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Moqtada al-Sadr, Iraq's savvy strategist @mdiplo's @tgoudsouzian
Law & Politics
To understand Moqtada al-Sadr’s ideology, it’s important to recall the
genesis of the Iraqi state. During the first world war, as nationalist
fever swept across the Ottoman empire, Shia Arabs refused to join the
British-orchestrated Arab revolts. Unlike some of the Sunni Arab
tribes, they opted to remain loyal to a crumbling Muslim empire rather
than ally themselves with a western power. The religious establishment
in Najaf even declared a jihad on the British invasion of Mesopotamia
(present-day Iraq) and sent a contingent to join the army of Suleiman
Pasha in the battle of Shuaiba near Basra.
In the post-war drawing rooms where the spoils of the fallen empire
were divided, those who had supported the British were rewarded with
kingdoms in the Levant and Mesopotamia (Jordan, Iraq). Those who had
not were forced to pledge allegiance to these new kingdoms. And when
the Shia revolted against the British in 1920, this cemented an
anti-Shia bias in the fledgling Iraqi state.
10-DEC-2018 :: Truce dinner @Huawei
Law & Politics
Sirloin steaks, Catena Zapata Nicolas Malbec  Huawei
Technologies Co. and Wanzhou Meng
You will recall that Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping enjoyed a much
anticipated ''Truce'' Dinner at the G20 in Buenos Aires and quaffed a
Catena Zapata Nicolas Malbec  wine with their sirloin steaks and
finished it all off with caramel rolled pancakes, crispy chocolate and
fresh cream, a dinner that ran over by 60 minutes and one where the
dinner Guests broke out into spontaneous applause thereafter.
America's scrambled approach to Africa @FT
Washington’s Hobbesian new strategy belongs to a bygone era
The Trump administration has unveiled what John Bolton, the national
security adviser, has billed as a “new” Africa strategy for the US. On
the commercial front there is indeed some fresh thinking. But much of
what Mr Bolton says has emerged from a detailed inter-agency debate
about America’s future engagement with the continent, seems to belong
in the past.
If his speech on Friday is the guide, Washington’s take on Africa is
stuck somewhere between the 19th century scramble and the cold war,
when the continent played proxy for superpower rivalry. Mr Bolton
depicts US relations with Africa as a geostrategic board game in which
Africans have less agency than a pawn. Whatever “predatory” moves by
Chinese and Russian policymakers may be going on, he somehow finds
America to be the principal victim.
“Great power competitors, namely China and Russia, are rapidly
expanding their financial and political influence across Africa. They
are deliberately and aggressively targeting their investments in the
region to gain a competitive advantage over the United States,” Mr
It is unlikely many Africans will welcome the prospect of returning to
the era of “us or them” development partners depicted in this vision,
or feel much sympathy if America is the one left behind. If the US has
lost ground to rivals, it is successive administrations that are to
blame. Washington has responded with complacency to the past two
decades of changing dynamics on the continent, where bouts of rapid
economic expansion have meant the emergence of more assertive
governments, a growing consumer class and a host of new suitors from
around the world.
The pioneering spirit with which Americans built their nation has been
notably absent from US-Africa policy. This has increasingly focused on
combating militant Islamists and terrorism, at the expense of a more
Mr Bolton is wrong to see China’s role on the continent as uniquely
negative. While Washington has been otherwise occupied, Beijing has
adopted a long-term view of Africa’s potential, marrying its own quest
for resources and new markets to Africa’s need for infrastructure
development and fast money. Moscow, like Washington, is arriving late
to the party.
Mr Bolton is wrong on another front too: past development aid, which
he dismisses as “aid without effect” and a waste of US taxpayers’
money. That is certainly not true of the health initiatives launched
by George W Bush, the previous Republican president, and which saved
countless lives. Moreover, the benefits — in terms of exerting
stronger US influence — of the stricter aid conditionality he
recommends have been diluted by China’s willingness to provide
billions of dollars in investment, free of politicised conditions.
