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Investor interest in Madagascar picked up when companies were attracted by the island state’s potential for power sector developments, as former president Hery Rajaonarimampianina hosted an influential donor and investor conference in 2016.The going has since proven tough for many investors, as early movers have run into payment issues with malfunctioning state utility Jiro sy Rany Malagasy (Jirama) and the administration has proved unpredictable in renegotiating power purchase agreements (PPAs).

Madagascar
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The suspension by President Goodluck Jonathan of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi led the naira to fall sharply and investors to rue the volatility of Nigerian politics. But it was hardly a surprise, following years of controversy surrounding the highly talented and combative governor, and months of Sanusi’s increasingly public criticism of the management of the oil sector and government finances by Jonathan and his close ally petroleum minister Diezani Allison-Madueke. By naming names in the Senate, Sanusi was more or less directly implicating the ruling clique on Aso Rock in gross malfeasance.

Nigeria
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Amid the feelgood talk about cleaner, more efficient fuels during the mid-January Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the presence of criminality and dirty money in energy industries worldwide was highlighted by the launch of a report from US think tank the Atlantic Council. In Downstream Oil Theft: Global Modalities, Trends, and Remedies, consultant Ian Ralby argues that, despite its undoubted impact, “the global scourge of illicit downstream hydrocarbons activity remains relatively invisible” – and much more is needed to tackle this particular oil curse.

Free

Democratic Republic of Congo catches the imagination of those who see its potential to drive Africa’s future through its mineral wealth, resourceful population and the Inga Falls hydroelectric resource. But grandiose visions tend to founder on rocky realities in this vast, extravagantly diverse country, where power politics and the global commodities price crash – which in early May forced the government to cut 2016 spending by some 22% – have deeply unsettled much of what remains of international business. In May, major investor Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Cobalt announced it was selling up.

DR Congo
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Climate change denier Donald Trump’s 8 November election victory stunned the COP22 meeting in Marrakech, before the other 196 governments responded with defiant statements supporting the Paris Agreement. Tackling climate change and energy poverty has been central to Barack Obama’s presidency; his championing of COP was underlined by secretary of state John Kerry’s robust appearance in Marrakech; the Power Africa initiative is supported by the Electrify Africa Act, which puts sub-Saharan economies’ lack of energy access onto the US statute book.

Free

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
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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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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.

Free

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