The European Business Council for Africa

New year, new aspirations for Europe-Africa relations?

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the new European Commission, chose to visit the African Union (AU) headquarters for her first official trip outside of Europe – this has been described as sending a strong political message. She has made it clear that the European Union (EU) wants to establish greater political, economic and investment opportunities between Europe and Africa, and move towards a partnership of equals beyond the donor-recipient relationship.

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ON OUR RADAR
Four conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  
 

➤ Kenya: An Al-Shabaab attack on the Manda Bay Airfield on Sunday killed one American soldier and two U.S. military contractors. Crisis Group expert Murithi Mutiga says the attack marked the first time that the militant group had targeted a Kenyan military facility housing U.S. forces. Al-Shabaab remains a resilient organisation that has shown a continued capacity to stage assaults in Somalia and neighbouring countries, despite a decade-long effort by African Union troops to combat its insurgency. 

➤ Libya: Presidents Erdoğan and Putin called for a ceasefire in Libya, only days after Ankara deployed Turkish officers and allied Syrian fighters. Crisis Group expert Claudia Gazzini says Turkey’s intervention, aimed at preventing the Tripoli government’s collapse and safeguarding a maritime deal, is not entirely at odds with the sudden call for a ceasefire. Ankara hopes that recalibrating the balance of power on the ground will create more propitious conditions for peace talks, but it is unclear whether the rival Libyan factions that Ankara and Moscow respectively support will actually halt hostilities.

➤ Nigeria: Chad withdrew its 1,200-strong military force from Nigeria’s northern Borno region. The force was deployed in early 2019 to fight the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), a Boko Haram splinter faction. Crisis Group consultant Vincent Foucher says Chad’s withdrawal may be motivated by the need to address mounting jihadist attacks on its own territory. In Nigeria, there is a risk that ISWAP could quickly capitalise on the departure. The group launched an unsuccessful attack soon after the withdrawal on the former Chadian base in Monguno, one of the largest cities in the state

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Rwanda to set up green bank to finance climate investments

Government is set to facilitate the creation of a financial institution in Rwanda that will be solely dedicated to funding projects that promote climate change resilience.

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Ghana to set up Diasporan Savings and Investment Account – Minister

Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, the Minister of Finance, has announced plans to establish a Diasporan Savings and Investment Account to attract people of African-American descent to invest in the various sectors of the country.

Dubbed the African Sankofa Account, the plan, which is to be rolled out in the next three months, will explore ways to target African retail other than institutional investors in the Caribbean and the Americas.

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Towards a single currency: from CFA franc to the Eco

One important step forwards towards a single currency was made on 21 December 2019 when Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara – who is also the current president of the UEMOA – and French President Emmanuel Macron announced plans to reform the CFA franc, the common currency of the eight UEMOA member countries. Some 134 million people in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo use the CFA franc. Under the reform plan: the CFA franc will be renamed the “Eco”; France will withdraw from all governance bodies; and the Bank of France will no longer hold half of the foreign reserves. However, the Eco will continue to be pegged to the Euro and France will retain, for the time being, its role as its financial guarantor

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ON OUR RADAR
Two conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  
 

➤ Chad: A Boko Haram attack on a Lake Chad fishing village in the country’s western region killed over a dozen people on Tuesday. Crisis Group expert Thibaud Lesueur says that the region has long been susceptible to such attacks due to its close proximity to Boko Haram heartlands in north east Nigeria. Despite some operational successes, the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in the Lake Chad Basin created in 2015 has had only a marginal impact on the regional threat posed by Boko Haram. As the resilient jihadist insurgency shows no sign of abating, regional cooperation on civilian and military fronts is more vital than ever.

➤ India: At least five people were killed in nationwide protests against a controversial law that offers citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Crisis Group expert Pierre Prakash says although the law does not affect Indian Muslims directly, it is widely perceived as being contrary to India’s secular Constitution, and many Muslims fear its combination with the planned National Register of Citizens could result in making them stateless. The unexpected level of – sometimes violent – protests also points to growing discontent among the youth over the government's deeply divisive Hindu nationalist agenda. 
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The Weeks of 20 December 2019 – 3 January 2020

A Sustainable Policy for Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is hosting nearly a million Rohingya refugees who have little hope of going home any time soon. The government should move to improve camp living conditions, in particular by lifting the education ban and fighting crime. Donors should support such steps. 
 

Avoiding the Resurgence of Intercommunal Violence in Eastern Chad

Intercommunal violence, particularly between Arabs and non-Arabs, has ravaged eastern Chad throughout 2019 and could further threaten the country’s stability. The government should initiate a debate on managing pastoralism and support an inclusive conference on the East.

Also available in: Français

 

STATEMENT

Rescuing Iraq from the Iran-U.S. Crossfire

Ominous developments – attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq, U.S. retaliation and turmoil at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad – could drag Iraq deeper into the U.S.-Iranian confrontation and spark direct clashes between Washington and Tehran. Urgent steps are needed to break this predictable but perilous cycle.

 

COMMENTARY

10 Conflicts to Watch in 2020

Friends and foes alike no longer know where the U.S. stands. As Washington overpromises and underdelivers, regional powers are seeking solutions on their own – both through violence and diplomacy.

Counting Down to North Korea’s Year-end Deadline

North Korea is testing the U.S., issuing threats and launching short-range missile tests while talks over its nuclear program have stalled. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Duyeon Kim explains what could be motivating Pyongyang’s escalation and what to expect in 2020. 

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The Risk of Jihadist Contagion in West Africa

What’s new? Islamist militants’ lengthening reach in the Sahel, particularly in Burkina Faso, is a growing concern for coastal West African states. These states’ leaders fear that militants could use Burkina as a launching pad for operations further south.

Why does it matter? Militant attacks could threaten coastal states’ stability. Some of these states have weak spots similar to those that jihadists have exploited in the Sahel, notably neglected peripheries that resent central authority. Several will hold what promise to be contentious elections in 2020, distracting leaders from tackling the threat.

What should be done? The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is lobbying for joint military operations involving regional states. But intelligence sharing, border controls and efforts to win over local populations would be cheaper and more effective. ECOWAS should redouble efforts to avert electoral crises that militants could use to their advantage.

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Elements of change: Climate and conflict in Africa

Climate change is a global phenomenon that affects all life on earth. For the first time ever, the entire planet is undergoing a singular climatic transformation. Globally, land has already warmed 1.5°C and, owing to past greenhouse gas emissions and inertia in the climate system, the earth and its atmosphere will continue to warm until around mid-century, even if all emissions stopped today. Unprecedented heatwaves, food shortages and extreme storms will likely hit us before 2030 and intensify with further warming.

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Securitisation without representation: Yet another reason why Africa needs a permanent seat on the UN Security Council

Climate change is increasingly acknowledged as a global security issue, and the UN Security Council’s mandate over it is growing. Yet, Africa still lacks equal standing with other regions and the permanent members of the Security Council. Without permanent representation of Africa on the Security Council, the continent is rendered a subject, not an agent, of global climate governance.

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