If there is a positive to draw, it is that Washington is waking up to
the need to re-engage and that to do so effectively it must place
economic ties to Africa up the priority list. The recent passage of
legislation that doubles the spending power of the Overseas Private
Investment Corporation is one step in the right direction. Giving a
bigger role to the US government agency that handles private sector
lending abroad plays to America’s strength by promoting closer
business ties. It is a pity, however, that Mr Bolton depicts such
measures as designed explicitly to project US power in Africa, rather
than to promote reciprocal interests, and to counter the influence of
“great power” rivals. Such language is out of step with the times.
Its very binary now.
Bowing out as president, Congo's Kabila raises prospect of a return act @ReutersAfrica
“My role will be to make sure that we don’t go back to square one,
square one meaning where we found the Congo 22 years ago,” he told
Reuters inside an ornate reception room with high ceilings and
sweeping views of the churning Congo River.
“In politics, in life, you shouldn’t rule out anything,” he said when
asked about a potential return. “There are still other chapters to
In the 18 years since a youthful, clean-shaven Kabila succeeded his
slain father, Laurent, the now bulked-up president sporting a billowy
gray beard has traced an unlikely trajectory from accidental and
apparently reluctant leader to the defining Congolese figure of his
There were early accomplishments - ending a regional war and holding
the first open presidential elections - but also incessant conflict,
lethal crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters and corruption that the
government acknowledges siphoned off billions of dollars of potential
Foreign investment has propelled Democratic Republic of Congo to the
status of Africa’s top copper producer and the world’s leading miner
of cobalt, a crucial component of electric car batteries, but militia
violence has persisted in the east.
Denis Mukwege, the Congolese doctor who shared this year’s Nobel Peace
Prize for his efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of
war, said Kabila had a right to remain in politics but hoped voters
would remember his broken promises.
“None of the elements needed to install a real democracy have been
made during his time in power,” he told Reuters.
“Kabila saw what happened in Angola. That’s why he chose the person
who is the most loyal and, above all, the least threatening to his
personal power,” said Manya Riche, who advised Kabila from 2008 to
Referring to an arrangement in which Vladimir Putin remained Russia’s
dominant leader as prime minister until he could run for president
again, she said: “This isn’t Russia. At a certain point here, it’s the
chief who’s in the chair who is the chief.”
Kabila rarely speaks in public and is driven by mistrust of almost
everyone outside a tight circle of family that includes his twin
sister, Jaynet, and younger brother, Zoe, people who have worked
closely with him said.
Although Kabila put most of the blame on the brutal legacy of former
colonial power Belgium, Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi, a current advisor,
said he sought to change “the Congolese mentality from people who like
songs and dance and high life to people concentrated on hard work”.
Kabila appears serene.
“Look at my face. Do I look worried?” he told Reuters. “I am not worried.”
India has agreed to provide $1.4bn in financial assistance to the Maldives, as New Delhi seeks to restore what had been its waning influence over the strategically significant archipelago nation.
The offer came as Indian prime minister Narendra Modi rolled out the
red carpet for Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the Maldivian president, who is
on his first overseas visit since his shock election victory three
Mr Solih stunned political observers in September when he defeated
Abdulla Yameen, who as Maldives’ president had grown increasingly
hostile to India and forged closer ties with China.
The Maldives is one of several Indian Ocean nations, including Sri
Lanka and Mauritius, where India is vying with China for influence, as
they seek to entrench their maritime power.
Since his victory, Mr Solih has repeatedly expressed his desire to
rebalance the Maldives’ foreign relations, and restore the island
nation’s traditionally close ties with India.
Speaking at a business forum in New Delhi on Monday ahead of a meeting
with Mr Modi, Mr Solih said: “India is our closest neighbour and our
people are bound by ties of friendship and cultural affinity.
“India is not only our closest friend, it is also one of our largest
Mr Modi in a press statement pledged New Delhi’s support for the
Maldives. “India is always with you,” he said. “The security of our
two countries is interlinked.”
