Brace for impact
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February set off a cascade of political, economic and strategic changes across the world, including Africa. The conflict is leading officials in Bangui, Bamako and Conakry to question their support for stronger ties with Russia. At the same time, African policymakers are examining opportunities to benefit from the competing interests of Russia and the West.
Russia’s investment on the continent lags far behind its commitments to Europe and North Africa, so the economic impact of the fighting will be less direct. While the war is raising prices for commodities like wheat, oil, gas and gold, international financial institutions are warning that the conflict is a major threat to the world’s post-Covid economic recovery.
The rapid return to selling oil at more than $100 per barrel is a boon to major African producers like Algeria, Angola and Nigeria. On the other hand, the conflict is already stressing Egypt’s economic planners. The world’s largest wheat importer relies on both Russia and Ukraine for most of its grain. Egypt’s 2022 wheat season will begin in April, with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government raising prices for domestic producers and supporting the expansion of land under wheat cultivation to boost local production.
Winner of the Graywolf Press African Fiction Prize, poet Noor Naga’s experimental novel, out in April, is set in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, as a photographer of the revolution and an Egyptian American woman meet, fall in love and do not live happily ever after. The prize committee said that If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English ‘seethes with metaphoric passion and emotional intelligence […] and will reward every rereading with new doses of pleasure’.
Your day in court
April will bring more hearings in high-profile Nigerian and South African criminal cases. The corruption case against South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma (above right) has been delayed several times and could again be postponed due to appeals. Hearings on an $8bn arms deal under the presidencies of both Thabo Mbeki and Zuma could further hurt the popularity of the African National Congress government. Meanwhile, in Nigeria, Nnamdi Kanu (above left), the seccessionist leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, will also be back in court to hear the federal hight court’s ruling on 8 April about his motion to have the treasonable felony and terrorism charges against him dropped.
Mining giant Anglo American is getting a new boss. Duncan Wanblad will take over as chief executive in April. He has been with the company since 2008, rising up from its copper and base metals divisions.
In April, Mark Dunford will become the new managing director of Knight Frank Kenya, the real estate consultancy. He was previously the East Africa head of US-based Jones Lang LaSalle.
In Kenya, 2022 is a high-stakes year in politics, with national elections in August, when President Uhuru Kenyatta will step down from the presidency. April is an important milestone on the road to the vote, with political parties holding their primaries and national delegate conventions.
There is no doubt that deputy president William Ruto and former prime minister Raila Odinga, the top presidential contenders, will head the ticket of the United Democratic Alliance and the Orange Democratic Movement, respectively. With the government’s high level of debt and the impact of the Covid pandemic, the economy, as well as education and security, will be high on the agenda as the ‘hustler’ Ruto takes on Odinga, the heir of a Kenyan political dynasty.
They are busy forging alliances and meeting with potential vice-presidential candidates that could help to tip the balance in their favour. Ruto is leading in the polls, but Odinga has the backing of President Uhuru Kenyatta and the vested interests that come with that. As The Africa Report went to press, Ruto looked likely to pick former deputy president Musalia Mudavadi, while Peter Kenneth, a former assistant minister, was among the top potential running mates for Odinga.
Down the ballot, the 2022 vote will bring opportunities for rising political stars, as two-term governors look elsewhere to advance their political careers. Primary season will reshuffle some decks, and those who do not win in their preferred parties have until 5 May to declare their candidacies as independents.
With the worst of the pandemic’s impact on air travel seemingly behind us, Nigerian business leaders are launching operations of a new airline in April. Nigeria Air is backed by Nigerian investors (46%) and the government (5%), who are looking for foreign investors to take up the remaining equity. Nigeria Air launched a call for interested investors in early March, with reports that Qatar Airways is interested.
- 11-13 April Players in the tourism sector rally for their post-Covid recovery at Africa Travel Week in Cape Town, South Africa. www.atwconnect.com
- 11-16 April The African Studies Association of Africa conference at the University of Cape Town. www.as-aa-org
- 27-29 April The West Africa Pharma & Healthcare Show in Accra, Ghana. www.westafricapharmahealthcare.com
- 29 April to 1 May Stars like Master KG and DJ Maphorisa will be at Zimbabwe’s Vic Falls Carnival. www.vicfallscarnival.com