judicial authorities contemplating action against President Joseph Kabila’s long-time business partner Dan Gertler and sifting through new evidence against former Nigerian oil ministers from Dan Etete to Diezani Allison-Madueke.

South Africa
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Supporters of a revamped Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) believe that, this time, the outcome for legislation to reform Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the hydrocarbons sector will be different from past disappointments, when vested interests stalled efforts to overhaul an underperforming and opaque sector. Senate president Ahmad Lawan on 29 September committed the bicameral National Assembly to pass legislation to make the industry more effective and efficient. After years of delay,“we will break that jinx and see to the passage of the bill”, Lawan promised. The Senate on 30 September approved the a 239-page draft PIB’s first reading, opening the way for more hearings.

Nigeria
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What’s not to like for investors in President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s Egypt? The government’s International Monetary Fund-supported reform programme has greatly improved macroeconomic conditions; Egypt was a rare economy that reported some growth in Covid-plagued 2020, despite a huge downturn in tourism and other key revenue-earners. Its commitment to accelerating infrastructure development has sucked funds into global-scale solar and wind power programmes.

Egypt
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President Cyril Ramaphosa has won plaudits for his public determination to clean up South African governance, as underlined by his suspension of African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Ace Magashule. This clean-up has been supported by governance-focused civil society and media, and independent-minded members of the judiciary, but as African Energy’s South Africa power report pointed out, public confidence remains dangerously low after the ‘state capture’ years – and this negative environment is impacting across the economy.

South Africa
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On a wave of optimism about its offshore Rovuma Basin reserves, Mozambique has emerged as a poster boy for the ‘Africa rising’ agenda. With at least 100tcf of conventional gas reserves – and potentially more than double that amount, according to a range of project sources – this global-scale resource should drive the emergence of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export industry and substantial domestic and regional electricity supply in the next decade. Mozambique enthusiasts add that the country enjoys several other advantages, including proximity to markets and relatively streamlined decision-making (especially when compared to its potential rival for LNG export markets, neighbouring Tanzania).

Mozambique