Academic: Quintessence of Macroeconomic Uncertainty in the DR Congo
Since 2015, the DR Congo, a major rent-based economy in Africa, has
embarked into macroeconomic turbulence with significant inflationary
pressures and a severe exchange rate depression, partly due to a
commodities slump. The economic downturn has contributed to
strengthening the acute social crisis. The country is a fragile state
on the edge, a product of the postponement of the 2016 presidential
Despite its rich endowment of natural resources, the DR Congo remains
primarily a commodity export economy. In 2001, after the end of the
1998-2003 second Congolese war, a donors’ community gradually
cooperated with the DR Congo. From 2004 to 2014, the country
experienced relative macroeconomic stability. In 2015, its economic
resilience deteriorated. Since then, the country has been going
through major macroeconomic turbulence.
First, the paper examines the country’s fragile economic resilience,
as its economic performance is closely tied to the fluctuation of
In 2007, the global financial crisis generated a depression in
commodity markets. The DR Congo experienced a severe mining crisis,
notably in the copper-cobalt belt of the ex-Katanga province. Beyond a
drastic reduction of export revenues, the crisis negatively impacted
on the country’s economy.
As of 2015, a second mining crisis occurred in the DR Congo, resulting
from a drop in global commodity prices. In terms of trade balance, the
country’s exports dropped USD 10,293,164 942.77 to USD
12,311,036,836.25. In 20I5, mineral and oil exports corresponded to
97.5% of the country’s total export value. Mineral exports included
copper, cobalt, and zinc from Gecamines and partners operating in the
above-mentioned copper-cobalt belt. They represented 80.7% of the
country’s total export value (Figure 1).
In 2015, China was the first trade partner of the country. The
geopolitics of copper and cobalt led China to strengthen its economic
partnership with the DR Congo. In addition to the Sino-Congolese
mining deal of 2007[ii], it increased its presence in the country,
through major mining acquisitions over the last decade[iii].
Macroeconomic developments in China will continue to impact the
Overall, improving governance of the extractive sector remains a
prerequisite. The sector is a major source of country’s growth
from December 31st, 2014 to June 29th, 2016, the annual inflation
increased from 1.26% to 3.44%. From July 29th to December 31st, 2016,
it soared from 6.5% to 25.04%, regardless of the first set of the
government’s measures having been implemented on January 28th, 2016.
On January 31st, 2017, it spiked to 119.13%, the highest for the first
time in eight years. From February 28th to July 16th, 2017, annual
inflation slightly decreased, from 75.13% to 73.23%, although it
remained above 50% (see Figure 3). Regardless of its agricultural
potential, the DR Congo is a major importer of food products, which
continues to fuel inflationary pressures. Altogether, it has
experienced hyperinflation, which is, to a lesser extent, a reminder
of Zaire’s hyperinflation crisis, which occurred from 1990 to
1996[ix]. Besides the external shocks, the main causes of the
hyperinflation are political in nature. Rising political instability
was exclusively derived from the over-delayed presidential elections.
The inflationary spiral has put pressure on the official exchange rate
of the freely floating Congo Franc (CDF) against the US Dollar (USD).
From December 31st, 2015 to December 30th, 2016, the Congolese franc
depreciated against the USD, from CDF 927.92 per USD 1 to CDF 1,215.59
per USD, corresponding to a 31% monetary depreciation. On January
31st, 2017, the national currency depreciated from CDF 927.92 per USD
to reach CDF 1,647.80 by end July 2017, or a depreciation of 28.67% in
seven months (Figure 4). As a result, Congolese households’ purchasing
power continued to drop. This led to mounting social tension,
including repeated calls for strikes[x]. The Congolese currency’s
depreciation damaged economic operators’ confidence. A higher
country-risk resulted from a deterioration of the business climate.
Since the end of July 2017, the Congolese currency has timidly
appreciated against the American currency[xi]. On August 11th, 2017,
it was traded at CDF 1,500.56 / USD 1.
Actually it could be the reason why Mugabe is no longer in power, because he wanted Chinese companies to be under Zimbabwean miners thus posing a threat to Beijing's diamond interests and long term future reserves @Bulawayo24News
COLOGNE - China has intensified it's grip, control and access to
Zimbabwe's mineral wealth by reportedly demanding diamonds and oil
drilling rights from President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government, as
payment for printing and backing a new Zimbabwe currency, and the
building of an opulent new capital city in Mount Hampden, Spotlight
Zimbabwe has reported.
The new Zimbabwe dollar is expected to be launched in early 2020, to
repeal and replace the surrogate currency of bond notes, and will be
backed by the country's diamond and gold reserves supported by
Beijing, which holds the largest diamond reserves in Asia, diplomatic
sources in Harare said this week.
Mt Hampden city, the new capital city, itself a Mnangagwa brainchild
mooted when he was still vice president in 2015, is expected to be
operational when a new Chinese funded parliament in the city is
completed around 2021.
Mount Hampden is situated some 20km from central Harare, and is also
nearby to the landmark Charles Prince Airport in Mashonaland East
Prominent features of the new capital, which is part of a grand
strategy to de-congest Harare, and designed in the mould of South
Africa's economic capital Johannesburg, include a university,
technology centre, schools, churches, hospitals, industrial sites,
residential areas, shopping malls, and hotels. The city will house the
new parliament complex at a value of more than US$140 million,
together with a new State House for the head of state, including the
official residences for the Speaker of parliament and the Senate
Zimbabwe trashed its fiat currency in 2009 after it was ravaged by
hyper-inflation which had peaked at around 500 billion percent,
rendering it unusable. It then adopted a slew of foreign currencies,
including the US dollar, the South African rand, the British pound and
"It is all about oil and diamonds," said one envoy representing a
South Asian country. "China has demanded for oil rights and exclusive
access to your country's diamonds in Marange, without having to cede
ownership of those assests to locals under the indigenisation
threshold. It will soon not be applying to their firms coming back to
mine diamonds, following a fallout with Robert Mugabe's government.
Actually it could be the reason why Mugabe is no longer in power,
because he wanted Chinese companies to be under Zimbabwean miners thus
posing a threat to Beijing's diamond interests and long term future
reserves. Marange had become their biggest foreign source of diamonds
to supplement, about 50% of their proven diamond reserves concentrated
in the Liaoning Province. That is why they're generously constructing
the new city, and working on the new Zimbabwe dollar set to be
launched in early 2020. It is being printed as we speak, but the date
of introduction remains a secret."
There Are Signs Africa's Market Rout Is Not Over Yet @business @PaulWallace123
Traders in African markets have had a year to forget, and there are
signs the rout’s not over yet.
The continent’s stocks and bonds have performed worse than those of
all other emerging-market regions in 2018, reversing their
outperformance of last year.
The selloff has left equities in nations such as South Africa, Egypt,
Nigeria and Kenya at or near their cheapest levels in years. And the
yields of Eurobonds issued by governments have soared to a point last
seen in early 2016, when investors fretted China’s economic slowdown
was gaining momentum.
But bargain-hunters won’t necessarily jump in next year. Risks abound
from tense elections in the two biggest economies -- Nigeria and South
Africa -- to low oil prices, potential credit-rating downgrades and
the prospect of sovereign defaults.
Here’s what investors should look out for:
The OPEC member is desperate to boost an economy that will contract
for the third year running in 2018, according to the International
Monetary Fund. This month, the government signed a $3.7 billion
three-year loan with the Washington-based lender that it hopes will
end severe shortages of foreign exchange, which have forced the
central bank to devalue the kwanza by almost 50 percent against
against the dollar since January. State energy company Sonangol,
meanwhile, is trying to attract foreign investment in oil fields and
increase production that’s at the lowest in about a decade.
The central bank took a big step early this month when it ended a
repatriation mechanism guaranteeing foreign-exchange availability for
overseas investors. That will leave the Egyptian pound more exposed to
market forces next year as bond and stock traders switch to using the
interbank market. Their response so far has been “extremely positive”
and few are exiting their positions, according to Citigroup Inc.,
which recommends that clients buy three-month T-bills yielding almost
20 percent. With a fiscal deficit of about 10 percent of gross
domestic product, Egypt needs the investment.
Abiy Ahmed has pledged a raft of reforms since becoming prime minister
in April, including opening up the telecommunications and power
industries to private investors. That could further boost an economy
the IMF reckons will grow 7.5 percent this year, the most in
sub-Saharan Africa. Still, foreign-exchange shortages are acute,
putting pressure on the birr. Issuing another Eurobond would increase
the Horn of Africa nation’s low reserves, but the IMF warned this
month that it’s at high risk of debt distress.
West Africa’s second-biggest economy is set to exit a bailout program
with the IMF at the end of this year. That’s helped fix the nation’s
finances and drive the inflation rate down to its lowest since 2013.
Still, investors are wary about the finance ministry’s plan to sell
billions of dollars of century bonds and hope it isn’t a sign the
government will revert to unsustainable spending without the guiding
hand of the IMF.
With growth of around 6 percent expected next year, the Kenyan economy
remains one of Africa’s most buoyant. But Moody’s Investors Service
has warned about the government’s rising debt levels and said they’ll
probably reach 60 percent of GDP in the medium term. The IMF has also
said that, due to central bank meddling, the shilling is almost 20
percent overvalued and no longer a floating currency, which Governor
Patrick Njoroge has denied.
The southern African country may have been in default for almost two
years, but its Eurobonds are the best performers in emerging markets
in 2018, making a price return of 15 percent. Much of that’s down to
the government agreeing, in principle, a restructuring deal with most
of its bondholders. If other investors give their consent early in
2019, it could pave the way for Mozambique to get an IMF bailout.
Nigerians go to the polls in mid-February, with 75-year-old President
Muhammadu Buhari trying to fend off a challenge from Atiku Abubakar,
72, a former vice president. Buhari says he’ll continue to fight
against corruption. Abubakar’s long been dogged by allegations of
graft. But many foreign investors think his policies -- including
ending a system of multiple exchange rates and selling part of the
state oil company -- are more likely to revive an economy still
reeling from the 2014 crash in crude prices.
The West African nation has presidential elections in late February
but investors aren’t perturbed, given its history of political
stability. That’s one reason, along with economic growth of 7 percent,
why Citigroup says its Eurobonds could be in for a rebound after
selling off heavily this year. The Wall Street bank’s analysts
recommended to clients on Dec. 11 that they buy the government’s 2024
dollar notes, which yield around 7 percent.
South Africa faces a bumpy 2019, not least because of general
elections in May. Should President Cyril Ramaphosa’s African National
Congress fail to win a significant majority, he may be forced to delay
market-friendly reforms such as revamping debt-laden state companies
by retrenching workers or selling assets. Conversely, he could
accelerate others that investors are nervous about, including changing
the constitution to make land expropriation easier. Crucial, too, will
be an assessment by Moody’s -- the last ratings company to judge South
Africa as investment grade -- soon after the February budget. A
downgrade to junk would trigger the country’s exclusion from the World
Government Bond Index and outflows of as much as $7 billion, according
Next year could be make or break for Zambia, whose Eurobonds have
tanked more than those of any other sovereign in emerging markets in
2018 and trade at spreads of around 1,200 basis points above U.S.
Treasuries. Bank of America Merrill Lynch says there’s an “increasing
risk” it’ll be forced into a debt restructuring if it can’t negotiate
friendlier terms on bilateral loans from China or get an IMF bailout.
Kasarani church group to buy Sh2.8bn @UchumiKenya land @BD_Africa
Five top officials of a church in Roysambu, Jesus Winners Ministry,
are set to be the new owners of Uchumi’s multibillion-shilling
The private limited company at the centre of the Sh2.8 billion
transaction, Jewel Complex Limited, is majority owned by Edward Mwai
Kiongo, also a leader at the church.
Jewel Complex Limited was registered on May 23 last year.
Shareholders of the firm include Edward Mwai Kiongo who holds 36.36
percent stake, Paul Gichohi Mutune with 9.09 per cent ownership while
Agnes Wanjiku Kiongo, Raphael Mwiti Thiaru and James Kiongo Mwai all
hold 18.18 per cent shares each.
Jesus Winners Ministry is a popular church among the political elite.
It hosted President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto for
prayers during their last church service, two days before the August 8
The church also hosted President Kenyatta on June 30 2013, about two
months after he assumed power.
Court filings show that the struggling retailer has entered into an
agreement with Jewel Complex Limited to sell the land at Sh2.8